Are You Sure You Don’t Need To Change Workplace Culture?

We’ve been blogging about workplace culture, the problems occurring within the workplace and how leaders can create a positive culture.  Many employers are having difficulty maintaining and attracting staff as employees consider the workplace and the options they have.  A recent article from  MIT Sloan Management Review  said the need for a change in workplace culture is now if organizations are going to survive.  This week we look at a couple of workplace culture examples being reported and they impact both employers and employees.

Quality jobs contribute to a positive culture. When employees are considering their options, they’re looking at job quality.  We’ve blogged before about the characteristics of a quality job.  According to the Boston Federal Reserve,  each individual worker may have their own idea what a quality job is based on the work they do, but, in general, a quality job is one that provides good wages and benefits.  In other words, a person shouldn’t have to work multiple jobs or extended hours to help make ends meet.  Workers need to have livable wages.  Benefits need to include healthcare, savings plans and family medical leave.  A quality job also includes a reliable schedule.  That schedule needs to be one that allows workers opportunity to attend family events instead of having to work multiple shifts.  The Boston Fed also says workers need to know they have job stability, the work environment is safe, they’re free from discrimination, and finally, they need to have a voice.

In another article  from MIT Sloan Management Review they also  provide information about workers and culture.  The article found from other studies that employees decide whether they want to remain or leave a workplace based on the culture.  A “top 10” list of what employees expect from the workplace culture was provided. The list included respect and support from leaders as the most important aspects of workplace culture.  Workers also believe leaders who follow the organization’s value structure play a key role in creating a good place to work.  Leaders who “walk the talk” or provide a positive example help not only the employees but the workplace overall. When there are toxic leaders, the entire organization suffers.

The examples of workplace culture come from two stories reported in the media this last week.  Both stories demonstrate that need for change in workplace culture as MIT Sloan Management Review stressed.  One report was about contract negotiations between IATSE(International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) and The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and the other was about Blue Origin.

Not only does the  story on the IATSE contract negotiations demonstrate what the Boston Fed said about quality jobs but show the effect of the lack of quality jobs on workplace culture and verifies what MIT Sloan Management Review said about the need for culture change. For the first time in their 128 year history,  members of IATSE voted to give strike  authorization to their negotiating team.  IATSE represents the behind-the-scenes people  in television, streaming, movie and live theater.  These are the production assistants, camera people, hair stylists, make-up artists and others.

IATSE members were eager to get back to work after covid nearly shut down the entire entertainment industry. But once they returned, the entertainment industry was pressured to boost production because of pent-up demand by consumers.

Working conditions were not necessarily good before covid,  but afterwards, it was worse for IATSE members which is why there was almost a unanimous vote for the strike authorization.  One employee reported working almost a continuous 20 hours without a break.   On Twitter, a video clip tells more stories from members. One member said she struggles to pay her bills while she sits in a Zoom meeting listening to other production people talk about their vacation homes.  Other members told about themselves and their co-workers struggling to stay awake on the drive home after working a grueling pace which, of course, is a huge safety concern.  They also told about addictions some members were having because of work demands or the family activities that were missed  because of work schedules.  All of these things are what the Boston Fed said contributes to job quality.  Members said they love the work but change must happen just like MIT Sloan Review reported.

The story concerning Blue Origin is the next example with similar issues.  A group of both current and former employees recently publicized an essay of their concerns about the organization.  They recognized the same important cultural traits as the  employees  did in the “top 10” but at Blue Origin those traits are  happening in a negative way and that’s why employees wrote the essay and said  culture must change.

The employees stated at the beginning of their essay they believed in the organization’s mission and they had all wanted to be part of sending a rocket into space but their enthusiasm for Blue Origin waned.  They wrote the Blue Origin culture mirrors the worst of society and leaders must be held accountable just as MIT Sloan Management Review had said was necessary.

According to the essay, some employees at Blue Origin were like some of the IATSE members because of the mental problems they faced due to the expectations that were placed on them.  Employees feared retribution if they spoke up about certain issues.  The CEO made it clear to one employee he did not want employees to have  an opportunity to ask questions at company town halls.  Executives were asked for lists of people that could possibly be causing disruption within the workplace and were encouraged to either talk to them or terminate their employment.  The essay also said sexual harassment occurred often in the male dominated organization, safety concerns for the New Shephard rocket were dismissed, requests for additional resources or new hires were denied and environmental concerns were ignored.

Much  of the concerns identified in the essay were also identified in an article from The Atlantic.  The person responsible for communications at Blue Origin claimed to The Atlantic that safety  was of utmost importance for the organization and  employees had multiple ways to raise their concerns.  The author of the article tried to contact employees who wrote the essay  but some, including former employees,  were afraid of retribution.  Those that were willing speak told validated the safety concerns and the inability for employees to speak out.

Blue Origin tried to counter the essay by putting out a statement saying one of the former employees who wrote the essay was fired after she had been warned numerous times  about remarks.  The former employee said she had no idea what warnings they were talking about.

Not only does culture impact employees, it also hurts the organization and the customers. The Blue Origin story depicts it.  People are currently buying tickets for a space ship trip that may not happen or has  potential safety issues.  The toxic culture occurring at Blue Origin is the culprit and major problems are happening. CNBC reported people familiar with the turnover problem at Blue Origin said the rate was about 20% despite Blue Origin saying it’s much lower.  That 20% rate is extremely high for any organization and the people CNBC talked to attribute it to the CEO and the culture.  The pressure on the organization is tremendous.  Production problems occur as personnel replacements have to be updated on projects. CNBC reported that could take up to a year because of the technical nature of what the company is producing. This can increase costs and lower profit.   In addition, safety issues could again be a concern as the right people may not be available and hazards can’t be identified.  If there is a major accident, not only are people going to be killed but it could mean the end of the organization.

All of this from these two examples verifies the importance of leaders to look at workplace culture and make culture change NOW just as the article from MIT Sloan Management Review emphasized.

CALMC activities, including our blog, are made possible in part by the continuing support of our members, such as

  • The Central Ohio Labor Council, AFL-CIO
  • The Electrical Industries Labor-Management Cooperation Committee
  • Sheet Metal Workers Local 24
  • Skinner Diesel Repair
  • Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 189
  • The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association/AFSCME Council 8 and the Union Education Trust
  • The State Council of Professional Educators (SCOPE)

Contact us for more information about Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee or to become a member,

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Here is One Way to Recruit and Retain Employees

Are you tired of reading that the difficulty in finding workers is caused by lazy people who would rather not work?

This is an example of some believing what they want to believe in spite of evidence to the contrary. We know that cutting unemployment benefits early did almost nothing to increase employment. The only thing it accomplished was punishing workers by taking money out of their pockets. People already having difficulty making ends meet were put in even more difficult situations in order to try to benefit businesses.

Basic problem solving says in order to solve a problem, you need to understand its root causes and analyze the data regarding the situation. If we want to understand this problem, we need to ask those involved why they are not returning to work.

The reasons vary but are largely centered around issues with returning to old jobs, including concerns with child care, unsafe working conditions, and treatment they had received. One of the major issues was poor wages and benefits.

This issue is not based in individual greed, but a desire to be fairly compensated for the work they do. Many employers want them to come back at wages and hour that were already too low before the pandemic.

There are instances where employers recognized the need to do things differently. They have discovered they can recruit and retain new employees.  This week, we want to revisit an employer that tool radical steps to change the economic structure of their company to the benefit if employees.

A few years ago we wrote about Gravity Payments, a Seattle based credit card processor that dramatically raised employee salaries. They gave all employers a minimum salary of $70,000, funded by CEO Dan Price cutting his own salary by $1 million.

At the time, his actions were met with both praise and derision. While some saw an honest effort to improve the company and secure its future, others called it rampant socialism. Right-wing media predicted the company would go bankrupt and its workers would lose their jobs.

CBS News reports the company not only still exists, it is even stronger. The number of employees has almost doubled and the business has tripled in the six years since he made the move. He still is paying hiss employees $70,000 per year, the same salary he makes.

Andrew Hafenbrack, assistant professor of Management & Organization at the Foster School of Business, University of Washington in Seattle states, “It does go against what people expect and what we usually see in terms of corporations and companies”

The Economic Policy Institute notes the average CEO compensation is 320 times more than the salaries of their typical workers. Hafenbrack says “This shows that isn’t the only way for a company to be successful and profitable. Do you pay what you can get away with? Or do you pay what you think is ideal, or reasonable, or fair?”

Price wishes other companies would follow his model. “I would say that’s the failure of this. You know, I feel like I’ve been shouting from the rooftops like, ‘This works, this works, everybody should do it!’ and zero big companies are following suit because the system values having the highest return with the lowest risk and the lowest amount of work,” Price said.

Price said a major reason the company profits have grown is because bigger paychecks have lead to fiercely loyal employees. “Our turnover rate was cut in half, so when you have employees staying twice as long, their knowledge of how to help our customers skyrocketed over time and that’s really what paid for the raise more so than my pay cut,” said Price. The result has been business growth from satisfied customers.

He notes the success has not come without struggles. During the COVID-19 pandemic it lost 55% of its business in March 2020. At one point, Price figured Gravity was only four months away from failing, but it bounced back after its employees voluntarily took a temporary pay cut.

Since then, salaries are back to normal, and Gravity repaid lost wages employees had voluntarily given up.

How much do the employees appreciate what Price did? To repay Price for his sacrifices and for the dreams he has made possible, his employees decided to all chip in and buy him a car.

“My employees have done way more for me than I could ever do for them. So the fact that they wanted to get me such an unreal, amazing gift, it’s pretty special. I don’t know if I can put it into words,” Price said.

When he was reminded he could have afforded the car on his own with his original salary, Price said, “Yeah, that’s true. I’m way happier now than I was before.”

Instead of blaming employees, Dan Price recognized and rewarded them in a way that created the most direct benefits to them. They have rewarded Price with increased loyalty and job performance. While we do not expect droves of other employers to buy into his philosophy and follow h9is actions, they can begin to look at why their former employees did not want to return or why their turnover rates have increased and look at how to correct these issues. It will certainly be more productive than trying to affix blame to people.


CALMC activities, including our blog, are made possible in part by the continuing support of our members, such as

  • The Central Ohio Labor Council, AFL-CIO
  • The Electrical Industries Labor-Management Cooperation Committee
  • Sheet Metal Workers Local 24
  • Skinner Diesel Repair
  • Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 189
  • The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association/AFSCME Council 8 and the Union Education Trust
  • The State Council of Professional Educators (SCOPE)

Contact us for more information about Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee or to become a member,

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A Positive Culture Helps The Workplace

Over the last month, we’ve blogged about MIT Sloan Management Review reporting on the need for change in workplace culture.  They also reported a lack of trust occurs within workplace culture, especially in the virtual environment.  This last week MIT Sloan Management Review provided a report  on  ways to improve culture.

After doing some analysis between language and employees’ company reviews on Glass Door, the writers of the report found employees, primarily from retail, groceries or restaurants wanted respect instead of feeling like they were unimportant.   Many held the perspective of being humiliated and  that employers would discard them like trash.  They also believed workplace culture was established at the executive level but believed their supervisor or manager tried to change the tone of the culture when management would treat them with respect, recognize their needs and provide needed assistance and support.  Those leaders set a positive example and worked to improve the culture.

Similar negative sentiments were echoed in an article from The Guardian about restaurant workers.  The article said the restaurant industry has had record turnover during the year and a lot of it has to do with low wages, poor working conditions, and unsafe environments – all items that lead to a poor workplace culture.  Despite some restaurant owners believing unemployment payments were preventing them from finding staff, workers said they were leaving because they’re tired of working in conditions where it was too hot without air conditioning, no benefits to help them if they get covid and rude customers who refused to comply with safety precautions.  Again, with any support from management, that contributes to a negative impression of the culture.

A report from the Boston Fed verifies it will be difficult for retail, restaurants and groceries to find workers if they don’t improve the workplace with quality jobs.   The report says quality jobs are defined by livable wages and benefits plus an environment that provides defined work schedules and flexibility.  The problem has been with most of the  workers in these industries are faced with not knowing their schedules and number of hours they will receive which also means a variable pay.  Most of the workers  receive less than 35 hours in a given week and doesn’t help with the overall wage either.  All of this adds into a demeaning culture.  While the report focused mostly on New England workers, the same practice occurs all over the  country and is more industry related than regionally related, however, they do mention some cities have enforced certain work regulations that help workers know their schedules and the amount of pay they will receive.

Negative work cultures also breed security breaches to the workplace.  The National Counterintelligence and Security Center(NCSC) recently posted on Twitter a bad work culture can lead to inside security  issues because employees can become more easily disengaged from the workplace and do not watch for vulnerabilities when or if they occur.  By involving people and respecting them and their abilities, it can help remove any potential damage to a workplace, especially at a time when a lot of workplaces are virtual settings.

Trust and workplace culture are not inseparable.  Respecting people and their needs not only helps the culture but it also helps people to be more trusting and that, too, helps build a more positive culture.   Pointing fingers or placing blame at employees, unemployment or other reasons will never create change within the environment or build trust.  The authors of the reports and article provided examples for employers on what needs to happen to make positive change.  They also provided other examples of what not to do.  But if any change is going to take place, it’s going to take real effort and it won’t happen overnight.  If people are committed to making positive change, they must try to do it through action, otherwise, it will not happen.  It takes more than words.

Providing wages, benefits and schedules can be a start but it’s also values, too, that build a more positive culture and trust. Creating a high-performing workplace that we’ve blogged about before can help create an environment where positive values and behaviors are exhibited.  That means things like treating people with respect, allowing people to have a voice, showing them they’re a valuable part of the organization, providing support, and investing in them can have a major impact.  It also helps create mutual respect throughout the organization and that helps the organization be successful.

Record numbers of employees are changing jobs and they’re watching what employers do. If an employer wants to retain and attract workers and talent, then they’ll have to improve trust and definitely improve the culture.

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Following the Anniversary of 9/11. Can We Come Back Together?

Lights mark the location of the World Trade Center Towers, September 11, 2021

Last week I was in New York on September 11 during the anniversary of the terrorist attacks. It was a truly impressive day, with ceremonies, readings, and the expected speeches from politicians.

Those speeches had a similar theme: We came together after the attacks, and that unity helped the city and the country recover. Some also lamented the lack of unity present today, and hoped things would get better.

I agree with the sentiment, but doubt it will happen anytime soon.

Today, politics control the dialog and thought on just about any topic. Moving past the pandemic is a battle shaped not by the advice of health experts but by the rantings of those who pretend to be leaders.

Its fine to disagree, but not if the disputes are based on misinformation, distortions, absurdities, and attempts for political gain. We see that very clearly when we look at the current state of the pandemic.

When I told people we were headed for New York, they often asked whether I was worried about going due to the Corona virus. My answer was “No”, based on the current status of virus prevention.

Here in the city, masks are required at any public indoor location, including restaurants, stores, arenas, or theaters. There is almost 100% compliance with this mandate. Unlike in Ohio, these requirement are rarely met with personal or political attacks. I heard no one complaining about masks being a threat to personal liberty.

New York mounted a serious attack on the virus, and the results have been impressive. As of last week, the positivity rate for Covid tests was 3.3%, one of the lowest in the country. This is compared to Ohio with 16% or South Carolina at 13.9% positives. Ohio started with a strong effort to combat the pandemic and lowered its positivity rate well below 10%, but political demands took over. Republican Governor Mike DeWine was rebuked by his more conservative counterparts and he was forced to back down. The legislature passed legislation over his veto that enabled them to countermand any order relating to public health. Just what we needed during the pandemic, politicians basing heath decisions on political views, misinformation, and personal gain rather than the advice of health experts and science.

This pattern has been repeated in many states, including Michigan where Governor Gretchen Whitmer was personally threatened, California, where the attempt to recall the Governor Gavin Newsome based on his health mandates was defeated, and South Carolina where the legislature banned any school district from mandating masks no matter how high their positivity rates became.

With these attitudes, it is not surprising the highest positivity rates are being seen in states that are run by the right-wing influences. Of the 23 states with the highest totals per capita, 21 voted for Trump in 2020. Philip Bump of the Washington Post reports 16 are among the 17 states that have the lowest rates of vaccination. Of the 18 states that have new death totals higher than the national ratio, 14 voted for Trump and 12 are among the 17 least-vaccinated states.

This inescapable overlap of pandemic and politics is seen best in states like Florida. Bump reports, “One [reason] is that its governor, Ron DeSantis, is a prominent Republican official, a role that he embraces and elevates. Another is that DeSantis has been explicit in expressing his opposition to measures aimed at containing the coronavirus or limiting its spread. A third is that, particularly of late, his state has been hit particularly hard by the virus.

“Since the fourth surge in new cases began in late June, about 54,000 more people have died of covid-19. Nearly 1 in 5 of those deaths have occurred in Florida — 18 percent of the deaths come from a state that makes up about 6 percent of the country’s population. What’s more, over the course of the surge, the percentage of deaths occurring in Florida has been increasing.”

Why was I not worried about coming to New York in this stage of the pandemic? Because the commitment that helped make the state safer than most others has continued. Conversely, it I also why I chose not to go to Florida recently.

Bump also reports, “The Pew Research Center regularly polls Americans to gauge the demographic identifiers that spur the broadest disagreement on issues. You might think that it’s gender or age or race. It isn’t. It’s party, by a mile. That party is now intertwined with the extent to which America is willing to tamp down on a deadly virus is, to put it mildly, disadvantageous.”

We are faced with one of the greatest national crises since 9/11, yet we have proven ourselves as a county to be unable to come together to deal with its impact. Instead we quibble about masks, even though they have been proven to be effective, vaccines even though they have saved lives by lowering the occurrence of the virus in those who have been vaccinated, and misinformation and outright lies spread to scare people into following the party line into oblivion.

WBNS TV in Columbus featured a story about the obituary of Candace Ayers, a 66 year old woman from Illinois who died after contracting COVID during a trip to Mississippi.

After the details of her death, the obituary reads:

“She was preceded in death by more than 4,531,799 others infected with COVID-19. She was vaccinated but was infected by others who chose not to be. The cost was her life.”

Mississippi has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, He believes if people there had been vaccinated and wearing masks, she would be alive today.

He says the majority of the feedback on the obituary has been positive and people have said they are getting vaccinated because of it. If you are not vaccinated, I hope it will encourage you, too.

It is certainly your right to disagree. It is your right to not get vaccinated. It is not your right to endanger me and others with your actions. We must all bear the consequences of exercising our rights.

Can we coe back together? Yes, but only with the commitment of all parties. I hope we can realize our responsibilities and begin working together in the same spirit we showed after 9/11.

CALMC activities, including our blog, are made possible in part by the continuing support of our members, such as

  • The Central Ohio Labor Council, AFL-CIO
  • The Electrical Industries Labor-Management Cooperation Committee
  • Sheet Metal Workers Local 24
  • Skinner Diesel Repair
  • Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 189
  • The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association/AFSCME Council 8 and the Union Education Trust
  • The State Council of Professional Educators (SCOPE)

Contact us for more information about Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee or to become a member,

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The Virtual Workplace Lacks Trust

Many workplaces have had to rely on remote work during the pandemic and it has become quite popular.  It has become so popular that some employers have decided to  maintain it, but at the same time, remote work has also created some issues and one of those is the lack of trust.  Both employees and employers are experiencing less trust of each  other.

Two articles, one from The Guardian and one from Forbes in the last week, tell about the lack of trust employees and employers have experienced.   In The Guardian article it tells surveillance technology has increased as employers use it because they’re uncertain employees are actually working.  The Forbes article says employers don’t trust employees to use technology effectively which is  interesting because an article published on  MIT Sloan Review in February of this year said employees are not comfortable with leadership’s technical ability.

This lack of trust between employers and employees can cause real problems for an organization and in a virtual setting the problem can become worse. According to the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), things like productivity or the ability of the organization to maintain staff can be greatly impacted and that can lead  to greater cost and less profit.  SHRM encourages employers to communicate more and be transparent especially while remote work is happening.  They said other things that can be done instead of using surveillance technology to determine whether or not an employee is working or having problems. The SHRM article also said those at the top of the organization have a responsibility to create a trusting environment.

Whether it’s a virtual setting or physical setting trust can be a huge problem for organizations.  As might be expected, many labor-management problems occur because of a lack of trust by both sides. It takes work to build trust.  Just as SHRM suggested,  if one side  comes forth and demonstrates their commitment that helps but that work and effort must come from both sides.  When we talk about trust in committee effectiveness training, members say breaking trust happens quicker than building trust.  They say leaders who are committed to building trust must “walk the talk”.  There must be some actions behind the words. There must be some honesty and sincerity demonstrated with those words.

In addition to talking about trust in the training sessions, we’ll use exercises to help break down trust barriers.  We’ll have participants work in small groups. Each exercise has a different scenario.  The topics of the exercises are unrelated to work so members won’t get caught up on specific work issues.  The exercises help to teach technique but, when done in small groups, they also help members begin to learn more about each other and they discover they may have more in common than they thought.  It also helps them to be more open minded to new ideas and new ways of doing.  All of that helps to strengthen communication which, in the end, helps to build trust just as the SHRM article said was necessary.  We’ll change the composition of the groups several times during the training so everyone gets an opportunity to work with just about everyone on the committee  and learn about them.

We also use another tool to help build trust.  It is the interest-based problem solving process which also allows committee members to learn more.  Identifying the interests, or the concerns, wants, or needs of individuals or parties help to reveal why a particular issue is important to them and understanding that can help create a more trusting environment and build stronger relationships.

Most of all, it’s important everyone going through the training participate. People will be listening and watching for the effort and commitment being put forth or not being put forth.  If anyone or one side, especially a leader,  sits back and does nothing, the ability to improve trust will be difficult to non-existent.  We’ve watched many teams be successful.  We’ve also watched those that have not.  Those that were not successful usually didn’t demonstrate effort or commitment.  Sometimes it was one or a few members, sometimes the entire committee but what it did do was demonstrate a  lack of  commitment to the process plus to individuals who wanted improvements.

The real work that comes after training will be the test.  Having a facilitator to help a committee utilize the techniques learned during the training will be to the committee’s advantage and can also help members overcome trust barriers.  The facilitator can help the committee stay focused on their work so more can be accomplished.  That can really be a big step in building trust.  It shows the parties they can overcome barriers, work together and be successful.  Starting on small problems and working up to more difficult issues will not only provide practice with techniques and incrementally build trust but it will help to avoid missteps which might cause any progress to backslide.  Creating multiple wins for everyone, even if they’re small, can also encourage trust to happen.

Trust is delicate and it needs to be earned and developed all  along the way.  It can be more challenging in a virtual setting but it can be just as challenging in the physical setting.

Like others, we’re doing our work online too.  It’s too early to tell if helping labor and management work together is better, worse or the same in an online environment.  For now, it’s something we have to do and we have to keep trying to get people to work together. That’s the same with trust.  You have to keep trying even if it’s in a virtual setting.

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The 20th Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee Golf Outing

Last week we held our Labor-Management Golf Outing, This was the 20th time we have hosted the outing, missing only last year due ot the pandemic.

We had seven teams sign up for the outing, and they enjoyed a beautiful (if warm) day, lunch, and camaraderie with other labor and management leaders. It was great to spend time with the members that support our organization and get with some people we had not seen for a while.

The participating teams were from:

  • Ohio Civil Service Employees Association Education Department
  • Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 189
  • Ironworkers Local 172
  • Professional Employees Representatives Union, Local 5
  • Ohio Office of Collective Bargaining
  • Central Ohio Labor Council, AFL-CIO
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 683 and the Central Ohio Chapter, National Electrical Contractors Association

There was a tie for first place between then Central Ohio Labor Council and the Ohio Office of Collective Bargaining, with the Labor Council winning a coin flip for the championship.

The team from the Central Ohio Labor Council. They tied for the best score and won a coin flip for the championship

We also want to thank our hole sponsors, whose contributions further the efforts of CALMC to provide tools for continuous workplace improvement through training, education, information dissemination, facilitation, and conflict resolution to benefit organizations and employees. The hole sponsors were:

  • Ohio Civil Service Employees Association Education Department
  • Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 189
  • Ironworkers Local 172
  • Professional Employees Representatives Union, Local 5
  • Central Ohio Labor Council, AFL-CIO
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 683
  • Central Ohio Chapter, National Electrical Contractors Association

People from several other labor and management organizations joined us for lunch. We appreciate the support they showed with their participation.

You can see more pictures from the outing on the CALMC Facebook Page.

It is always great to have union members and managers with us and enjoying each other’s’ company in this cooperative atmosphere. We look forward to the 21st CALMC Golf Outing in August 2022, and hope you will be able to join us.

The team from the Ohio Office of Collective Bargaining tied for the best score in the CALMC Golf Outing.

CALMC activities, including our blog and the golf outing, are made possible in part by the continuing support of our members, like

  • The Central Ohio Labor Council, AFL-CIO
  • The Electrical Industries Labor-Management Cooperation Committee
  • Sheet Metal Workers Local 24
  • Skinner Diesel Repair
  • Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 189
  • The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association/AFSCME Council 8 and the Union Education Trust
  • The State Council of Professional Educators (SCOPE)

Contact us for more information about Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee or to become a member,

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Are YOU Willing To Change?

MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Sloan Management Review reported recently on the importance of executives to address  workplace culture especially in a post-pandemic environment.

Unfortunately, the trend over the years has been more of a traditional relationship instead of empowering workers or creating partnerships with labor.  The workplace has become, at times, just as divisive as what the rest of the country has experienced.  The willingness of managers to include workers in decision-making has waned but the report from MIT Sloan says executives need to re-think the workplace culture and that empowering workers or partnership with labor is part of changing that culture.  This, of course, is something we also have advocated even without the pandemic and the changes occurring in the workplace.

The reason the report says culture change is a necessity is because of new technological platforms that impacted workplaces during the pandemic plus the need to address new business and workplace practices. If the culture isn’t changed to help support those items, the workplace has less opportunity for positive results.  The report suggests a model similar to what we’ve called a high-performance environment that includes customer focused quality, flexibility, supportive and empowering leadership, investment in employees, and employee involvement.

Different dynamics have taken hold in the workplace and the ability for the high-performance model, or even the model the report suggests, has been reduced over the years.  For whatever the reason, there has been a mentality of “We’re In Charge!”  by some managers which has created an unacceptable environment for cooperation or employee involvement.  It may be, thanks to the pandemic, the pendulum is swinging back.

Not all workplaces are like that but it also doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of work to do.  The need for worker voice has never been greater.  When we work with groups, we know the ones that will be successful at improving their relationship because they are the ones that have a greater commitment to try even when they’re practicing.  That commitment will absolutely be needed for culture change especially if it’s like the environments described above.

We do exercises that not only show technique for dealing with labor-management problems but they also help with relationship building.  Those groups that are committed to work and try the concepts have a better ability to put them to actual use when they start working on “real life problems” and develop solutions everyone can support.  Those that are more reluctant probably won’t do as well.  Building or improving that relationship is the start to changing culture.

Some of the participants during our training are very happy with some of the exercises we do.  Some, however, may not be so quick to embrace them so they end up losing the entire concept the exercise is teaching on building the relationship.  They may have difficulty in understanding that they as individuals may need to change, too.  They can be less open-minded and less likely to LISTEN to different perspectives.  Other people with new ideas or opinions help a group’s ability to solve problems or change thoughts that actually help not just the group but the workplace as its working toward changing culture .

One exercise we do is based on people’s values.  The exercise does not encourage people to change their values but it is designed to make them more aware of the values of others because there may be some difficult issues labor and management will face where values or ethics may be involved.   Most participants understand the need for such an exercise as we help them learn about making decisions together.  But, again, some are not as willing to buy in to what the exercise is teaching them.  One participant thought the exercise may be too outdated and that’s why the unwillingness to learn.  That could be but it does involve a  controversial subject matter that has changed recent thinking and that is exactly what the exercise is intended to do for labor and management. It is designed to get people to think about other ideas and make them more aware others may think differently from them and that’s okay. It’s actually giving them the ability to LISTEN and consider the values of others so they will be more prepared to face the tough issues they will encounter.  That’s how to build relationships and that’s also how culture is changed.

The same participant that claimed the values exercise was outdated also said  the traditional labor-management viewpoints we presented during training were also outdated.  That may be true, too, but, again, not necessarily.  Those viewpoints describe some of the traditional perspectives like the “We’re in charge” that exist today.  Some managers feel like they are there to control the workforce while labor people experience  frustration and actively resist anything that management wants.  Those types  of traditional relationships will never help a workplace accomplish anything and that is exactly why the report says executives must look at workplace culture.

People must be willing to learn and LISTEN to others plus be accepting that their ideas and their values aren’t the only ones out there.  Without that willingness, without that commitment to try, relationship building will not happen and that also means culture change will not happen.  Likewise, those traditional attitudes that have somehow become more common again for whatever reason must change so relationships can improve so that culture can also change and help workplaces thrive especially as the pandemic has changed our perspectives.

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Are Labor-Management Relationships Improving?

While doing labor-management training this week we were discussing traditional labor-management behaviors and how they impact efforts to work together. We use examples of the negative views the sides have traditionally held toward each other.

Later, one of the people in the training challenged our presentation, stating that labor and management views have changed and the parties work together better than ever.

I wish I could agree with him.

It is my observation that in the last few years the relationship between labor and management has been deteriorating, and that progress the sides made toward establishing a cooperative environment has often been reversed.

If we look back five to ten years, the impetus for cooperation has certainly waned. This has been true on both the local and national level. Some of the groups we had worked with in the past and that had established an excellent record of cooperation have reverted to more adversarial stances. The complexity of the problems and solutions they were able to develop together has declined, as has the level and quality of the communications between the parties.

It seems too many managers have little interest in working together with the unions, preferring to view them with suspicion and avoid working together. Too many unions appear to have lost interest in pursuing cooperative problem solving and no longer view working together as a strong priority. Managers have been more willing to set aside worker rights, including health and safety, while keeping pay and benefits down to increase profitability.

Employees have been required to work longer hours, sometimes in unhealthy environments. States have constrained the rights of workers to organize while Congress refuses to address employee rights legislation. Other companies fight to keep from recognizing the people who they depend on to deliver their services as employees, further limiting their rights. States have chosen to punish people who are unemployed by reducing their benefits instead of looking for the real reasons they are reluctant to return to work.

As a result, many unions have returned to more traditional behaviors. Negotiations have become more difficult in these situations as the parties seek to establish or maintain control.

The trend was exacerbated over the last few years by a string of anti-labor decisions and actions by the NLRB and other parts of the previous administration in Washington. Although the tenor of the decisions has changed under President Biden, simply being more labor-friendly will not help bring the parties together. The administration must also focus on building cooperation.

For example, did you see that over 1,000 members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International union are on strike against Nabisco in at least four states, their first strike in 52 years. “We’re fighting for a fair contract, no concessions,” Yvette Hale, who has worked at Nabisco’s Chicago bakery nearly 22 years, told CBS MoneyWatch. “Everyone is angry, as you never know if you’re going to work eight hours, 12 hours or 16 hours.”  Another worker stated, “People are scared to come to work on Saturdays because they make us work 16 hours. We’re short-staffed, but they don’t want to hire.” 

Negotiation broke down over company proposals including turning eight-hour shifts into 12-hour ones without overtime. Workers would only receive overtime on the sixth and seventh consecutive days of work. MoneyWatch reports a spokesperson for Chicago-based Mondelez, the parent company of Nabisco, said the proposed changes are intended to “promote the right behaviors” among workers and avoid paying employees a premium for weekend work if they call in sick during the regular work week.

Promoting the right behaviors among workers…. The mere fact a company would boldly announce this indicates the low view they have of their employees. This trend has been very disturbing and does not bode well for building any level of cooperation.

I don’t intend to paint a completely bleak picture for labor and management. There are a number of successful joint processes among our members and other areas. Adversarial actions can be changed, but it will not be easy. We have worked with people from both sides that came to see the advantages of working together for themselves, their employers, and their co-workers. It happened then, and it can happen now.

Is your organizations labor-management attitude dominated by traditional behaviors? A cooperative process can be built in your organization, and it can start with you. Any joint process requires the commitment of all participants, and that commitment can make it successful. You and your colleagues cannot wait for someone else to begin the process, you can make the difference by stepping up.

Unfortunately, we cannot agree union-management relations have been improving. We hope that both parties will recognize the long-term harm their behaviors are creating and return to the collaborative behaviors that were developing a few years ago.

If your organization wants to improve the level of labor-management cooperation, contact  CALMC.

CALMC activities, including our blog, are made possible in part by the continuing support of our members, such as:

The Central Ohio Labor Council, AFL-CIO
The Electrical Industries Labor-Management Cooperation Committee
Sheet Metal Workers Local 24
Skinner Diesel Repair
Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 189
Ohio Civil Service Employees Association/AFSCME Council 8 and the Union Education Trust
State Council of Professional Educators (SCOPE).

Contact us for more information about Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee or to become a member,

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Are You Sure It’s the Applicants Lacking The Skills?

A couple of weeks ago, we blogged about the problem of finding workers and the possibility certain workplace behaviors could be a cause of it.  This week we look at the problem again but by reviewing a report based on the employers’ perspectives.

The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) published the report and it includes employer responses from various industry sectors.  Some industries had more difficulty than others at finding individuals.  Those having the most difficulty included health care, social assistance and manufacturing.  The positions employers found the most difficult to fill were those of high-skilled medical, scientists and mathematicians, skilled trades, high-skilled techs, computer specialists, engineers, architects, and executives.  The bigger the organization, or those with the most employees, usually didn’t have the difficulty in finding workers like smaller organizations had.  The top reasons employers said they couldn’t find new hires were many of the same reasons we’ve heard repeatedly over the years. That included a low applicant pool or applicants don’t have the necessary skills or experience.  There was one new one and that was employers are facing competition from each other.  The one set of skills that was needed by most employers and has been mentioned before was soft skills or communication, problem solving and team building.

It could be applicants are lacking the soft skills employers want or it could be an automated system isn’t picking up the skills or applicants aren’t using terms the automated system will recognize as soft skills ability. There also could be another reason and that comes from a Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, Sloan School of Management article that says employers need to use better communication skills, and specifically, listening skills.

The MIT article says employees may bring some really good ideas to employers but are often times ignored.  They cited a couple of examples where employees left their employers, started their own companies and became very successful.

Employers need to set an example.  If they expect a certain type of behavior then they need to demonstrate that behavior.  When employers say they need employees with soft skills, is it because they actually are allowing worker voice or do they want to have those skills because they’re simply good skills to have?

Whatever the reason allowing worker voice can be excellent recruiting tool.  When employees are involved in every day decisions and are empowered, they come up with new ideas and new ways of doing things that makes them feel like they’re valued and part of the workplace.  Employees can easily address problems especially if they encounter them.  Who else but the person doing the job knows better how to address it.

Worker voice also helps with retention so employers don’t have to worry about turnover and the costs associated with it. When an employer encourages worker voice, there’s more mutual respect throughout the organization and greater loyalty. It also creates the teambuilding employers want.  It validates the importance employers put on it when they encourage it. It tells potential applicants why it’s necessary to have those skills.

The SHRM report also cited over 30% of the employers used an employee referral process.  If worker voice is a big part of the workplace, more than likely employees will be inclined to refer possible recruits because they like the work environment.  That helps reduce the amount of time spent looking for job candidates.  It can also continue to help build that camaraderie.

SHRM said in their opening of the report employers have expressed difficulty in job recruitment for quite some time.  Recruitment may be more challenging now but many of the skills employers say they can’t find in candidates has been a problem for years. Teambuilding, problem solving and communication skills  are some of those skills they have wanted but are do they actually use them in the workplace?  And if they are, is it to the potential it could be?  If not, employers need to seek help and work on it! Just as the MIT article pointed out, the rewards of involving employees can be tremendous! The continued complaining about the lack of teamwork and problem solving ability may not be the fault of jobseekers.

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Are You Concerned About Health Care Costs?

Do you have an extra $300,000 laying around? You may need it to pay for your health care in retirement.

The financial planners at Fidelity Investments estimate an average couple retiring at age 65 can expect to pay that amount out of pocket for healthcare over the remainder of their lives. That is an increase of 30% from a decade ago.

After World War II, employers began to use health care as a benefit to attract and retain employees. This worked to the benefit of everyone until health care costs began to grow faster than wages. This has placed pressure on employers to control the expenses, generally by cutting coverage, increasing employee shares of premiums and out-of-pocket expenses, or, eliminating family or even employee coverage. Even collectively bargained insurance plans have taken hits.

The pandemic further compounded this problem. An Urban Institute report estimated that 10 million Americans lost their health insurance as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health coverage concerns increase when an employee retires. Now faced with the loss of their employer provided coverage, they must now seek the best options they have to try to meet their needs. If they qualify for Medicare upon retirement they still face an uncertain path when choosing from the various supplement, advantage, and prescription coverage plans. Mary Gatta from Market Watch reminds us “Medicare does not cover essential things like most dental care, eye exams, hearing aids—and one particularly expensive thing: long-term care (also called ‘custodial care’). Long-term care can cost a small fortune and there’s a good chance you’ll need it, probably in the latter stages of life. AARP:says 58% of women and 47% of men over age 65 will need long-term care at some point.”

Ms. Gatts explains what is meant by “cost a small fortune.” Genworth, an insurance provider, says median costs for long-term care range from $1,603 a month for adult day healthcare to $8,821 a month for a private room in a nursing home.

Whether it is for a Medicare coverage plan, a supplement, or long-term care, a wrong decision can end up costing them thousands of dollars a year.

This is further complicated if only one spouse is eligible for Medicare at the time of retirement. The number of decisions and the complexity more than doubles in this circumstance.

This is why more employees delay their retirement in order to retain their employer providid health coverage. Now, their career and retirement plans are dictated by the need for health care. Fidelity Investments senior vice president Hope Manion states. “Covering healthcare costs is one of the most significant, yet unpredictable, aspects of retirement planning. By providing this estimate for retirees, we want to increase awareness among people of all ages to help them proactively get more engaged in saving and investing, so they can be better prepared in years to come.”

Is there any hope for health care expenses? The Affordable Care Act has provided some with premiums affordable to them as well as protections regarding pre-existing conditions, but this is clearly only a start. Are universal coverage, lowered Medicare eligibility ages, and Medicare for All the answers? Market Watch notes, “There are many models globally that demonstrate the effectiveness of this type of health insurance — from countries with single-payer health insurance such as Canada and France to other nations with a mix of public options and private insurance. 

“The results are clear: Compared with our international peer countries, our health insurance system consistently is more costly and has worse health outcomes for individuals.”

In the meantime, employers and unions need to work together to ensure coverage that meets the needs of all employees. Joint Health Care Committees have been proven to provide better coverages and reduced costs through better procurement practices.

We cannot afford to wait. Mary Gatts states, “The dreaded diagnosis used to be that you’re sick with a short time to live. Even worse now is that you’re too sick to work and not sick enough to die.”

CALMC activities, including our blog, are made possible in part by the continuing support of our members, such as The Central Ohio Labor Council, AFL-CIO, The Electrical Industries Labor =Management Cooperation Committee, Sheet Metal Workers Local 24, Skinner Diesel Repair, and the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association/AFSCME Council 8 and the Union Education Trust.

Contact us for more information about Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee or to become a member,

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