The dissolution of labor unions can at times be beneficial, at times be injurious, at times be illegal and at times be fully within the confines of the law. Throughout the years, there have been hundreds of illegal union dissolutions (also known as “union busting”) that take place to break strikes or lockouts, or give employers an advantage in collective bargaining agreements.
Many times, the dissolution of labor unions has resulted in violence, particularly when done in an illegal or underhanded manner. Nevertheless, there are many other instances of benign and peaceful labor union dissolutions. The one way to dissolve a labor union in a wholly legal fashion is through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). This independent government agency is given the sole authority to oversee and execute the dissolution of labor unions, as well as conduct their elections and investigate unfair labor practices.
Dissolution of Labor Unions Through the NLRB
Legally done, the dissolution of labor unions is accomplished in a democratic manner. In order to take the first steps toward dissolution, the NLRB must receive a petition from the union in question. This petition must be comprised of a minimum of thirty percent of active union members’ signatures.
After receiving its petition, the NLRB must certify a labor union’s request for dissolution. This certification largely exists to prevent fraudulent dissolutions, and as such it entails verification that the petitioning process was democratic and that the petition bears only actively employed union members. Once the NLRB approves of it, the petition is valid and the labor union is considered legally dissolved.
Dissolution of Labor Unions: Causes and Effects
As soon as the dissolution of labor unions takes place, the members of those unions lose the rights that their union membership had hitherto conferred: collectively bargaining with employers on wages, working hours, benefits, etc. They also lose the privilege of collectively striking.
As far as employers are concerned, there are also some rights that are lost in the dissolution process. Employers can no longer lock employers out if and when they bargaining negotiations are stalled. They must also continue to uphold certain worker privileges that are inconsequential to union membership, such as minimum wage and overtime payment.
If the dissolution of labor unions deprives those unions of the very rights they have won throughout years of struggle, why should they vote for dissolution in the first place? Many times, unions dissolve so that they may merge with other labor unions. Thus, many union rights are transposed rather than lost altogether. Local unions merging with national ones may still collectively bargain and strike. In fact, they may do so with more power and clout, being larger and more formidable after a merger takes place.