Neither Labor nor Management Raves over New Workplace Report

By Dine, Philip | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), January 13, 1995 | Go to article overview

Neither Labor nor Management Raves over New Workplace Report


Dine, Philip, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


The much-ballyhooed report of the Commission on the Future of Worker-Management Relations - commonly called the Dunlop Commission - was issued this week.

When the panel began work 20 months ago, labor's hope was that the report would help alter the confused and contentious shape of U.S. workplace relations.

The panel had been set up by President Bill Clinton and Labor Secretary Robert Reich. Its agenda included three main areas: How to enhance workplace productivity through labor-management cooperation and employee participation; what if any changes should be made in laws and collective-bargaining practices to reduce conflict; and how to resolve more workplace problems by the parties involved, not courts or government.

The report contains what the panel calls "an integrated approach to modernizing American labor and employment law and administration for the future."

The Clinton administration will now review the report.

After all the buildup, labor is less than enamored, while a management group also has managed to restrain its enthusiasm. A local observer with expertise in the labor-management field, however, praises the report.

As Teamsters President Ron Carey sees it, "The Dunlop Commission turned out to be better at identifying problems than at recommending real solutions."

Carey termed "undemocratic and un-American" the notion that employee committees or labor-management teams could discuss wages or working conditions.

"Management-controlled employee organizations are not a `new idea' for a `changing world,' he said. "They were common until the 1930s, and they resulted in exploitation and dictatorship in the workplace."

Carey did applaud the panel's findings on the high productivity of U.S. workers, the negative impact of a decline in good jobs and wages, the problems of workers putting in too many hours, and the use of management threats and delays to thwart the desire of many workers for union representation.

George Becker, a Granite City native who heads the United Steelworkers of America, said the panel made several recommendations that would strengthen worker rights, but in some cases went backward. "This report recommends some strengthening of worker rights by urging injunctive relief in the case of retaliatory discharges and speedier union elections," he said. "But it turns back the labor law clock 60 years, suggesting that the boss can decide who speaks for workers on workplace committees. …

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