Organized Labor and Managerial Prerogatives: An Empirical Study

by Martin Perline



Part of ancient tradition is to dispute the prerogatives of authority. An authority who attempts to direct the behavior of others can expect some form of protest to ensue. Labor-management relations show distinctly that the conflict much alive today, especially where unions are regarded as threats to the decision-making power of management. According to the traditional model, management possesses a fund of rights; the unions want some of those rights for themselves. This issue is not new in labor-management relations in the U.S. nor is the stance of the protagonists new. Each attempts to argue convincingly that he holds the "correct" position. Since the first group of workers approached the employer for greater wage demands, the employer has argued that he had the right to run his business as he saw fit. The work-place was his; the material was his; the machinery was his; the products were his, and so, incidentally, was the risk of losing it all. On such a premise, employers for many years maintained broad prerogatives over their employees and their privately owned property, including the right to select, transfer, promote, demote, lay off, re-employ and discharge employees on whatever grounds they chose; to fix rates of pay; to determine work standards, duties, and responsibilities; and to demand the cooperation of employees in whatever phases of operation were undertaken.

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