NLRB and the Human Resources Frame

Jul 18

In Reframing Organizations by Bolman and Deal, they present four frames through which a business can be viewed. One of those is the Human Resources frame, and its focus is primarily on the human needs of workers and how those needs impact the workplace.

They propose two opposing viewpoints with respect to human resources, one arguing that workers are expendable resources and have a right to nothing more than a paycheck. The other viewpoint is that the human needs of workers must factor prominently into the decisions of the business. This includes a sense of meaning and purpose, comfort and well being.

National Labor Relations Board

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) was established in 1933 to serve as a mediator between labor and business. Its focus was on enforcing the laws that enabled workers to unionize. Its charter was later expanded to include corporate aspects such as protecting employers against strikes when those strikes were not in the best interest of all parties.

As might be expected, there are strong political divisions, roughly along party lines, with respect to the role of the NLRB and the scope of its authority. During the highly partisan years of President Obama’s first term and carrying in to his second, NLRB appointments have been a hot issue on capital hill. President Obama attempted to circumvent the standard process of senate approval of nominees, but this was later ruled unconstitutional. In recent weeks, the topic has come up again as a bargaining chip in senate negotiations related to the handling of¬†filibusters.

Social Impact

With so much partisan posturing, it’s easy to lose sight of the social impact of these appointments and the NLRB. On the one hand, there’s a direct impact on the lives of the workers that belong to unions. With a weak economy, there are also real risks to fiscal well being if aggressive union policy makes it difficult for American businesses to function.

The landscape of American employment is much different today than it was in 1933 when the NLRB was initially formed. Many businesses today are intensely focused on the needs and wants of employees in a market that increasingly requires highly skilled thought workers. With socialized retirement, increasingly socialized healthcare and onerous regulations weighing down corporate America, it may be time to review the social purpose the NLRB serves to ensure that both the needs of the worker and the broader social and economic needs of our country are adequately represented.

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