Future Direction of Labor Policy

As much as any other U.S. employment law, our basic labor law has failed to keep pace with the dynamic changes in the workplace and employee attitudes and needs.  Like the Fair Labor Standards Act, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) is a product of the Industrial Revolution and the manufacturing workplace that dominated the U.S. economy in the early-to-mid twentieth century.  Most employment laws establish standards that, at least theoretically, can be adjusted from time to time through regulation depending on changes in the workplace.  The NLRA, however, creates a framework that has established certain processes governing industrial relations as those relations were defined sixty or so years ago.  Meanwhile, the needs and attitudes of employers and employees have changed substantially, meaning the law provides for and maintains a framework of representation that fewer and fewer employees find of interest.  Over the years, there has been considerable discussion of new models of labor relations.  The 1930s model is clearly one based on an adversarial relationship between the employer and the union.  This model no longer fits in a tumultuous global economy where employers and employees have to work together to retain and build the company’s market share.  Ultimately, the survival of the business and the jobs that are dependent upon it are at stake.  Thus, a more cooperative model that brings employees into the management decision process is far superior to an adversarial one.