Labor Relations

Making the Most of Your Labor Management System in Labor Relations

A labor management system can streamline many labor relations matters. Learn how LaborSoft can help employers make the most of their products.


“Labor relations” refers, in part, to the relationships between employers and the unions that represent their employees in collective bargaining negotiations. Since not all employees are members of unions, the term can also refer to employers’ efforts to address issues that affect large numbers of employees. 

This is often a significant challenge for employers. If they have unionized employees, they must abide by complicated collective bargaining agreements (CBAs). Employers without unionized employees must work to keep their workers happy so they do not seek to join or form a union. In either case, employers must abide by various federal and state laws that protect employees’ rights to organize and advocate for themselves. 

A labor management system (LMS) can help employers manage all of their labor relations obligations, including sensitive processes such as:

  • Labor relations case management 
  • Managing the employee grievance process
  • Storage and organization of personnel and case records
  • Tracking of all arbitration dates, status, and outcomes
  • Generation of necessary documents/reports on demand

Read on to learn more about these and other key benefits of an LMS for employers.

Table of Contents:

What Is LMS Software? What Does It Do?

Modern LMS software provides an all-in-one, cloud-based platform that employers can use to handle all aspects of labor relations, including:

  • Personnel information
  • Case documentation
  • Grievance processes

In addition to providing easy, secure access to labor management information, LMS software enables employers to take advantage of new technologies that assist with changes in the workplace, and new or changed legal obligations.

21st Century Labor Relations Challenges

The workplace has gone through many changes in recent years. Employees may be located at multiple worksites. Remote employees might work virtually from anywhere in the country or the world. Paper files are largely a thing of the past, with most businesses moving toward cloud computing. These and other changes affect how employers interact with their employees.

Understanding employees’ needs in today’s landscape is vitally important for employers. One aspect of this involves the distinction between employee and labor relations:

  • Employee relations efforts address matters that affect individual employees, such as onboarding a new employee, evaluating an employee’s qualifications for a raise, or investigating a harassment complaint.
  • Labor relations is the field that deals with issues affecting the employer’s relationship with labor organizations or a labor movement, whether these things impact all or only a portion of employees. This might, for example, include company-wide policies on wages, hours, or workplace safety and how they interface with a union’s collective bargaining agreement.

Employers engaged in labor relations efforts should also understand that the presence of a labor union (and a CBA) that represents employees can have both pros and cons:

  • Pros: CBAs help employers predict payroll and other operating costs and provide a formal process for addressing disputes.
  • Cons: Unions may create tension between workers and management. CBAs can make it difficult to fire underperforming workers or promote industrious ones.

LMS software can help employers manage these complex and sometimes challenging relationships.

Employers’ Legal Obligations in Labor Relations

Numerous federal statutes regulate labor relations, and employers may also be subject to state or local laws. LMS software provides an all-one platform with up-to-date information on the laws in the relevant jurisdictions. Which statutes apply depends on factors like an employer’s location and the nature of its operations.

  • The Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute protects the rights of federal government employees to unionize and bargain collectively. The Federal Labor Relations Authority enforces this law.
  • Private employers are subject to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which protects the rights to self-organization, unionization, and “other concerted activities.” The National Labor Relations Board has authority to investigate alleged violations by employers.

How Does LMS Software Streamline Resolution and Tracking of Labor Issues?

LMS software offers substantial benefits for employers of almost any size. It can streamline the labor relations case management process, which improves efficiency and accuracy. When employers can automate many labor relations tasks and have assurance that their records are in good order, they can focus more resources on making sure their employees are happy.

Maximizing Administrative Efficiency

Many of the advantages that LMS software provides involve improvements in productivity:

  • Automation: LMS software can perform many routine tasks. It can trigger alerts and provides a consolidated view of the grievance process and required documentation.
  • Collaboration: The cloud-based platform enables HR personnel to work together on matters regardless of location. This can help employers resolve simple matters and identify challenges where they might need expert HR guidance.
  • Case Management: Employers have a comprehensive case management tool that can help them navigate union grievances and keep deadlines for them in Department of Labor investigations. For complaints or grievances that end up in arbitration, LMS software can provide a framework for gathering evidence and preparing for hearings.

Promoting Employee Satisfaction

Employers generally prefer that their employees not unionize, as it leaves the decision-making power about workplace expectations and compensation more in the hands of the employer. While laws like the NLRA prohibit employers from directly interfering with employees’ efforts to organize themselves, various methods are available to discourage employees from unionizing. “Union avoidance” should not violate the NLRA when employers are not threatening or coercing employees.

Some of the most effective union avoidance strategies involve showing respect and fairness to workers. LMS software can help employers in these efforts by enabling them to be more responsive to employees’ needs and concerns. If employers can proactively address issues like workplace safety or wages, employees might not think about unionizing in the first place.

How Can Employers Effectively Manage Common Labor Issues and Processes?

LMS software can help employers deal with both big-picture labor relations issues and the day-to-day details.

Maintaining Good Relationships With Labor Representatives

Broadly speaking, it is in employers’ interests to maintain good relations with their employees’ chosen representatives. This could be a large labor organization or a union that the employees formed themselves. The nature of these relationships may depend on the laws in the employer’s state, particularly if it is a “right-to-work state” or a state that allows union security agreements.

  • Union Security Agreement: A CBA might include a clause stating that employment is the condition on joining or supporting the union. For example, it might state that new hires must either join the union within a specified time after they start work or pay a fee to the union. Federal law and court decisions have limited unions’ ability to enforce some types of union security agreements, and some states have outlawed them entirely.
  • Right to Work: More than half of the states in the U.S. have enacted laws that prohibit union security agreements. In these states, CBAs may not require employees to become union members or pay a fee.

The laws governing an employer’s labor relations may affect the types of agreements they have with unions representing their employees. In a right-to-work state, for example, whether an employee is a union member might affect what resources are available to them in a grievance. Employers need access to accurate, up-to-date information at all times to facilitate communication with union representatives.

Employers can also foster goodwill with labor representatives by establishing transparent and efficient procedures for handling disputes. LMS software can help with this by providing a central hub for communication and documents, providing the latest information on compliance requirements, and tracking progress and deadlines. These features have the added benefit of mitigating employers’ risks during labor disputes.

Staying on the Right Side of the Law

Employers have important obligations under laws like the NLRA. Those laws also provide employers with significant protections against coercion and unfair or dishonest practices by unions. LMS software can help employers keep track of their legal duties and avoid potential legal liability, such as:

  • Acts that might appear to involve retaliation or discrimination against employees involved in union activities
  • Failing to exhaust all possible options before declaring an impasse in CBA negotiations
  • Failing to follow the terms of a CBA after its expiration, but before signing a new CBA with the union

These and other acts could lead to investigations, fines, and other legal consequences.

The NLRA is far from the only statute governing labor relations and related issues, and employers need to know about their duties under all of them. Many federal and state statutes require employers to post labor law compliance notices in prominent locations where employees can see them, such as break rooms. Various federal and state agencies provide up-to-date posters that employers can download and print. LMS software can keep employers informed about what they need to post. Consequences for failure to post required notices can include:

  • Civil fines ranging from about $200 to more than $24,000
  • Breach of contract liability for government contractors
  • Ineligibility for future government contracts
  • Employee lawsuits.

Keeping Productivity Up

Labor disputes can hurt the bottom line for everyone involved, especially if an inability to resolve the dispute leads to a strike or other work stoppage. Employers lose money when their economic output stops. Workers lose money when paychecks stop along with the work. It is in everyone’s interest to resolve disputes quickly but also fairly. No one is likely to come away from a compromise completely satisfied, but as long as everyone believes the process was fair and everyone came to the table in good faith, the relationship should be able to proceed amicably without the need for strikes or other interruptions.

LMS software can help employers avoid work stoppages by keeping bargaining and grievance processes organized. Much like how employers can use proactive union avoidance strategies to keep employees too happy to consider unionizing, an efficient, organized approach to union relations can keep workers at their posts.

Learn More About What LaborSoft Can Offer

LaborSoft’s labor relations software helps employers address their employees’ needs and navigate disputes efficiently. Contact us today to set up a customized demonstration of our software for your business.

New call-to-action

Similar posts

Stay informed, never miss a post!

Stay up to date with the latest industry news, posts, and resources from LaborSoft.