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Boulwarism – Definition

Boulwarism Definition

Boulwarism refers to a negotiating tactic invented by Lemuel Boulware, the former vice president of General Electrics. The term is also commonly referred to as “Take-it or Leave-it.”

A Little More on Boulwarism or “Take it or Leave it” Offers

In labor union negotiations, boulwarism refers to an ultimate offer that does not permit any further revisions. Before an offer is made, the initiating (offering) party checks all the relevant details pertaining to the labor dispute including competitor’s policy on similar issue and industry standards. Boulware asserted that the position would be locked in, and no modification would be done except if new considerations or facts were raised. Events like strike are not considered factors that can result in the changing of “rational solution” previously proposed.

Boulwarism is part of a larger campaign that was formulated to undermine the authority and persuasiveness of the union leadership. Its investor, Boulware proposed that the concept was a comprehensive path of training and education whereby the employer would try to convince both sides not to engage in conducts that would be against their own interests. Thus, boulwarism is the alternative of traditional collective bargaining.

The National Labor Relations Board found boulwarism and other associated tactics to be unfair labor practices that violate both the National Labor Relations Act and the Wagner Act. The board argued that such acts breach the duty to bargain in good faith, bypassing the Union and appealing directly to the union membership.

References for Boulwarism




Academic Research on Boulwarism

  • Boulwarism and the Duty to Bargain in Good Faith, Cooper, R. C. (1965). Rutgers L. Rev., 20, 653. This article discusses the concept of “the duty to bargain in good faith” and how the National Labor Relations Act defines the “duty.” The article further explores the bargaining technique applied by General Electric Company as it was one of the implementers of the concept.
  • The Duty to Bargain in Good Faith, Boulwarism, and A Proposal-The Ascendance of the Rule of Reasonableness, Maxwell Jr, L. S. (1966). Dick. L. Rev., 71, 531.  This article explores the concept of “good faith bargaining” and how organizations such as General Electric, International union of Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers, and AFL-CIO have been using bargaining technique. Further it investigates the challenges that arise from the clash between the modern management-employee relations concepts such as “Boulwarism” and the duty to bargain in good faith statutory. This is interpreted by the National Labor Relations Board in line with its decision on General Electric’s popularization of boulwarism.
  • Boulwarism: Will Labor-Management Relations Take It or Leave It, Forkosch, M. D. (1969). Cath. UL Rev., 19, 311. This article presents a discussion on the judicial and union perspectives on Boulwarism and how it impacts labor management relations. The author illustrates how the take-it-or-leave-it plan insurance plan was introduced by the General Electric Company (GE) and how this influenced the meaning and purpose of boulware in regard to labor-management relations.
  • The Anatomy of Boulwarism with a Discussion of Forkosch, Abramson, I. (1969). Cath. UL Rev., 19, 459. This paper first outlines the 4 duty to bargain violations committed by the General Electric Company (GE) as observed by the National Labor Relations Board. However, the author focuses on the last violation, “the ‘Boulwarism’ method of bargaining,” which sired the concept of ‘take-it-or-leave-it.’
  • The Truth About Boulwarism, Schmidt, E. P. (1970). The Intercollegiate Review, 7(1), 63. This article shades more light on the concept of Boulwarism, discussing its origin and impact on labor-management relations. The author highlights how the General Electric Company (GE) utilized the ideology in decades, and how it later became labeled “take-it-or-leave-it” form of bargain.
  • The Emergence of Collective Bargaining in the Guatemalan Public Sector: A Case of “Union Boulwarism”?, Perlman, B. J., & Reeves, T. Z. (1998). Public Personnel Management, 27(2), 231-248. This paper provides an analysis of the collective bargaining process in the context of Guatemala’s public sector by using government data including documents and interviews. The findings of the study reveal the ‘Union Boulwarism’ model in which unions dominate collective bargaining using whipsawing tactics, wildcat strikes, and emplazamiento. The paper further makes recommendations on formulating a model that would encourage bargaining in good faith.
  • A New View of Boulwarism: The Significance of the GE Strike, Kuhn, J. W. (1970). Labor Law Journal, 21(9), 582. This article highlights the 1970s strike by GE employees and its economic, social, and political effect in the country. The author highlights that the strike affected over 100 communities and 130,000 workers. Further, the author condemns the “tough-but-reasonable” bargaining policy that GE had adopted in the past which resulted in the strike.
  • Seeking Negotiation’s Cutting Edge, Eckstein, P. F. (2004). ARIZ. ATT’Y, 40, 11. This article discusses the significance of a book, Gain The Edge! Negotiating to Get What You Want, by Martin E. Latz. The author highlights that his interest on the book developed because of his awareness of the Boulwarism negotiation technique that had interrupted the labor management relations. The 5 golden rules of negotiation proposed by Latz in the book include Information is power; maximize your leverage; employ fair objective criteria; design an offer-concession strategy; and control the agenda.
  • Labor Law-Collective Bargaining-Boulwarism Violates Duty to Bargain in Good Faith, Kennedy, W. J. (1964). Temp. LQ, 38, 353. This article discusses the idea that GE’s Boulwarism violated the duty to bargain in good faith since workers and unions were excluded from the company’s labor relations offerings. As such, the author highlights the reasons why the NLRB found GE’s bargaining technique unfair and violating the obligation to bargain in good faith.
  • Boulwarism V. coalitionism—the 1966 GE negotiations, Northrup, H. R. (1966). Human Resource Management, 5(2), 1-11.  This article discusses the concept of Boulwarism in the context of GE management. It further explores the differences between boulwarism and coalitionism, and how these impact the obligation to bargain in good faith.

Labor Law–Duty to Bargain in Good Faith–Boulwarism Within the Totality-of-Circumstances Rule, Wagerman, D. A. (1972). (Doctoral dissertation, California State University, San Francisco). This paper discusses the origin of boulwarism and how the General Electric Company (GE) came to initiate it as a new collective bargaining tactic. Effects of the concept on employees’ rights and labor laws have been discussed extensively.

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