Contemporary Unionism in the United States

By Clyde E. Dankert | Go to book overview

21
Union Rules and Policies (2)

Layoffs1

IN THEIR quest for greater job security unionists have become interested not only in exercising control over management's right to hire but also over its right to lay off. Because of the operation of seasonal, cyclical, and technological influences, management is not in a position to provide steady employment for its work force, and hence it must frequently resort to the layoff policy. But it no longer has a free hand in applying the policy. The unions have been able to win the right to some voice in determining the particular methods to be used when layoffs are necessary, or, more accurately, when the number of "work-hours" must be reduced. The control they have won over this old management prerogative takes various forms.

Sharing of work. One of the commonest types of union control over layoffs is the practice of compelling the employer, in times of labor-force curtailment, to resort first to the policy of dividing up the available work among all the workers (new workers may be excluded). This equal-division-of-work policy may be adhered to rigidly and completely, or it may be applied in a limited manner. It may be used only until the length of the working week is reduced to, say, thirty hours. Then if further curtailment is necessary actual layoffs may be made. Under this policy layoffs may be obviated altogether, depending on the extent to which business has fallen off, or they may be deferred.2

Seniority. The other common type of control over layoffs is found in the application of the seniority principle. This principle may be applied after the length of the working-week has been reduced to a specified level under the operation of the equal-division-of-work policy, or it may be applied right from the beginning of the curtailment. The seniority principle is often applied

____________________
1
This topic is dealt with at length in Professor Slichter book, Union Policies and Industrial Management, Chapters 4 and 5. Washington: The Brookings Institution, 1941. Again the author is indebted to Professor Slichter's discussion. A briefer treatment of layoffs will be found in Chapter 16 of Union Agreement Provisions, Bulletin No. 686, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 1942.
2
The equal-division-of-work principle is discussed at length in Chapter 19.

-364-

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