Labor Relations Panel Trends Report


About the Special Expertise Panels’ Trends

The lists of key trends each panel produces in its subject area make use of panel members’ insights to uncover a wide range of HR-related trends. These lists assist SHRM in creating forward-looking information and content for our members in forums such as the online HR Focus Areas, research articles, reports and surveys, and through media and outreach efforts. SHRM would like to acknowledge the efforts of each of the members of the Special Expertise Panels.

Disclaimer: The views presented on this report are those of the members of the SHRM Special Expertise Panels and do not necessarily represent the views of SHRM. All content is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as a guaranteed outcome. The Society for Human Resource Management cannot accept responsibility for any errors or omissions or any liability resulting from the use or misuse of any such information.
Labor Relations Panel Trends

  1. General expertise and experience among HR professionals are diminishing in the area of labor relations. HR professionals will need greater knowledge of the process, procedures and strategy behind labor relations in the workplace. It will be imperative to acquire these competencies to deal with organizing campaigns within organizations. 

  2. Labor law is increasingly influenced by globalization, trade agreements and global labor standards. In addition, there are efforts to include labor-friendly provisions in standard¬ized trade agreements and discourage offshoring through proposed tax changes. Globalization will cause many U.S.-based unions to look at the European Union model as a means to gain more presence in the private sector. 

  3. Increased activity in the legislative and regulatory arenas has led to unpredictability within the public policy process. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has made numerous changes and challenged long-standing procedures, case law and guidance regarding a variety of topics. These include shortened timeframes for union representation election procedures, broadening the scope of concerted protected activity, modified traditional bargaining units, changing the definition of joint employer, and otherwise expanding employee and union rights. The results of these changes are increased complexity and challenges for employers in managing their workplace, and the need for employees to understand their rights and options in union organizing efforts. 

  4. Union organizing has capitalized and expanded its use of several tactics, including micro-unions, joint employer relationships and mobilizing uncommon groups of employees to organize. Additionally, unions have become more strategic in their efforts to align their priorities with other stakeholders to build consensus and influence. 

  5. Due to ambiguity at times on the federal level related to labor relations practices, state and local governments have implemented their own labor and employment policies, which, in some cases, are in direct conflict with federal law. Additionally, lawsuits on the state level, initiated by labor unions, have increased, exposing employers to increased risk during union-organizing campaigns. Paid sick leave proposals and increases to minimum wage at the local levels are also being implemented. 

  6. Demographics and workforce shifts are putting more pressure on benefits, thus affecting negotiations during a union campaign. Health care benefits, especially potential impact of the Affordable Care Act, as well as reforms to retirement plans, specifically related to pension reform, create complexities when constructing a benefits plan. With employees living and working longer, both employees and employers must anticipate needs that accompany longevity. 

  7. Flexible work arrangements are becoming imperative for employers across all demographics and industries. Employees are eager to participate in telecommuting, compressed workweeks, flexible work times and unique policies that allow work to be completed in unorthodox time frames. This poses a challenge for public sectors and unions, as these arrangements have not been a typical component of a 40-hour workweek and, therefore, have not been considered during labor/management contract negotiations. 

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