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September 17, 1958 - Image 3

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1958-09-17

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Recession HurtingGOP, Says Prof.

Research onUAW Bargaining Practices
Shows Contracts Vary With Conditions


" I

Contrary to popular belief, the
United Auto Workers does not im-
pose its key bargain on all firms,
regardless of their individual cir-
cumstances. Prof. 'Harold M. Lev-
inson, of the economics depart-
ment, said recently.
Pattern bargaining is the prac-
tice of seeking relatively uniform
labor agreements throughout the
industry. Key bargains, such as
the 1955 UAW-Ford agreement,
set the' pattern.
Prof. Levinson, supported by a
Ford Foundation Faculty Research
Fellowship, recently completed a
study of the UAW pattern bar-
gaining in the Detroit area.
Bargains Standard
"Perhaps the most reasonable
summation of the union's ap-
proach," he said, "is that, given
the key bargain as a standard, its'
primary objective is to enforce
that standard in order to 'take la-
bor out of - competition'.
"However," Prof. Levinson con-
tinued, "the union does adjust its
demands to the needs of the par-,
ticular situation, either through:
a below pattern settlement or
through increases in productivity,
'if these adjustments can be made
threat to this primary objective."
Prof. Levinson's preliminary
analysis, which covered-the decade
from 1946 through 1955, brought
out other major points:
1) Outside the Big Three-Ford,
General Motors and Chrysler-
there were important downward
modifications of the UAW pattern,
especially after 1950. However,
these adjustments were more pre-
-valent in relatively small, non
automotive firms. In the larger
units, particularly those closely
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tied into the auto industry, pres-
sures to obtain the pattern were
much stronger.
Dominant Factor
2) The dominant factor explain-
ing these differences in the impact
of the pattern were economic in
nature In large companies, these
factors included primarily the
possible indirect effects of a below
pattern settlement on negotia-
tions with other concerns, and the
extent to which a below pattern
settlement might result in seri-
ous inter-local competition.
Other economic considerations
more important in small com-
panies were the firm's financial
condition and the proportion of
its employees currently -'unem-
3) 'IThe union negotiators did not
normally consider the possible ef-
fects of the wage settlement on
the amount of employment in the
firm as a relevant factor, except
in a, crisis or near-crisis situaL-
tion, such as a strong possibility
of the plant's shutting down. In
the absence of such .a situation,,
the union normally pressed for a
pattern adjustment.
Political Considerations
4) Internal political considera-
tions were not a major factor forc-
ing. a pattern settlement, at least'
partly because'the major respon-
sibility for negotiating the agree-
ment and recommending its ac-
ceptance to the membership rested
with union officials, whose poli-
tical support depended upon a
much wider electorate than ex-
isted in any one plant or firm.
Political considerations may have,
been much stronger, however, in]
the largest bargaining unit.
5) Union representatives wide-
ly recognized that a major prob-
lem facing several of the firms
having financial difficulty was the
relatively low level of their pro-]
ductivity, rather than the rela-
tively high level of their hourly
wage rates and fringe benefits.,
In many of these cases, Prof.
Levinson noted, the union has co-
operated successfully with the
company in raising man-hour out-
put; in many other cases, how-
ever, this pojicy has met only par-
tial, or no, success. To the degree
that it has been successful, it may'
be viewed as:a method of intro-
ducing greater flexibility into the
union's bargaining policy.
Based on Agreements
Prof. Levinson's analysis is
based on collective bargaining
agreements negotiated with 87
firms outside the Big Three dur-
ing 1946-55. Only companies or-
ganized. through all, or nearly all,
this period were studied.

...UAW head
In addition to the contract data,
Prof. Levinson conducted extens-
ive personal interviews with lo-
cal and international union offi-
cials who are most directly re-
sponsible for the negotiations in
the companies studied.
In addition to four of the small-
er vehicle producers, the study in-
cluded 83 firms chosen to pro-
vide a balanced representation of
different bargaining conditions.
Included 30 Per Cent
The companies studied included
roughly 30 per cent of the Detroit
area firms which are organized by
the UAW throughout the entire
period. They include about 80 per
cent. of thetotal members em-*
ployed outside the Big Three, he
Prof. Levinson defined the pat-
tern of bargaining in terms of the
total package of wages and major
,fringe benefits received, rather
than specific benefits included in
the key bargain.,
"While there were at least a few
instances of "pattern-plus' settle-
ments in each round," he noted,
"the great majority of them in-
volved a make-up on items not ob-
tained in prior negotiations.
Small Number
"If these instances are elimin-
ated, the number of true pattern-
plus settlements is very small. For
all practical purposes, we can view
the pattern as the upper limit of
possible settlements.
"Approximately 12 per cent of
the total bargains negotiated from
1946-1955 with firms employing
more than 500 persons were below
tle pattern, as compared to al-
most 40 per cent of the settlements
in firms employing less than 500.
"Furthermore," Prof. Levinson
continued, "!there was a closer

adherence to the pattern by firms
which were more closely related
to the automobile industry."
Membership Considered
So far -as the details of each
agreement were concerned, "the
preferences of the membership in
each unit were of great import-
ance in determining the particu-
lar form of the settlement.
"The study is replete with situ-
ations in which wages were sub-
stituted for pensions because of
the dominant influence of younger
men in the shop; or wages were
substituted for insurance because
a large percentage of women em-
ployees were already covered in
their husbands' policies; or insur-
ance was preferred to unemploy-
ment benefits because of steady
employment experiende," Prof.
Levinson continued.
"While it is true that, in prac-
tically all instances, the Interna-
tional Representative was expected
to push for adoption of the major
fringe programs of the UAW, in
many of the plants considerable
substitutions occurred as a result
of the preferences of the particu-
lar groups involved," he concluded.
Must Know Productivity r
Although the usual concept of
pattern bargaining reflects only
the cost side of the settlement,
Prof. Levinson said he believed a
truer evaluation of the impact of
pattern bargaining requires a
knowledge of productivity adjust-
ments as well.
"With the added dimension of
these adjustments, the pattern be-
comes more flexible than it ap-
pears,' both in large companies
and small," he noted.
"The relatively low productivi-
ty, which was the real source of
financial difficulties for most firms,
was caused in part by managerial
inefficiencies and in part by rela-
tively loose production standards
or relatively high idle time allow-
ances, according to the opinions of
most union spokesmen," he, re-
Union Sympathetic
"Generally, the union represen-
tatives recognized the problem,
and were sympathetic to manage-
ment's concern about it, but their
position was based on the assump-
tions that the problem had origin-
ated from weak management; and
that while the union representa-
tive would cooperate with manage-
ment in trying to convince the lo-
cal membership that an increase
in productivity was both necessary
and justified.
"The primary responsibility for
initiating and implementing such
a program must rest with manage-
ment," he concluded. -



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