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Collective bargaining structure in the US is essentially a decentralized plant-level activity Towers 303 As trade unions have grown weaker the bargaining power has shifted toward employers as the decentralized nature of collective bargaining would tend to indicate Towers 303 However it can also be argued that the National Labor Relations Act the Wagner Act actually encourages decentralization of plant-level bargaining Towers 303 This system of structural-legislative imperative has produced a number of consequences Towers 303 First of all it has made it difficult to adapt to service sector and contingent workers that can be scattered across a number of locations and secondly it has restricted the potential for union membership growth to mass production industries Towers 303 Additionally this emphasis in union perspectives and labor laws focusing first on the local level has diminished the capacity for national coordination and action Towers 303 An exception to the reduction of influence by trade union lies within the railroad industry In 1990 a deadlock was reached in contract negotiations between the nations twelve railway unions representing some 320000 workers and the countrys railroads Cimini 68 This deadlock resulted primarily because of a proposal that the railroad employees share the cost of health care an expense that has been increasing annually at a rate of 15 to 20 percent The health insurance carriers also proposed that the workers pay a 100 deductible and absorb 2000 out-of-pocket costs in the case of catastrophic accident Cimini 68 In the railroad industry contract negotiations are performed as indicated under the Railroad Labor Act which provides a step-by-step process to be followed Cimini 68 This process includes mediation and voluntary but binding arbitration in order to resolve labor disputes Two years prior to the deadlock the interested parties began the process of exchanging bargaining proposals covering such areas as wages working conditions and health and welfare benefits One year later those involved requested that the
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