This is your guide through HRER 462: Employment Relations for the Fall 2020 semester for students at Loyola University Chicago.

  • The page offers a week-by-week guide for students through the class.
  • You can find materials and assignments here.
  • Videos to watch on Panopto or YouTube are embedded.

What to expect in class

The first half of the course introduces Employment Relations as a subject and teaches the core set of facts you are expected to know for the midterm. I ask that you come to class having done the reading and be prepared to talk about it. There are no deadlines requiring you to submit work prior to the midterm exam.

In the second half of the term, there are many deadlines. You will present a case study as part of a group. You will submit a portfolio of writing based on your contributions to the discussion board. You will be negotiating a collective bargaining agreement as part of a union-management negotiation simulation. You will submit a final term paper either solo or as part of a group. It sounds like a lot, but if you come to class and post and check the discussion board regularly, it should all come together.

In the first half, I am trying to introduce the core facts of our subject matter that are essential for anyone in the field of Employment Relations to know. The midterm exam questions have a right or wrong answer and are assessed with multiple choice questions. This is a complex, difficult area, and the law is constantly evolving. By the point of the midterm, you should understand the individual rights of workers in the U.S., and the collective rights of workers to form unions and bargain with their employers.

In the second half, you engage on your own terms and with your own style. You have a lot of freedom. Within the broad parameters of the course, you pick the topic of your group case study presentation and your final term paper. You choose what to write about in discussion posts under the umbrella of very broad guidelines I have provided. You negotiate the collective bargaining agreement however you want.

Interactive Class Sessions

Attendance in class is required. When you come to class, expect to have interactive discussions and small group activities. My lectures are mostly pre-recorded, so you should watch those before coming to the class in which we will be discussing them.

We will be using Zoom breakout rooms extensively in class. I will ask you to work individually or with a small group of students on a particular question or assignment for 10-20 minutes, and then ask each breakout group to report back to the entire class. Other than being up to date on the reading, no advance preparation is required for these activities - just come to class ready to jump in.

In large group discussions, I will both seek volunteers and “cold-call” students. Cold-calling is when I pick a name at random and ask you to answer a question based on the reading. I’ll cold-call throughout the term, so do stay up to date on the reading.

Case Discussions

When we discuss cases, I’ll usually first ask questions to ensure everyone understands the relevant facts, and then I will be asking for your opinions, feelings, and reflections.

I have selected a case for discussion in most of the weeks of our class. These cases are a set of facts, and are meant to generate debate and incite thinking about potential general solutions for a problem in contemporary Employment Relations. I hope that you can ask yourself: How would you feel in the given situation if you were in the shoes of one of the people involved? I sometimes include discussion questions. The implied question I’m constantly asking is what you think this set of facts is a “case of” in general. What are the general lessons or conclusions that you draw from it?

Study Guides and the Midterm Exam

While I will not lecture extensively in class, I will devote large chunks of time in class to work with you to prepare for the midterm exam. Toward this end, I prepared Study Guide questions that we will go through in class. I will devote time in class for you to work with a group of students on these questions, and we will discuss them as a large group as well.

When we discuss the core facts for the midterm exam, I’ll be looking for the right answer based on the reading. In class, you will work with groups to complete the study guide for the midterm. While I have included deadlines for completing the study guide sections, that is only in order to keep you on track. I won’t be collecting them.

Discussion Board: Piazza

I am hoping we have a vigorous discussion throughout the term on our discussion board Piazza. Everyone is required to post at least 15 times throughout the term, so this should be a very active hub of our classroom activity. You can post small things and big, whenever it is convenient for you. I’m reading it but not grading it, so I encourage you to post frequently and creatively.

This is a critical moment – with a pivotal election, a pandemic that is jeopardizing life, protests raising issues of injustice, and an economy in serious trouble.

I hope you post regularly, and engage your classmates through replies, and that we bring that discussion into the online “synchronous” classroom. The Discussion Board is also a great way to ask a question about the material or post a reflection as you are doing the reading. I’ll be reading the discussion board and can reply to any questions, as can your peers.

Don’t worry about spelling or grammar at this point - it’s a first draft of ideas and thoughts and a notepad for things you’ve read. I may highlight some posts in class for further conversation.

I want to encourage you to find other students in the class with similar interests for group case studies and final term papers, so post about your interests too and try to find others who might be interested in working together.

In the second half of the term, I ask that you write at least three Evaluation posts about group case study presentations in class, in order to provide feedback to your peers. For full credit, include at least one suggestion for improvement. Copy/paste the evaluations into your Portfolio.

Turning Posts into a Portfolio

Toward the end of the term, I ask you to submit a Portfolio of your best discussion board posts. Edit those into a narrative under the headings Context, Experience, Reflection, Action, and Evaluation. I’ll grade that based on how well you engage the subject material, and based on writing quality (now punctuation, spelling, etc. does matter).

Hashtag your Piazza discussion posts under these headings as you write them throughout the term, and this will be easier to pull together.

Group Case Studies

After the midterm, you pick a topic and lead one of our in-class discussions for 20 minutes. The guidelines are up.

Potential topics are infinite, but it should be within the focus of this course and receive approval from me beforehand. You should settle on your topic and your group by the time of the midterm.

Final Term Paper

Potential topics are infinite, but it should be within the focus of this course and receive approval from me beforehand. You can write solo or with a group. You should settle on your topic and your group by the time of the midterm.

Collective Bargaining Exercise

You will be negotiating a collective bargaining agreement after the midterm exam. I will assign you into either a union or a management bargaining team. Your participation is essential to your grade, as is completing the exercise. I’ll have more to say after the midterm.


Week 1 - 8/27

8/27 Reading: Read the Syllabus

View on Sakai or see @ref(syllabus).

8/27 Case Study: Steve Jobs’ Wage Fixing Conspiracy

Steve Jobs, stroking his chin

In October 2013, five people stood up against some of the most powerful entities in America: they decided to sue their bosses.(Adobe Systems Inc. 2011)

Apple, Google, Intel, Adobe, Intuit, and other Silicon Valley titans, among the wealthiest and most valuable corporations in the world, were sued by a handful of employees who alleged that their bosses had engaged in a conspiracy to restrict competition in the labor market, and thus to suppress the wages of their employees. By agreeing with one another not to actively solicit each others’ employees, each of these companies had allegedly violated the law, cheating their employees out of hundreds of millions – potentially billions – of dollars in wages.

Anti-competitive behavior is illegal in the U.S. because, as a market economy, conspiracies to restrict the free flow of goods, information, and services, are forbidden under the law. The Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, passed by Congress to bust the great monopolies in oil, steel, and elsewhere in the Gilded Age, states that: “Every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, is declared to be illegal.”

The lawsuit by the five employees alleged that the companies conspired to keep employee wages down by entering agreements to not actively recruit each others’ employees. In order for the law to be enforced, either the Justice Department, or the employees of the company, would have to go to court to prove their case. Prior to the civil class action lawsuit brought by employees, the Justice Department had investigated and settled with the firms for a commitment on their part to stop their illegal practices. But it took a pass on prosecuting a criminal case in 2010. On the same day that it filed a complaint in federal court, the Department of Justice offered the companies a settlement that stopped the practices which the investigation had uncovered.

The conduct of Apple CEO Steve Jobs was at the heart of the matter. Jobs first solicited participation from each CEO in the non-compete pact, repeatedly contacting them regarding the non-poaching agreement, and then sought to aggressively enforce the agreement. For example, at various times Steve Jobs personally complained to the CEOs of companies that they were poaching Apple employees.

Over 60,000 employees potentially harmed by wage fixing received nothing in the Justice Department’s settlement, despite having suffered in lost wages. Only five employees decided to pursue a class action lawsuit seeking damages for the conduct of their bosses. A class action lawsuit, although initiated by just a small number of employees, represents all persons in the same situation who have suffered an injury by an illegal act. Through a class action, each individual employee harmed by a common injury can have their claim adjudicated in a single case, rather than having thousands of separate cases.

A Conspiracy Against Employees

Between 2005 and 2009, Apple and the defendant companies, each of which had a CEO who was linked to Jobs via belonging to a network of boards of directors, entered agreements to prevent poaching between the companies.

Each participating company enforced a “Do Not Call” list with the other companies, preventing cold calls from recruiters who might otherwise try to hire a job candidate. It wasn’t just tech companies: Jobs was also involved with the animation industry, and Walt Disney, Pixar, and Lucasfilm all had similar anti-poaching agreements. Figure @ref(fig:conspiracy) is an exhibit from the complaint that displays the network of agreements that comprised the alleged conspiracy.