Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Sims, Clarence A.||Green, Gerald G.

Degree Name

M.S. (Master of Science)

Legacy Department

Department of Management


Management--Employee participation; Personnel management; Labor unions--United States


Over the years, the owner-manager has been concerned over the loss of his managerial prerogatives to unions. In the past, English "common law" gave the owner-manager the right of hiring, firing, promoting, demoting, fixing wage rates and working hours, and determining working conditions. From a legal standpoint, then, all rights belong to the employer. However, unions contend that employees gain a certain property right by the virtue of their investment in "human capital." Since the industrial revolution to current times, management has been pressured to yield their prerogatives. The problem, then, is the steady erosion of managerial prerogatives by the forces of government agencies and union organizations. The study is designed to give an historical perspective to management attitudes in regards to their managerial prerogatives and the usurping of same by the unions and/or government. Secondly, the study will point out areas where unions have made gains. Also, leaders in industry will be contacted on this subject. The study assumes that management has lost many of its prerogatives to unions; that management attitudes have changed as to what is the proper scope of their "rights;" that changes in the law have affected the change in attitude; and that managers have not agreed upon a method of protecting their prerogatives. In the early 1800's, attempts to organize unions were prosecuted by the courts as "conspiracies." Although this doctrine was overthrown by the Commonwealth vs. Hunt case, opposition toward union demands continued until the 1930’s. During the 1930’s, major labor laws were passed which prevented employers from interfering with union attempts to organize workers and also forced employers to bargain with said unions. Since that time, unions have invaded many of the areas which were previously management determined. Management fears that union penetration will destroy unified authority, prevent the discharging of management responsibilities, hamper efficiency of operations, and will result in a form of socialism. Also, management distrusts unions’ lack of responsibility, inadequate leadership, and possible power motivations. Union penetration of management functions has been extensive. A partial list of the areas affected by union influence includes: employment, layoff and recall, promotion, hours worked, work scheduling, subcontracting, technological change, employee benefits, wages, and discipline. In the future, unions will undoubtably try to extend their sphere of influence. In connection with said influence, 100 business men were contacted and asked a series of questions which deal with managerial rights. Nineteen questions called for answers of the "yes" and "no" type; however, the last question allowed for free expression of opinion. The questions were designed to check management opinion on subjects which were in the past, or are now the issues of controversy. Forty-three effective questionnaires were returned. Because managers held differing opinions on questions dealing with the unions’ right to exist, the employees’ right to demand a "union shop," and seniority provisions in connection with layoff and recall, this writer concludes that the attitudes held by a sizeable group of managers have changed regarding their proper scope of managerial rights. This conclusion is reinforced by the fact that a majority of managers indicate that employees should have a voice in determining wages and hours, discipline, and in connection with employee benefits. However, the change in opinion does not appear to be radical. Most managers still oppose the "closed shop." Also, the majority of managers contacted indicated that management should be able to determine production standards, work schedules, size of work crews, shift worked by employees, and in determining start and quit times. Managers also affirm their right to automate, subcontract, move the business to another area, discuss the union-company contract with their employees, and to go out of business. The variety of remedies offered in answer to question 20 leads this writer to conclude that no unified methods have been adopted to deal with the gradual erosion of managerial prerogatives. It is important that managers continually be on guard to prevent the loss of further prerogatives. Consequently, the remainder of the study deals with methods which are advocated by different writers as being the means of stemming the erosion of management rights.


Includes bibliographical references.


92 pages




Northern Illinois University

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