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Hey Switzerland-Like HR Pros - Still Think Unions Are OK?

I'll admit it.  I don't get it when HR pros don't know what the EFCA stands for, and even when they do know, don't care.  I don't get it when HR pros think that they can't have an opinion about whether unions are good or bad for employees, or as a result, good or bad for companies.  Or god forbid that they think that being organized is actually OK, even if it happens under their watch.  I don't get it when they don't get irate about the confidential vote potentially being eliminated under the EFCA.

I'll step off the soapbox for now and offer up the following to the HR pros out there who think unions areStand_neutral_lg_e OK, and perhaps part of a broader "partnership" that holds hands with companies to create a greater good.  I call you the Switzerland of HR, because you're scared to have an opinion.

The following is from a CWA website organizing brief designed to rally union members as the CWA tries to hammer out a new agreement with the landline operation of AT&T.  From the Communication Workers of America:

"We are still at the table, arguing over every line, but this will not be fixed at the table.  Your Locals have been given information on what it means to work without a contract.  The Union still has the option of calling a strike at the time WE want one.  We will not be driven into the street by a Company that is ready to have managers, contractors and scabs do our work.  Now it is your turn.  If there is "business as usual" in your office, that list above will become your new Contract.  YOU MUST mobilize in every workplace.  You must affect the Company's bottom line and show them you will not stand for these attacks on our members and our Union.

That clip was from a bargaining update on 4/7/09 at the site.  Here's a clip from the 4/9/09 version:

"For those of you working this weekend, remember – NO BUSINESS AS USUAL."

So let me break that down for you.  If you click through to the brief, you'll see an update on the various items being negotiated, and the general theme is "how DARE they" (referring to the company).  That part I get - it's their union, and whipping the troops up is a part of their business.

But wait - look at the words in bold - no business as usual, mobilize and affect the company's bottom line.  Think about that for a second.  The union in question is working without a contract, carrying the old contract forward while both sides remain at the table, so they elected not to strike.  In the place of that, they're suggesting that any behavior - slowdowns, disruptive behavior, as well as a lot of things they won't put in print, are the responsibilities of employees who are union members to pressure the company.

WOW.  No business as usual, huh?  Then you see reports of fiber cuts on the AT&T network.

Hey HR Switzerland, still feel like you shouldn't have an opinion?  Here's some theme music to get you in the mood for what you're inviting:


Comments

James Hayton

OK to have an opinion, but remember to balance the facts - have you seen what unscrupulous employers do to prevent unions and those wishing to obtain union representation from exercising their legal rights under the NLRA? Have you also seen the research that quite effectively indicates a number of positive economic benefits from unions (with a bunch of caveats, including effective management). Did you notice that one of HR's favorite case studies, Southwest Airlines, involves a company with multiple union contracts? I agree, it is essential for HR pros to have an opinion on this. However, I would advocate a balanced and informed opinion, or else HR will fail in one of its critical roles - employee advocate. Thanks Kris, for your stimulating and provocative post (business as usual for HRCapitalist!)
cheers
James

Lance Haun

I have to admit (and I've written as much), I am more quiet on that front due to my view the legislation is inevitable. If I take the worst case scenario approach, I'd rather spend that energy working with managers and other business leaders to be sure we are prepared for the change when it comes. If we aren't properly addressing complaints or workplace issues now, how can we do it better now? Can we do more to prevent unionization?

Of course, this may not be effective either. But at least it feels like something I have more control over. I have nearly zero control over the legislative process. And I can be as passionate as I want to be about not liking unions but I don't think that's really adding anything.

I have written my legislature and I have blogged about the EFCA. I am doing what the Blazer's staff is doing right now: game planning for three different potential playoff opponents. They could do a lot of hand wringing over who they'd rather play but they only have very limited control. And if they aren't prepared for whoever they will play, who is going to take the fall for it?

Coach HR

Inevitable or just fight the legislation it doesn't matter. The best way to handle this to to take it off the table. I think we should just stop lying to employees. We say all the time "People are our greatest resource". "Our people are our greatest competitive advantage" and yet most companies treat employees like leftovers. Better served cold.

HR professionals are fighting to get managers to simply talk to their employees once a year let alone give them timely feedback. The Act may or not come but if you don't want to deal with it then focus on creating a workplace where it's not necessary for employees to have representation. If you've got a union, then treat employees like they don't need it.
Then the legislation becomes irrelevant. And you're focused on the right things to be competitive.

DebraSwanson21

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