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The Unions Are Coming!

      With the election of Barrack Obama as President and with the Democrats closing in on the filibuster proof number of sixty seats in the Senate, the odds are that the Employee Free Choice Act will pass in the Spring of 2009. If passed, the Employee Free Choice Act (“EFCA”) will entirely change labor relations and, according to unions leaders, will increase union membership by 30% (unions currently only represent 8% of the Employees in the private sector).

      With the election of Barrack Obama as President and with the Democrats closing in on the filibuster proof number of sixty seats in the Senate, the odds are that the Employee Free Choice Act will pass in the Spring of 2009. If passed, the Employee Free Choice Act (“EFCA”) will entirely change labor relations and, according to unions leaders, will increase union membership by 30% (unions currently only represent 8% of the Employees in the private sector). This sea change in labor-management relations will be caused by two provisions of EFCA: 1) the replacing of secret ballot elections with an authorization card check to determine if a union is the Employees’ representative for the purpose of collective bargaining (effectively eliminating the Employer’s ability to fight an organizing campaign) and 2) the imposition of the first labor agreement by an arbitrator if the union and company cannot negotiate an agreement on their own (effectively imposing a probably unacceptable agreement on the Employer).

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     With the realization that EFCA may become law, many non-union companies are freaking out, running around like Chicken Little, yelling “The unions are coming!” My response to this panic is “If you are a good Company, so what if the unions are coming?” This response is based on my experience as a former union organizer for a Chicago Teamsters Local. As an organizer, I discovered that if a company treats its Employees fairly and with respect (no discrimination or sexual harassment), really listens to what Employees have to say (I suggest an annual Satisfaction Survey & Focus Groups) and then takes action where required, has a Complaint Resolution Procedure in place (with a third party impartial person as part of the process), trains its Front Line Leaders (90% of the time Employees join a union because of bad supervisors) in communication skills, team building, and conflict resolution, and provides decent wages and benefits, then the odds of being organized are not great.

     However, if your Company is a bad Employer that treats Employees poorly and with disrespect, operates with a “churn and burn” mentality, still believe “command and control” is the preferred management style, and has a Theory X attitude about Employees then you deserve to be organized. In fact, back in the day, organizers had a very appropriate saying: “Companies get the union they deserve.” Maybe it’s time to take a step back, remove the blinders and take a good look at how your Company operates because, to paraphrase Dylan, “The Times, They Are A Changin’”

     The Bottom Line is: Does your Company deserve a union? In the Spring of 2009, you may just get a very clear answer to that question.

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