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January 1990, Vol. 113, No. 1
Collective bargaining in 1989: old problems, new issues
Collective bargainers closed the decade of the 1980's still facing some of the same problems that they did at the beginning of the decade. But certain aspects of the 1989 bargaining may be a prelude to the issues likely to be at the forefront of bargaining in the 1990's.
Problems stemming from overseas competition and from new or expending operations of foreign-owned facilities here at home continued to plague some industries, such as steel manufacturing and automobile manufacturing. Deregulation of the airline industry near the start of the decade contributed to its disarray at the end of the decade. Deregulation of the telephone communications industry a few years into the decade and the breakup of the Bell System in 1984 continued to affect negotiations in the industry.
Rising health insurance premiums were even more of an issue this year. Bargainers in many industries had to deal with this problem, especially in the telephone, airline, and longshore industries. Concern over worker's need to care for family members, including young children, elderly parents, and disabled family members, drew more attention, and new or improved plans addressing such care were adopted in the auto, steel, and telephone communications industries. Health and safety issues, which were or particular concern to bargainers in the meatpacking industry, became prominent in other industries, including auto and tire manufacturing.
Work stoppages were more prominent in labor-management relations this year than in earlier years of the decade. After 9 years of virtually steady decline, the number of major stoppages (those involving 1,000 workers or more) increased; by the end of October, there already had been 45 stoppages, more than the record low of 40 in 1988. Other measures of work stoppage activity also were higherthe number of workers involved in stoppages, at 522,000, was sixth highest in the decade, and the number of days of idleness, 10.5 million, was fifth.
The improving conditions in some industries were reflected in the size of wage adjustments in major collective bargaining settlements reached during the first 9 months of the year. Wage rate adjustments averaged 3.1 percent annually over the life of the contracts, compared with 2.4 percent the last time the same parties settled, typically 2 or 3 years ago. If the same pattern holds through the fourth quarter, 1989 would be the first year since 1981 (when the measure was introduced) in which over-the-term wage adjustments were larger in new contracts than in expiring contracts.
This excerpt is from an article published in the January 1990 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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Labor-management bargaining in 1993.Jan. 1994.
Collective bargaining, 1991: recession colors talks.Jan. 1992.
Collective bargaining in 1990: search for solutions continues.Jan. 1991.
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