Collective bargaining is the process that involves workers organizing as a group and together negotiating with the employer pertinent issues regarding the workplace (Wolters, Jennings & Holley, 2009). It refers generally to the coming together of workers to negotiate their employment-related issues with the employer. This paper will consider the collective bargaining struggles and dispute in Wisconsin.
The Nature of the Collective Bargaining Dispute
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The dispute is between the more than 200,000 public workers and young people in Wisconsin state capital who are aggrieved with the Republican Governor Scott Walker. The Governor has proposed a slash on the public spending, a move that the public workers interpret as an attack on their wages and rights. The governor is determined to restrict the collective bargaining rights of the public workers in the state. According to the governor, the collective bargaining rights of the public workers should be limited and they should contribute to the social welfare plans.
The public workers dispute the Republicans’ intention to sponsor and pass a legislation targeting their collective bargaining rights. This move is intended to limit the workers’ liberty to negotiate their healthcare benefit schemes, minimum wages and other employment benefits with their employers. As a result of this dispute, the workers have resorted to public protests and public demonstration to register their grievances and discomfort with the intended legislation that will even outlaw their labor unions.
The underlying Causes of the Dispute
The primary cause of the Wisconsin dispute between the public workers and the entire economic and political setup in the United States is the proposal by the governor that the workers should contribute more to their pension and health insurance schemes (White, 2011). The workers consider this as an attack on their rights. In fact according to the workers, this assertion and proposal is intended to create a false impression that the workers get something extra from the taxpayers.
The Wisconsin state governor, Scott Walker, has also made a proposal to pass legislation that will strip most public employees of their collective bargaining rights. According to the governor, this would ease the state’s budge woes (White, 2011). The workers however feel deeply aggrieved by this move. This is the reason behind the public workers’ protests that is swiftly cascading to all the other states and counties. Besides, the legislation will strip the public workers of their rights to join the labor unions and collectively negotiate for their employment rights.
The Economic/Ethical Pressures cited by the Conflicting Parties
The public workers point out to the fact that the proposal to slash out their collective bargaining rights is not only unethical but also ill-motivated. It is unethical on their side for the governor to create an impression that somehow the public workers get something more, a gift from the taxpayers. Besides they cite that it is unfair to demand that the public workers contribute more towards their social schemes when the economic reality is that they are actually already contributing towards the Wisconsin’s pension and health insurance plans.
The economic and the political class refer to the economic situation of the country as a justification for the proposal to slash out the public spending on wages, pension and health benefit schemes. They assert that the taxpayer is already overburdened and for the state to deliver its services effectively there has to be a reduction in the public spending. Therefore, if the status-quo is to be maintained, then the workers must contribute more towards their social benefit plans like health and pension schemes.
Resolution of the Dispute
This dispute was not amicably resolved. Although the Republicans sponsored the bill to slash the strip the teachers and other public workers of their collective bargaining rights, this bill was unpopular and only served to fuel the demonstrations (Johnston, 2011). The public employees still feel shortchanged of their economic rights. They are generally earning less compared to the employees in the private sector in the United States. This is because the proposal to slash their wages and strip them of their collective bargaining rights was pushed through by the Republican legislators against the workers’ wish. This dispute was thus not resolved.
Third Party Intervention in the Wisconsin Dispute
The Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) and the Wisconsin State Employees Union (WSEU) representing public teachers and state workers respectively intervened as the third party to quell the protests. However, in the course of the struggles, it appeared that the WEAC and WSEU conceded to the demands of the Wisconsin governor to impose pension and healthcare costs on the public employees. The intervening third parties only opposed the abolition of the collective bargaining rights of the employees. This appeared cynical to the teachers and the public employees and did not therefore resolve the dispute.
Possible Ways to Constructive Resolution of the Dispute
The Wisconsin collective bargaining dispute could be resolved through the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process (Wolters et al, 2009). For example, the conflicting parties in this case could resort to arbitration. This would involve seeking the intervention of a neutral arbitrator with no partisan interests that would not favor either sides of the divide.
The parties in this case would be represented by lawyers who would present evidence and legal arguments to the arbitrator or team of arbitrators on behalf of the employer and the public employees (Wolters et al, 2009). With the background knowledge of the facts in this case, presented by the legal counsel of either side, the neutral arbitrator then makes a final neutral decision. This could even save the case of employees whose unions have already cynically sided with the Wisconsin state governor and his proposals.
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