Similarity of Document to “Contract” Between Management and LaborThe Columbia University “Collective Bargaining Agreement” is a dense document that contains details regarding all manner of labor relations at the university. In many ways, the agreement can be considered to be a contract between management and labor, and the document attempts to touch on all possible situations that can arise in the workplace, as well as any possible dispute which may arise between management and labor. The agreement is extremely detailed, and can be quite specific in regards to some matters. For instance, when the document discusses the requirement of union membership for all employees, it states “All Employees covered by the Agreement who have previously joined…shall maintain their membership in the Union for the duration of the Agreement as a condition of employment” (Columbia, 2015). Thus, the agreement makes it very clear that every employee at Columbia University is expected to join the Union, or run the risk of losing their job altogether.

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At other points in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, however, the language can be vague. For instance, with regards to labor relations, the writers state, “No Employee shall be required to perform a service for the benefit of his/her supervisor or any other employee that is entirely personal in nature” (Columbia, 2015). However, the authors of the document do not proceed to clearly define the nature of a “personal” task, although they do state that it can include such errands as getting coffee for the supervisor. What the document fails to mention, however, is that employees, even those who have a superior-subordinate relationship, can often become friends in the workplace. In a hypothetical situation, if an employee were about to go on a Starbucks run, and simply asked their boss if they would like anything, would that be a violation of this contract? The agreement should be clearer in this regard.

Does the Document Add Value or is It Restrictive?
In many ways, the Columbia University “Collective Bargaining Agreement” adds a great deal of value to the workplace. The agreement covers a wide variety of situations that arise in workplace, and provides firm guidelines for the proper approach to these dilemmas. Further, the document provides many protections for the employees who fall under its purview. For instance, many employees experience bosses who try to take advantage of their position by compelling their subordinates to provide personal services for them, and the language in this agreement makes it clear that such behavior will not be tolerated. Also, the document makes the rules for vacations and allowable sick time exceptionally clear, which protects both the employees and management. Employees who believe that they are wrongfully being denied paid vacation time have the right to file a grievance, and the document also provides clear procedures for managers who believe that an employee is abusing their sick and vacation time privileges.

However, there are some ways in which this document does not add value to the workplace, and seems to be restrictive. For example, an employee who may not wish to join the Union, because of personal political beliefs or because they disagree with actions that the Union is taking, does not appear to have the option of declining membership. Thus, when someone takes a job at Columbia University, they effectively have two distinct sets of “superiors”: their department manager, and the Union. The Union, while providing many protections for the employees, also prescribes a set of behaviors that it expects employees to follow. Additionally, even if an employee disagrees with an action that the Union may decide to take against Columbia University, they will be compelled to participate nonetheless.

    References
  • Boulanger, M. & Kleiner, B.H. (2003). Preparing and interpreting collective bargaining agreements effectively. Management Research News 26 (2), 193-199.
  • Columbia University. (2015). Collective Bargaining Agreement. Retrieved from http://www.cumc.columbia.edu/hr/sites/default/files/SSA-CBA-2009-13.pdf.
  • Murphy, K.J. (1992). Determinants of Contract Duration in Collective Bargaining Agreements. Industrial and Labor Relations Review 45 (2), 352.