Labor Relations Specialists


Labor relations specialists interpret and administer labor contracts regarding issues such as wages and salaries, healthcare, pensions, and union and management practices.

Duties

Labor relations specialists typically do the following:

  • Advise management on contracts, worker grievances, and disciplinary procedures
  • Lead meetings between management and labor
  • Meet with union representatives
  • Draft proposals and rules or regulations
  • Ensure that human resources policies are consistent with union agreements
  • Interpret formal communications between management and labor
  • Investigate validity of labor grievances
  • Train management on labor relations

Labor relations specialists work with representatives from a labor union and a company’s management. In addition to leading meetings between the two groups, these specialists draft formal language as part of the collective bargaining process. These contracts are called collective bargaining agreements (CBAs), and they serve as a legal and procedural guide for employee/management relations.

Labor relations specialists also address specific grievances workers might have, and ensure that all labor and management solutions comply within the relevant CBA.

Labor relations specialists held about 79,200 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of labor relations specialists were as follows:

Labor unions and similar labor organizations 77%
Government 3
Management of companies and enterprises 2

Labor relations specialists generally work in offices. Some may travel for arbitration meetings or to discuss contracts with employees or management. The work of labor relations specialists can be stressful because negotiating contracts and resolving labor grievances can be tense.

Work Schedules

Most labor relations specialists work full time during regular business hours. Some specialists work longer periods when preparing for meetings or settling disputes.

Applicants usually have a bachelor’s degree in labor relations, human resources, industrial relations, business, or a related field. However, the level of education and experience required to become a labor relations specialist varies by position and employer.

Education

Labor relations specialists usually have a bachelor’s degree. Some schools offer a bachelor’s degree in labor or employment relations. These programs focus on labor-specific topics such as employment law and contract negotiation.

Candidates also may qualify for labor relations specialist positions with a bachelor’s degree in human resources, industrial relations, business, or a related field. Coursework typically includes business, professional writing, human resource management, and accounting.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Many positions require previous work experience. Candidates can gain experience as human resources specialists, compensation, benefits, and job analysis specialists, or human resources generalists before specializing in labor relations.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Some colleges and universities offer labor relations certificates to specialists who prefer greater specialization in certain topics, such as mediation. Earning these certificates give participants a better understanding of labor law, the collective bargaining process, and worker grievance procedures.

Advancement

Labor relations specialists who seek further expertise in contract negotiation, labor law, and similar topics may become lawyers. They will need to earn a law degree and pass their state’s bar exam. 

Important Qualities

Decisionmaking skills. Labor relations specialists use decisionmaking skills to help management and labor agree on decisions when resolving grievances or other disputes.

Detail oriented. Specialists must be detail oriented when evaluating labor laws and maintaining records of an employee grievance.

Interpersonal skills. Interpersonal skills are essential for labor relations specialists. When mediating between labor and management, specialists must be able to converse and connect with people from different backgrounds.

Listening skills. Listening skills are essential for labor relations specialists. When evaluating grievances, for example, they must pay careful attention to workers’ responses, understand the points they are making, and ask relevant follow-up questions.

Writing skills. All labor relations specialists need strong writing skills to be effective at their job. They often draft proposals, and these proposals must be able to convey complex information to both workers and management.

The median annual wage for labor relations specialists was $67,790 in May 2018.

The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $19,270, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $123,340.

In May 2018, the median annual wages for labor relations specialists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Management of companies and enterprises $90,640
Government 74,060
Labor unions and similar labor organizations 64,690

Most labor relations specialists work full time during regular business hours. Some specialists work longer periods when preparing for meetings or settling disputes.

Labor Relations Specialists

Median annual wages, May 2018

Labor relations specialists

$67,790

Business operations specialists

$67,120

Total, all occupations

$38,640

 

Employment of labor relations specialists is projected to decline 8 percent from 2018 to 2028. The rate of union membership in 1983 was 20.1 percent; the current rate is about half that. The number of wage and salary workers who are union members is likely to continue declining. This will result in less demand for the services of labor relations specialists.

Job Prospects

Job prospects for labor relations specialists are expected to be less than favorable because there will be less demand for their work. Overall, candidates with a bachelor’s degree, related work experience, and professional certificates should have the best job prospects.

Employment projections data for labor relations specialists, 2018-28
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2018 Projected Employment, 2028 Change, 2018-28 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Labor relations specialists

13-1075 79,200 72,600 -8 -6,500 Get data

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of labor relations specialists.

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2018

Compensation, Benefits, and Job Analysis Specialists

Compensation, benefits, and job analysis specialists conduct an organization’s compensation and benefits programs.

Bachelor’s degree $63,000

Human Resources Managers

Human resources managers plan, direct, and coordinate the administrative functions of an organization.

Bachelor’s degree $113,300

Human Resources Specialists

Human resources specialists recruit, screen, interview, and place workers. They also handle employee relations, compensation and benefits, and training.

Bachelor’s degree $60,880

Public Relations Specialists

Public relations specialists create and maintain a favorable public image for the organization they represent.

Bachelor’s degree $60,000

Training and Development Managers

Training and development managers oversee staff and plan and coordinate programs to enhance the knowledge and skills of an organization’s employees.

Bachelor’s degree $111,340

Training and Development Specialists

Training and development specialists plan and administer programs that improve the skills and knowledge of their employees.

Bachelor’s degree $60,870

Social and human service assistants

Social and Human Service Assistants

Social and human service assistants provide client services in a variety of fields, such as psychology, rehabilitation, and social work.

High school diploma or equivalent $33,750

For more information about labor relations careers and certification, visit

Society for Human Resource Management

Federal Labor Relations Authority

Related BLS articles

For more information about union membership, read the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Union Membership Annual News Release.

CareerOneStop

For a career video on labor relations specialists, visit

Labor Relations Specialists

O*NET

Labor Relations Specialists


Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Labor Relations Specialists,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/labor-relations-specialists.htm (visited ).


 

Tracey Lamphere

Tracey Lamphere, M.S. IMC is the editor of Job Affirmations, a publication that provides information and ideas to use mindfulness, positive affirmations, and visualizations to transform your career.

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