THE CHANGING STRUCTURE OF WORK. Dominant paradigm for how to structure work in much of 20 th century was scientific management (also referred to as Taylorism).
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Bureaucratic control of scientific management well-suited to mass production of standardized goods and services in stable economy.
Unstable economic markets in 1970s challenged dominance of mass manufacturing methods—companies could no longer sell large quantities of identical products, unable to react quickly to changing customer demands.
In addition, repetitive job tasks can cause boredom, alienation, and mental and physical fatigue which in turn cause absenteeism, turnover, shirking, and low quality output.
Both macroeconomic shocks and micro-level issues with employee satisfaction caused competitive crisis in U.S. business in 1970s, launched efforts at changing forms of work organization, HR practices, and business strategies.
Starts with two management principles for first three-quarters of the 20th century:
Narrow, standardized jobs (recall scientific management).
Insistence on maintaining sole authority over traditional management functions such as hiring, firing, assigning work, determining job content, and deciding what to produce and how and where to make it.
Add in pragmatic union philosophy of business unionism focused on wages and working conditions.
What pattern of unionized practices and policies is likely to result?
Lean Production—Production by work teams with emphasis on quality through off-line quality circles rather than on-line worker decision-making. Just-in-time inventories and focus on smooth flow of materials.
Competitive advantage: price and mass scale quality.
Sociotechnical Systems—Formal, autonomous work teams have responsibilities for functional as well as routine maintenance tasks plus continuous improvement.
Competitive advantage: quality and customization.
Flexible Specialization—Small-scale production of diverse items using flexible networks of employers.
But other plans were manipulated by management with primary purpose of preventing employees from forming independent labor unions.
As such, the NLRA’s section 8(a)(2) prohibits employer domination of labor organizations.
“… any organization of any kind … or Ee representation committee or plan … in which Ees participate and which exists, in whole or in part, for dealing with Ers concerning grievances, labor disputes, wages, rates of pay, hours of employment, or conditions of work.”
Unilateral mechanisms such as suggestion boxes by which individual Ees make proposals are not at issue
Committees acting with authority delegated by management do not “deal with” management
Decided (3-1) that Employee-Owners Influence Council was a labor organization dominated by Er
Co. selected the 30 members, chose topics for input
Family/medical leave, termination policy, medical benefits, ESOP
Co. made presentation, Council discussed w/presenter, then were polled to determine majority sentiment; Co. would later announce decision
Co. argued that Council’s activities limited to brainstorming and information sharing, expressing individuals’ views
Found that Council functioned as bilateral mechanism – in effect group proposals were made, responded to
Dissent held that if Council served Er’s purpose of obtaining ideas upon which to make mngt decision, was not a labor org; was not presented to Ees as surrogate for U.; did not interfere w/Ees’ sec.7 rights to organize