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January 1991, Vol. 114, No. 1
T he institution of collective bargaining was severely tested in 1990, as several industries that have been buffeted in recent years by foreign competition, deregulation, technological changes, or intense interindustry or intraindustry competition, experienced significant bargaining activity. Several of these industries also were adversely affected by a sluggish economy, and some experienced significant job losses during the year. Bargaining talks in two of these industries required the intervention of the top echelon of the Federal Government: the President established an emergency board for the national railroad negotiations, and the Secretary of Labor appointed a supermediator (and a special commission) for the Pittston Coal Co.-United Mine Workers work stoppage.
Several other bargaining situations also outstretched the ability of negotiators to reach peaceful settlements without disruptions. In the Eastern Airlines-Machinists work stoppage, the Congress passed legislation establishing a special commission to investigate the labor dispute, but its effort was rejected by a presidential veto. In addition, two other contract talks led to protracted labor disputes-the baseball strike during the spring and the Greyhound bus strike for much of the year.
In two bargaining situations where negotiations were expected to be acrimonious, settlements were reached without a serious threat of a work stoppage. In the first, the United Parcel Service-Teamsters master contract negotiations, the rank-and-file broke with their union leadership and approved a tentative contract that the union leaders had recommended be rejected. In the second case, the United Automobile Workers contract talks with the "Big Three" automakers, the parties quickly and successfully resolved the thorny problems of job and income security in a way the may indicate the dawn of more mature and cooperative labor-management relationships in the industry.
This excerpt is from an article published in the January 1991 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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