The Strike Drags On

January 04, 2008 - by: Julie Elgar 4 COMMENTS

Well, David Letterman reached an agreement with the writers, and they are coming back to work. For him. No such luck for those of us who are anxiously awaiting the return of our favorite show. Nevertheless, the labor dispute is continuing to teach us valuable lessons. Like why companies should avoid this mess in the first place.

Here is a newsflash for you: Happy employees don’t unionize. Employees unionize because they perceive that their employers are not treating them fairly. While “fair” doesn’t mean that an employer has to roll over to all employee demands, it does mean that they should listen to them. Open communication between management and employees is vital not only to the company’s bottom line but also to remaining union-free.

My critics (and there appear to be a lot of them) will say easier said than done. Point well taken. So here are some tips for management on how they might better improve communication with their employees:

Have regular meetings with small groups of employees to discuss working conditions;

Encourage supervisors to build personal relationships with the people working for them;

Implement and maintain an “open door” policy for employees to raise concerns without the fear of retaliation.

Those are my suggestions. Take them for what they are worth.

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4 COMMENTS

1 John
09:15:35, 05/01/08

Although I generally agree with your observations on unions and the inevitable heat-loss that they cause our economy, I’ll beg to differ on the comment that “happy workers do not organize”. There have been plenty of instances over the last century of workers which had better-than-average wages and conditions signing on to unions anyway. (The auto industry being the best example) This was usually because they were sold a bill-of-goods that things could get even better, or because they were more or less intimidated into doing so via perceived peer pressure. Current legislation simmering in Congress that would eliminate the “secret ballot” for organization votes would ensure that the latter would become more common again.

2 Tasha
13:36:38, 07/01/08

Julie,

I hope you haven’t felt picked on these past few weeks. I think some of us were just kind of taken aback by your original anti-union stance (and a few are just plain spiteful… sorry…). But I have appreciated the open dialogue on the subject. It’s made me think a lot more about how I view unions and why some of the views I’ve held haven’t quite meshed in my head very well. I believe in unions, but I don’t always believe in their modern-day execution. (Just like I believe in government, but modern day government occasionally makes me yearn for a slight bit of anarchy…) :)

3 Michelle
00:28:00, 09/01/08

Finally, someone who questions the efficiency of labor unions in today’s economy! The true wage point will never be determined with unions clouding up the system. Thank you for spreading truth.

Speaking for myself, I should probably turn the TV off anyway, while they fight like children.

4 Bill Weimar
15:40:53, 14/01/08

As one who has been in the software world a long time, I was actually selling Labor Accounting Systems and Time and Billing Systems when ledger card machines were being retired.

As such, I had to understand how the “on boarding” system worked with union membership dues etc. Accounting for the money also displays the splits that go on between the National and local unions. Suffice to say, once one sees the manner this is done, one sees unions as a profit making enterprise for the managers not the members. Hmm -not very different from the typical company in certain respects. Other than the member fees seem as a bonus for creating new members versus CEOs and sales people who gain further compensation by creating new revenue selling products and helping other companies.

It was refreshing to see others feeling similarly with less information. Certainly, the strikes that cripple Europe and UK taught us the power and ruthlessness of unions. Imagine if the docks were as controlled by unions here as in the UK. Anyway, if we enable unions to be voted without secret ballot, we are simply asking for such a situation to develop over the ensuing years. I, for one, see that as a huge step backwards.

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