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.

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Work Environment

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.

Education and Training

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. 

Personality and Interests

Labor relations specialists typically have an interest in the Helping, Persuading and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Helping interest area indicates a focus on assisting, serving, counseling, or teaching other people. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.

If you are not sure whether you have a Helping or Persuading or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a labor relations specialist, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Labor relations specialists should also possess the following specific 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.

Pay

The median annual wage for labor relations specialists was $69,020 in May 2019. 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 $19,230, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $124,380.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for labor relations specialists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Management of companies and enterprises $87,130
Government 72,980
Labor unions and similar labor organizations                 65,870

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

Job Outlook

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.

For More Information

For more information about labor relations careers and certification, visit

Society for Human Resource Management

Federal Labor Relations Authority

CareerOneStop

For a career video on labor relations specialists, visit

Labor Relations Specialists

 

FAQ

Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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