Economics 482

ECON 482: Industrial Relations

Prerequisite: ECON 206 and ECON 480

Credit Hours: (3)

Study of the industrial relations system as a subsystem of the social system and its linkages with the economic and political subsystems. Covers the collective bargaining system; its history and development; structural problems in industrial relations; public policy framework for collective bargaining; contract negotiations and administration; arbitration and related issues.


Detailed Description of Content of the Course

The course exposes students to the evolution of the industrial relations system in the U.S. beginning in the 19th century. It introduces them to the institutions, structural objectives, and issues involved in collective bargaining and the negotiations process. It examines management and union strategies in the bargaining process and concludes with discussion of the relatively recent emergence of a non-union industrial relations system in the U.S. and its implications for collective bargaining.

Topic Outline


1. Context for the Development of an Industrial Relations System
2. Brief Overview of Production and Wage Determination Theory
3. Original Evolution of the Industrial Relations System
4. Industrial Relations in the 19th Century
5. Industrial Relations in the Early Twentieth Century and during the Depression
6. Collective Bargaining in the Post War Economy
7. The Modern Environment of Collective Bargaining
8. Bargaining Structures
9. The Development of Union Strategies
10. The Development of Management Strategies
11. The Negotiations Process, Impasses, and Strikes
12. Emergence of the Non-Union Industrial Relations System
13. The Changing Workplace and the Future


Detailed Description of Conduct of the Course

The following teaching strategies will be employed:


Lectures, discussion, films, opinion papers in reaction to reading material.


Goals and Objectives of the Course

1. Discuss determination of wages in the competitive market system.
2. Examine the relationship between productivity and the level of wages.
3. Introduce those issues and events that led to the original demands for institution of a system of collective bargaining in wage determination.
4. Discuss the attributes of and bargaining outcomes under the industrial relations system in the 20th century.
5. Discuss the growth of unionization, the spread of collective bargaining, and the evolution of labor standards in the post war economy.
6. Discuss problems in the industrial relations system that emerged in the early 20th century and during the Great Depression.
7. Examine several neoclassical and institutional models of the collective bargaining process emphasizing those environmental factors that affect relative bargaining power.
8. Introduce the concept of bargaining structures and those factors that determine bargaining structure.
9. Discuss the importance of bargaining structure to bargaining and how bargaining outcomes can inadvertently change bargaining structures.
10. Examine a variety of strategies that unions have employed in collective bargaining.
11. Examine the strategies management has employed in collective bargaining.
12. Discuss the dynamics of the negotiations process itself including those factors which may cause an impasse to result and use of the strike weapon.
13. Examine the emergence of the non-union industrial relations system in the U.S. and its effects on collective bargaining and the negotiations process.
14. Compare the features of a non-union workplace with a union workplace.
15. Discuss those workplace issues we may expect to encounter in the future.
16. Examine the industrial relations system of the future and the role for unions and collective bargaining in it.


Assessment Measures

  • Attendance and Class Participation 15%
  • Three Opinion Papers 45%
  • Mid-Term Exam 20%
  • Final Exam 20%


Other Course Information


Review and Approval

Date Action Reviewed by
December 2004 Made alterations to syllabus N. Hashemzadeh, Chair
April 16, 2012 Revised