Monologue or Dialogue in Management Decisions: A Comparison of Mandatory Bargaining Duties in the United States and Sweden
Comparative Labor Law Journal, Vol. 12, No. 3, 1991
45 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2006 Last revised: 3 Mar 2009
Management and labor are adversaries in both U.S. and Swedish industrial relations. The Swedish model, however, is marked by a continual dialogue between the adversaries with the objective of achieving mutual understanding on a wide range of issues. This dialogue has been fostered by Swedish labor law reforms, particularly the Swedish Act on Co-Determination, along with a comprehensive labor market policy to promote employment. The result of such reasoned dialogue is greater labor support for industrial restructurings and management support for the technological modernization of industry.
The American system could better be characterized as a monologue. In the U.S. the legitimacy of union representation is systematically undermined by employer hostility, there are far fewer mandatory subjects of bargaining between labor and management, and there is no active labor market policy to comprehensively promote worker retraining and employment. American labor is in a more vulnerable position in terms of job insecurity in a time of rapid technological change.
In this article, the author has translated and analyzed more than sixty cases of the Swedish Labour Court, including the leading cases arising from the Swedish Act on Co-Determination, and contrasted these holdings with the development of a restrictive subjects of bargaining doctrine under U.S. labor law.
This article focuses on the legal bargaining duties of both Swedish and American employers. According to the author, the Swedish Act on Co-Determination has found significant acceptance among many employers and is a positive step towards increasing worker influence in management decisions. In contrast, American labor lacks a voice in the decision-making process due to the very restrictive legal development of bargaining duties. U.S. employers are not legally obligated to bargain over many of the most important decisions affecting American workers. As a result, labor and management consistently fail to reach consensus on the rationalization and technological development of industry.
The author concludes that dialogue is superior to monologue. A system based on reasoned dialogue is a more advanced technology, while a monologue is sure to result in alienation, fear and narrow protectionism.
According to University of Stockholm law professor Ronnie Eklund, "Canova's comparative study is an important contribution in the literature of comparative labor law, highlighting both significant similarities and differences in Swedish and American labor law and policy."
Keywords: comparative labor law, subjects of bargaining doctrine, labor market policy, collective bargaining, codetermination act, Sweden, Swedish welfare state, industrial relations
JEL Classification: B20, E12, E40, E50, E60, J40, J50, J60, J51, J53
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