Introduction

by Nancy Lessin, 5/4/14

Charley Richardson was a visionary labor educator known by many in the labor movement in the United States, Canada and countries around the world. He passed away in May 2013 but his legacy lives on through those whose lives he touched, and through this body of work he left behind. For more information on Charley’s life and work, see the two obituaries linked in the sidebar of this page.

Below is an introduction written by Charley to the resources he wanted to share. There are many fact sheets, articles and resources on workplace change and continuous bargaining on this site – Charley’s words below will guide you to these resources he left behind.

Workplace Change and Continuous Bargaining

by Charley Richardson, 10/14/11

Our workplaces are changing rapidly. Management is introducing new technologies, new forms of work organization and new policies on a regular basis. If you have seen video cameras, GPS, robotics, electronic medical records, call monitoring, lean production, kaizen, increasingly stringent attendance policies, new health and safety rules or programs, or new drug testing policies introduced into your workplace, you know what I’m talking about.

The fact is that few if any workplaces are not being affected by workplace change.

These changes are harming working people and undermining unions and other forms of collective voice. Whether it is job loss or speedup, repetitive strain injuries (RSI) or stress, de-skilling or multi-skilling (doing more than one job at a time), these changes are making our workplaces increasingly difficult for us to survive.

Meanwhile, unions are losing members, seeing solidarity undermined, losing the skilled jobs that have been an important source of power and seeing their power undermined in many other ways.

Management is taking advantage of the fact that unions are too often not prepared to deal with change, especially when it comes during the period of the contract.

Continuous Bargaining is an approach that takes all changes in technology, work organization and policies as an opportunity to demand bargaining over those changes. The grievance procedure, our usual tool for dealing with problems in the workplace, is ill-equipped to deal with changes that are not covered by specific contract language. In fact, management is able to use the management rights clause that is in so many of our contracts to argue that they have the right to anything that is not covered by the contract.

The reality is that they only have that right if we allow them to get away with it. Even labor law, for those covered by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), says that management must bargain over changes or over the impacts of those changes on wages, hours and conditions of employment.

So if you are impacted by workplace change (and all of you are), continuous bargaining can help you. On these pages you can find a series of articles, fact sheets and presentations about workplace change and continuous bargaining. I hope that they are helpful.