Duquesne Law Review


One of the distinguishing characteristics of American labor law is the doctrine of exclusive representation, which permits a single union to represent all employees in a localized "bargaining unit" on the basis of majority rule. This method of employee representation is unusual among collective bargaining systems in the rest of the industrialized world. Undoubtedly, it has served as a unique source of strength for American unions when they have achieved majority status, but over the long run their dependence on exclusive representation and need for majority status have contributed to the decline of collective representation in the United States. This article explores the role of exclusive assessment of the purposes and historical origins of the doctrine. Then, this article describes ways in which the doctrine restrains growth and innovation in the independent, organized representation of employees. Finally, this article suggests new functions and methods of employee representation that do not depend on exclusivity but could strengthen employee protection and bargaining power.

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