Union Collective Bargaining Agreement Strategies in Response to Technology

Lisa Kresge

Introduction

This working paper outlines current and historical union responses to technological change in the US. The purpose of this document is to provide a snapshot of how unions leverage their collective bargaining agreements to address technological change. As the examples in this working paper illustrate, unions have been bargaining over technology in the workplace for a long time — several of the examples date back to the 1940s. Some of the earlier provisions allowed unions to block the introduction of technology in the workplace altogether. However, unions have also focused on negotiating strong provisions that provide the union and workers with consultation and codetermination rights and some degree of economic security with new technologies in the workplace. Unions have successfully negotiated provisions that provide the union with sufficient warning, information, and voice to help mitigate the effects of technological change in the workplace. Several provisions protect workers from displacement or job degradation while others outline the process for implementing technological change or establish a framework for training around new technologies.

This working paper draws from current and historic collective bargaining agreements; scholarly research and government agency reports that analyze collective bargaining agreements and other union responses to technology; interpretations of NLRB rulings and guidance in relation to technology in the workplace; and reporting from the popular press and other online sources. The working paper includes three sections.

  1. The first section highlights collective bargaining agreement (CBA) provisions focused on establishing respective rights and roles regarding the decision to adopt and implement new technology.
  2. The second section outlines CBA provisions designed to mitigate the introduction of new technology in the workplace.
  3. The third section presents CBA provisions related to the use of technology in workforce management.

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