Labor Disputes

Labor Disputes

Author: Marlene Johnson

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand how conflict resolution processes - especially mediation and arbitration - are used in labor disputes.

See More
Conflict Resolution

Don't fight it.
Our Conflict Resolution Course is only $329.

Sophia's online courses help save you money, while earning credits that are eligible for transfer to over 2,000 colleges and universities.*


Video Transcription

Download PDF

We've been talking about conflict in the workplace-- structural conflicts, interpersonal conflicts. I'm Marlene, and today I'd like to talk with you about a particular category of conflict-- labor disputes.

Labor disputes may be a term you've heard. You may have read about it in the news or heard about it in the news. A labor dispute is a conflict between management and labor, usually organized labor or unions. When there is a dispute of this nature, the federal government actually encourages conflict resolution, and it's allowed by law. In fact, there are two federal agencies that have been set up specifically to deal with labor disputes.

One agency is the National Mediation Board. The National Mediation Board is a federal agency that deals with disputes in the transportation industry, things like railroads or airlines. The second agency is the Federal Mediation And Conciliation Service. This federal agency is set up to deal with large-scale labor disputes, things like teachers unions when they go on strike. That's what this agency here would deal with, large-scale.

What happens when there is a labor dispute and one of these agencies is called into a conflict resolution process? Well, there are typically a couple of different ways that it's handled. One is arbitration. Quite often, a labor contract will call for arbitration in a situation like a termination. So when management wants to fire somebody, before they can actually terminate this person, it may be written into the contract that they have to go into arbitration. And then an arbiter will look at the conditions, the situation surrounding the termination, check to make sure there hasn't been anything violated in the contract, and make a decision as to whether or not this is fair, whether or not this person can be terminated. So that's a very common use of arbitration in labor disputes.

A second form of conflict resolution that's often used is labor mediation. Labor mediation is used for contractual negotiations. I think we've heard many times about a dispute between management and labor over a contract. They can't seem to come to an agreement about elements in the contract. And in cases like this, a mediator is called in from a federal agency to do labor mediation and help negotiate the contract so they can come to a mutual agreement. So labor mediation and arbitration are two very popular forms of conflict resolution.

They're not the only two. Sometimes conciliation is used. Conciliation can be used when the parties may not be able to meet together. You have time or geography issues that are preventing them from easily meeting together, or perhaps not wanting to meet together. So then you may have a mediator doing conciliation, which would of course involve moving back and forth between the parties.

Of course I've mentioned mediation already, labor mediation. I do want to say that mediation itself can be used in a situation like this if there is some interpersonal conflicts that need to be dealt with. You may have a mediation happen within a dispute to work out a situation that's interpersonal between two people.

So labor disputes, a particular kind of work conflict, it has the support of the federal government, two agencies here-- the National Mediation Board and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service have been created to help with the conflict resolution process for these kinds of disputes.

Thank you for joining me, and I look forward to next time.

  • Labor Dispute

    Conflict between (usually organized) labor and management in a given company.

  • National Mediation Board

    A U.S. federal agency available as a conflict resolution intervener for certain labor disputes.

  • Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service

    A U.S. federal agency available as a conflict resolution intervener for a variety of large scale conflicts within the United States.