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Innovation in Isolation: Labor-Management Partnerships in the United States

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In the United States, as in other advanced industrial countries, worker participation in management has taken on increasing importance, placing pressures on employers and unions to change how they deal with employees/members, and with each other. This paper examines two of the most impressive cases in the U.S.: the partnerships between General Motors (G.M.) and the United Autoworkers union (U.A W.) at Saturn and between BellSouth and the Communication Workers union (C.W.A.). We outline the evolution and the basic features of these innovations, as well as highlighting certain ongoing problems. These problems, we argue, confront the parties to employment relations in the U.S. more generally, reflecting profound ambivalence about such experiments, and their continued isolation as ‘islands of excellence ’. As such, these cases both illustrate the vast potential for labor-management partnerships as well as the dampening effect of the employment relations context in the U.S.

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1996-01-01

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globalization; industrial relations; management; labor; innovation

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Required Publisher Statement: © SAGE. Final version published as: Wever, K. S., Batt, R., Rubinstein, S. (1996). Innovation in isolation: Labor-management partnerships in the United States. Economic and Labour Relations Review, 7(1), 67-87. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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