Rights at Work: Employment Relations in the Post-Union Era (Google eBook)

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Brookings Institution Press, Sep 1, 2011 - Business & Economics - 265 pages
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With growing international competition, American firms have been gaced with increasing pressures to produce better products, cut costs, and improve efficiency. As a result, American employers have changed many of their long-standing labor priorities. Work-force stability has become less important; long-term commitments have become less attractive; and labor costs, especially fringe benefits, have come under increased scrutiny. With this large reorganization of work forces and priorities, Americans are again faced with the significant questions of what rights workers have and should have in the workplace.

In the current environment, employers have a greater need for highly motivated, hard-working, skilled employees, and have often developed innovated forms of management to enlist these worker's support. So too, national legislation has granted workers new rights in recent years, such as mandatory early notification of plant closings, greater rights for workers with disabilities, and increased protection for older workers. State legislators have also enacted expanded protection for workers, and state courts have been rewriting basic legal doctrines governing workers' rights in ways that favor employees.

In this book, Richard Edwards explores workers' rights and the institutions that have defined and are now enforcing them. He looks closely at the decline of American unions and its effect on traditional rights. As unions have been transformed from major institutional players in the American economy to much more marginal brokers enrolling only a small minority of American workers, political support for workers' rights has diminished. Edwards also traces the American state courts' and the ongoing revision of the legal interpretations of employment contracts and employers' promises, a development which he believes may revolutionize traditional employment law.

Rights at Work cuts through the debate between employers' groups and workers' advocates to find a new common ground. Edwards argues that a new system of employment relations offers a "win-win" opportunity, and he proposes some innovative public policy strategies that could protect workers' rights while enhancing employers' ability to succeed in a highly competitive global market.

  

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Rights at work: employment relations in the post-union era

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A dean at the University of Kentucky, Edwards here proposes new ways of protecting workers' rights, which he claims would also make the workplace more efficient. Edwards finds that the old ways of ... Read full review

Contents

Workplace Rights and Wrongs
1
Defining Workers Rights
24
Rights and Workers Rights
25
Types of Workplace Rights
31
The Economic Rationale for Workers Rights
42
Why Special Rights for Workers?
43
The Conservative Neoclassical View
45
Market Distortions Facing JobSeekers
47
Enterprise Rights in the Contemporary Firm
134
Thinking about Enterprise Rights
138
What Enterprise Rights Do Workers Have?
141
Limitations of Enterprise Rights
155
The Legal Revolution in Enterprise Rights
163
Three PrecedentSetting Cases
165
State Courts Rewrite the Law
167
Employer Response to the Changing Legal Climate
177

Limited Effectiveness of Recontracting
56
Inappropriateness of Individual Bargaining
59
Rethinking Workers Rights
68
The Shrinking Realm of Collective Bargaining
77
Workers Rights under the NLRA
78
The Union Decline
83
Why Have the Unions Declined?
88
The Unions Response
91
The Diminished Role for Unionism
96
The Limited Reach of Statutory Rights
102
The Rise of Statutory Rights
105
Are Statutory Rights Effective?
108
What Has Been Learned?
124
The Political Dimension of Statutory Rights
125
The Limits of Statutory Rights
127
The Current Situation
181
Contemplating Common Ground
188
Employer Stakes in a New Rights Regime
189
Toward a New Common Ground
197
Reconstituting Workers Rights
208
Make Employee Handbooks Mandatory and Public
209
Make Employee Handbooks Enforceable
212
Establish an Independent System for Resolving Workers Rights Disputes
215
The Employees Handbook as Workers Bill of Rights
223
State Recognition of Implied Contracts
233
References
241
Cases Cited
254
Index
257
Copyright

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About the author (2011)

Richard Edwards is dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Kentucky. He is the author of numerous books, including Contested Terrain: The Transformation of the Workplace in the Twentieth Century (Basic Books, 1979).

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