The Future of Unions

Write a 3–4-page analysis about the role of unions in the twenty-first century.

Some argue that the traditional role of the union in protecting the worker has been usurped by significant legislation protecting the worker against discrimination, unsafe work conditions, and unfair pay. Others point out that unions remain indispensable for several reasons, including that “at-will” employment remains the law of the land and that most workers can be fired for any reason.

“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles” (Marx & Engels, 1888).


The three primary federal laws regulating union activity are the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) (1935), also known as the Wagner Act; the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA) (1947), also known as the Taft-Hartley Act; and the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (1959), also known as the Landrum-Griffith Act. These acts reflect the attitude of the times in which they were enacted, regarding unions and the power struggle between unions and management.

Historically, the legislation, laws, and labor movements at both state and federal levels have experienced periods of harmony and conflict. A study of union history shows how legislation and lawmaking can be affected by popular opinion. In the early nineteenth century, it was not uncommon for any group employee action to be labeled a criminal conspiracy. The change in the view of the law from a focus on association to the means affected to achieve an objective occurred with the decision in Commonwealth v. Hunt (1842). This case was considered a milestone in the labor movement; however, it did not settle the legal issues, and the courts continue to struggle with the legality of union activities. The public view of the violence and unrest accompanying labor actions was often that employers were responsible, particularly in cases where strikebreakers were hired. Public sentiment and unsatisfactory common law led to the passage of the NLRA in 1935.

The Assessment 5 Context document contains additional information about labor relations, covering the following topics:

  • National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
  • Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA).
  • Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA).

Commonwealth v. Hunt, 45 Mass 111 (1842).

Marx, K., & Engels, F. (1888). The communist manifesto. London, UK: Penguin Classics.


National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)

The NLRA established the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to regulate labor management disputes. The NLRA forbids an employer from interfering with or restricting employees wishing to organize, bargain collectively, or participate in concerted activities. The employer may not interfere with the formation of any labor organization or discriminate in a way that would discourage participation in a labor organization. It may not retaliate against an employee who files charges or testifies under the NLRA, and may not refuse to bargain collectively with the employee’s representative.

Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA)

In 1947, Congress, under pressure to curb the increasing power of unions, passed the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA). The LMRA focused on stopping unfair union practices. The LMRA “forbids unions from coercing or restraining employees in exercising their rights” (SHRM, 2008) under the NLRA. Employees have the right to select their representatives for bargaining or adjustment of grievances. Unions cannot cause or attempt to cause an employer to discriminate against an employee or encourage a work stoppage in order to gain advantage in union matters, or charge excessive fees to employees and employers. If the union is the collective bargaining agent of the employees, it cannot refuse to bargain in good faith (Labor Management Relations Act, 1947).

Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA)

In an attempt to balance the interests of employees, employers, and unions, Congress passed the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA). The statute imposes a code of conduct for all parties and requires a standard of fair dealing. The NLRA is built on the premise of the bargaining unit. For the purposes of NLRA, the bargaining unit is a group of employees who perform similar work and have similar interests with regard to pay, hours, and workplace conditions. A bargaining unit is made up of job classifications, not individual workers. It may be a unit spanning different companies or only part of one company (Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, 1959).

There are three types of unionized work situations: the open shop, the agency shop, and the union shop. The LMRA did away with the closed shop, in which only union members could be hired.

  • The open shop does not require a worker to join the union or pay dues. This is the situation in right-to-work states.
  • The agency shop does not require the worker to join the union, but does require dues, whether or not a worker is a member.
  • The union shop requires the worker to join the union within a period of time. In this situation, only the employer may fire the worker.

Due to the LMRA, a worker can pay dues, not join the union, and not be fired (Labor Management Relations Act, 1947).


Commonwealth v. Hunt, 45 Mass 111 (1842).

Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, 29 U.S.C. 401–531 (1947).

Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, 29 U.S.C.A. 401 et seq. (1959).

National Labor Relations Act of 1935, 29 U.S.C. 151–169 (1935).

Society for Human Resource Management. (2008). National Labor Relations Act of 1947. Retrieved from…

Suggested Resources


Write a 3–4-page analysis about the role of unions in the twenty-first century; include the following:

  • Analyze the impact of historical context on union-management relations. How does historical context provide clues as to the direction of union/management relations?
  • Analyze the role of labor unions in contemporary American business and manufacturing. Do the role and purpose of the modern union need to be redefined to effectively serve its membership?
  • Assess how the presence of a union impacts the job of a human resources professional. What influences do unions have on HRM?

Your analysis is to be written coherently to support a central idea with correct grammar, usage, and mechanics as expected of a business professional. Support your response with citations from relevant readings and use real-world organization examples to demonstrate the importance of the concepts and analysis you have provided.

Additional Requirements

  • References: Support your analysis with citations from the Capella University Library and/or suggested materials in the Resources, workplace examples, and any relevant additional research.
  • Format: Use proper APA style and format for in-text citations and references.
  • Length: 3–4 double-spaced, typed pages, in addition to the references page.
  • Written communication: Demonstrate graduate-level writing skills through accurate communication of thoughts that convey the overall goals of the analysis and do not detract from the message.
  • Font and font size: Times New Roman, 12 point.
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