The Promise of Jobs – Does it Require Unions?

Every politician and candidate sings the same mantra, “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs”. It is what voters want to hear, but accomplishing the goal takes both long-term planning and a willingness to make tough choices, abilities candidates seem to lose after they are elected.

The choices necessary to create the types of jobs workers want run in opposition to the political desires of many office holders. Their desire to force anti-worker legislation like “Right-to-Work” hinders the creation of high paying jobs.

Workers want jobs, but not just any job. Then unemployment rate is 4.5%, the lowest it has been in years. In most areas there are jobs, but workers need high paying jobs that enable them to be part of the disappearing middle-class.

A reporter who interviewed workers and job seekers in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Kentucky wrote:

“These states went to Trump and were critical to his election. All voters there want to talk about is how America needs more jobs. They don’t mean jobs at McDonald’s or an Amazon warehouse. They mean jobs that will allow them to have decent, middle class lives, that pay over $25 an hour, and come with health care and retirement benefits.”

How does this relate to unions? If jobs are going to be created that pay this amount and provide good benefits, they are most likely to be in organized companies. With a few exceptions for highly-skilled positions, jobs that pay these wages are not found in non-organized employers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports union members had median usual weekly earnings of $1,004 in 2016, while those who were not union members had median weekly earnings of $802.

Data consistently shows worker earnings in right-to-work and other states with lower levels of union participation lag behind wages paid in more unionized states. Governing Magazine listed the top 10 median wage states, and all have among the highest levels of unionization. Although Ohio was not one of the top-10 states, our median wage of $17.19 was higher than earnings in states with lower percentages of workers in unions, such as South Carolina ($15.45), North Carolina ($16.13), and Mississippi ($14.22). I would also contend the decline in private-sector unions in Ohio was a contributing factor to its median wage remaining stagnant between 2007 and 2016.

Today, I saw a sign outside a business proclaiming they were hiring for positions “paying up to $9 per hour”. I do not mean to demean these jobs or employees, but they are clearly not the kind of jobs the voters in the article are hoping to find. The article noted “Jobs and wages are ‘why we voted him in’ as a country.” Unless the President and other politicians change their long-standing opposition to unions, it is unlikely these jobs will be found. The creation of high paying jobs with good benefits will require union contracts that provide these opportunities.

Posted in CALMC, Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee, Job Retention, Right to Organize | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Impact of Health Care Changes To Both Employers and Employees

Two weeks ago, President Trump and House Republicans succeeded in their attempt to dismantle Affordable Care, or better known as Obamacare.  The bill from the House still has a long way to go and could change in its final form.  This blog is not going to debate about the differences between ACA (Affordable Care Act) and AHCA(American Health Care Act) but focus on how the workplace will be impacted or how employers and employees could be impacted by these big changes as they now stand in the House version. defines small businesses as those with fewer than 500 employees. According to the website, the first five years for small businesses are critical.  Half do not make it and it’s worse at 10 years because only a third make it.   The website says many of the healthcare changes won’t necessarily happen for several years which means some of these businesses won’t receive any benefit.

What about the impact for workers in small businesses?  Under the AHCA, small businesses would no longer be mandated to provide coverage for employees so that may help the business survive but will it help the employees?  Would it mean greater employee turnover because employees will be looking for jobs that provide healthcare benefits?  If so, that’s a cost that could increase and be detrimental to the business.  Or, on the other hand, if a small business doesn’t have to pay health insurance benefits it may provide an opportunity to providepaid time off for sick leave, or maybe match an employee’s contribution to a health savings account.  As far as self-employed individuals, or gig workers, are concerned, the Congressional Budget Office and Kaiser Family Foundation report self-employed individuals will be negatively impacted, especially older self-employed individuals.  Younger, self-employed individuals will fare better.

The New York Times, after analyzing the House bill, also reports changes.  One of those is each state may have different coverages or no coverage.  Employers will not be required to have specific mandates so they can make changes to the healthcare insurance they provide to employees.  This may mean less coverage but not necessarily less cost for either the employer or employee.  Insurance companies could charge employers more or employees could pay more in their share of the cost.  Since there is a provision in AHCA for additional savings under HSAs, some employers may decide an HSA is the employee health benefit and possibly match contributions.

For some workers, if the costs for healthcare go up, as is projected for the AHCA, this could be a real financial burden.  If an employer does not provide health insurance, this, of course, increases the risk for workers not to obtain insurance and shoulder more of the costs of healthcare.  Without coverage, families may put off receiving care which may increase the cost even more if healthcare attention becomes absolutely essential.  The other concern for employees is not all employers provide paid sick leave.  If an employee cannot afford to take a day off from work, this could also increase costs for the employee and the employer.  Viruses can spread from one employee to another putting them in vulnerable  situations not knowing whether to lose pay or infect others with the illness.  In addition, viruses circulating in the workplace can make it less safe and not as productive which can add costs.

According to the Economic Policy Institute(EPI), there are many workers who do not receive paid sick leave.  In 2011, just a little over half of private sector workers have paid sick time.  EPI reports those at the lower end of the wage scale are more likely to have jobs that don’t provide paid sick leave and without paid sick leave it can break down families.  Families need financial security.  Paid sick leave helps to provide that financial security.  There is no provision in either AHCA or ACA for sick pay but if employees don’t have sick pay and there is an increase in health costs under AHCA, that only causes more hardship for families. The pressure also increases when it’s a single parent household.  What happens to the family income if a child is seriously ill and the parent either must work and be forced to ignore their sick child or take time off and lose wages when healthcare is necessary.  The other problem that can occur is a single parent may feel the need to send a sick child to school or day care because no one is home to take care of the child and the parent needs to work to pay bills.  Sending a child to school infects other children and the child could get worse causing the need for health care services that may not be available.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’, Occupational Outlook, Spring, 2014, the healthcare industry leads in job growth compared to other industries.  In fact, the report projected that between 2012 – 2022 more than 4 million jobs would be created.  It’s important to understand that some of those jobs are not directly related to patient care.  Some can be janitorial and housekeeping jobs, office support jobs, cooks and cafeteria workers and many other jobs that provide indirect services.  The report does not mention the number of IT jobs that are impacted or people that produce medical care products that truly are indirect care jobs.  The lack of healthcare coverage has some very direct as well as indirect consequences such as described in this paragraph.

But those jobs could disappear with the healthcare changes are the number. Did jobs increase as described in the previous paragraph because of  the Affordable Care Act?  The report from BLS says it’s more about people needing healthcare services.  Even during the recession, it says, healthcare jobs were continuing to increase.  That was before Affordable Care.  But in a Forbes article of June 5, 2015, it says growth in healthcare jobs started in 2010  – around the same time the healthcare bill became law.  From 2014 through 2015, healthcare created more than 100,000 according to the report from Forbes.  The number of people able to obtain insurance definitely had a major impact not just on jobs but on hospital income.  One hospital saw a 50% increase in income for multiple years.  With the changes under AHCA, the number of jobs and the increases in income  will be substantially reduced because of cuts to Medicaid and subsidies.  EPI says the tax cuts that are to be under AHCA will not have the substantial benefit  to jobs and the economy that Medicaid expansion and subsidies have provided.  By 2022, the number of jobs eliminated will be 1.8 million across the country.  Insurance costs for individuals, EPI says, will increase substantially.  Deductibles, co-pays and premiums will increase expenses for many people.  They estimate the total out-of-pocket costs for the entire number of people purchasing policies under AHCA will be $25 billion annually until 2026.  This will decrease purchasing power for many people so it verifies how the economy will be impacted.

It is true everybody can get care at a hospital but receiving care also means hospitals have to pay for the supplies, medications, labor that is needed to take care of those who can’t pay.  Without having the money to pay for all of that, care can be reduced.  While it’s not always good to equate care with staffing, care can be impacted. Jobs can be lost and not just the staff at a hospital but the “trickle-down” effect of those who support hospitals.  EPI didn’t say whether the 1.8 million jobs lost includes those who support hospital operation but if it isn’t, the jobs loss will be far greater than that.

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Don’t Let Your Current Success Block Your Vision

Many factors can keep organizations from being successful, but one of the most damaging is a lack of vision. Unless we know where we want to head and develop effective strategies for accomplishing our vision, we will fail.

One of the factors that can keep us from developing a solid vision can be our success. Organizations become complacent, certain their success will sustain itself with little effort. When this happens, we are unable to move forward.

This week a technology article in USA Today discussed 20 things we no longer do because of technology. Some were pretty basic, like memorizing phone numbers or doing mental math, but others had implication for businesses.

For example, when was the last time you used the Yellow Pages to find an electrician or other services? Online resources are easier to use while also delivering reviews and other information. The printed listings became obsolete.

In that case, what became of the publishers of the directories? Advertising revenue was lost, and in some cases the publishers were forced out of business. Their previous long-standing success did not save them.

The same is true of some of other things listed in the article, including road atlases, photo albums (and film), recording tape (from audio tape to VHS), printed dictionaries and encyclopedias, and services like travel agents. Success cannot be maintained by looking in the rear-view mirror.

We met with a potential client once and discussed the importance of looking at things differently. They told us they did not need our services because they were already doing well and did not have to do anything differently. I’m reminded of that experience every time I drive past the empty building they once occupied.

Our past successes do not guarantee the future. Even the best producers of items from cameras to carburetors failed as conditions changed. The may not have kept developing their vision due to their success. Don’t fall into that trap, or you could be next.

If your organization has not developed or reviewed its vision, we can help you keep moving forward. Strategies for remaining vital and dealing with change can help you maintain your success. Just don’t wait until it’s too late.

Posted in CALMC, Change Management, Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee, Employee Engagement, Employee Involvement, Managing Change, Systemic change, Vision | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Impact of Immigration on Workers in the U.S. – May Not Be What You Think

One of the things we’ve mentioned on here many times is groups need to have facts when solving problems.  Solving problems with what you think you know doesn’t solve the problem.  Sometimes it makes it worse.  It’s the same for any problem including those facing society in the U. S. today.

One of the big concerns people talk a lot about today is immigration.   Some people fear immigrants coming into this country will take jobs away.  They think employers will want immigrants more than them for a variety of reasons including hiring for less wages.

In fact, last week President Trump, in his effort to push “Buy American, Hire American,” signed an executive order on the H-1B Visa program.  The executive order asked four federal agencies to look at the program and provide recommendations for improvement to the program.  A bipartisan group in Congress had already looked at visa programs because of concerns about jobs and immigrants.

But are immigrants and refugees really taking jobs away from native born Americans?  What about these Visa programs?   What about wages?  Are they suppressed because of immigration?

Before we begin to answer those questions, it’s important to address some immigration facts because it does provide some background and perspective to the entire immigration issue.  We break this into three parts about worker status:  legal immigrants, non-immigrants and unauthorized immigrants.

Today the population of the U. S. consists of a little more than 10% of immigrants, a very low portion of the entire U. S. population.  This is a lower rate than many countries.  The U. S. rate is near the middle of the high and low marks.  For immigrants to obtain legal status to work in the U. S., there are certain requirements for them which are found in five different classifications.  The total number of immigrants allowed under employment-based visas per fiscal year is 140,000.  Legal immigrants come from many more countries than they did 50 years ago.  It’s not just a few countries.

As far as non-immigrant status, there are a number of programs that provide visas to this group.  They don’t all require employment, and those that do require employment, don’t necessarily require employers to find U.S. workers first.  Some of the programs also don’t have a cap on the number of applicants. Typical work visas include the “H” category or the H-1B that was highlighted in the Executive Order.   These visas are good for a certain period of time and can be renewed.

Based on a 2012 estimate, there were a little over 11 million unauthorized, or illegal, immigrants in the U. S. which is less than 4 percent of the overall population.  They also represent 5 percent of the number of workers in the U. S.  which is greater than the overall population because most are working age.  The number of unauthorized immigrants has continued to decline since the Great Recession because of increased numbers of border patrols. Many of them do come from Mexico and Central America.  It is important to note this group of people contribute federal and local taxes but do not receive anything back from them.  While they may use fraudulent social security numbers for payroll purposes, they do not receive an income tax refund at tax time like natives receive and they receive no Social Security benefits even though they pay into Social Security. It was estimated in 2005 unauthorized immigrants paid $7 billion in social security taxes which they will never have returned. In addition, there is very little impact on federal, state or local budgets from these people.  As far as taking advantage of public assistance programs, it is possible they could through legalized citizens but they cannot on their own.

So how does this impact native workers and wages?  Two left-leaning think tanks say there is no impact.  Both the Economic Policy Institute(EPI) and Center for American Progress say the impact to native workers is positive.  EPI provides a graph that shows the impact on wages.  The impact to natives is more positive than for immigrants.  It also becomes greater as education levels increase.  The Center for American Progress states each group benefits the other because each has a different skill set so they do different jobs.  When there are jobs and the groups have similar skill sets, both are absorbed into the labor pool because the business expands its operations.  In addition, immigrants help to spur jobs for natives by taking the lesser skilled jobs which leaves the more skilled, higher pay jobs for natives.  The Center for American Progress uses the example of manufacturing.  More manufacturing jobs stay in the U. S. for natives because immigrants are more willing to do jobs associated with manufacturing such as transportation that gets supplies to manufacturers.

It’s also important to remember immigrants, legal or illegal, purchase goods and services while they’re in this country.  Their purchases help to maintain jobs.  According to the Center for American Progress, more immigrants own a home than natives.  When you think about the purchases needed with home ownership, this can include manufactured items that need to be built.  EPI says deporting all illegal immigrants out of the U. S. at one time could have detrimental effects on the economy.

So what about people on the H1-B visa program that was the center of Trump’s Executive Order?  Again, there is a cap on the number of immigrants that can come under this program.  These positions are more highly-skilled positions with college degrees and include professional type  jobs.  EPI lists examples as technology jobs, accountants, healthcare positions and teachers. Immigrants filling these type of positions can stay six years and can be renewed annually.  The employer must be the applicant which is one of the problems with this position for the immigrant.  The immigrant can only stay with this employer and not look elsewhere.  There have been several complaints about employers using the H-1B.  Those complaints include employers replacing higher-wage native workers with lower-wage immigrant workers,  some native workers having to train the lower-wage replacements before they’re actually terminated, and overall lowering wages in the tech industry.  As mentioned before, there have been other governmental attempts to revise the H1-B visa to make it more fair to everyone.

Lastly, a somewhat good story that helps not just immigrants but all workers is something that happened in Wisconsin.  Farmers were having difficulty finding workers for their farms.  Reluctantly, they decided to use labor from Mexico and were pleasantly surprised how well the workers did but there still some problems.  Someone who knew Spanish talked to the workers and found out there were language and cultural differences that were impeding the relationships with their new bosses.  When the interpreter went back to the farmers and told them about the issues, the farmers didn’t understand.  To help the farmers understand better, the interpreter arranged for the farmers to take a trip to the Mexican communities where the workers lived.  When the farmers arrived at the communities, their eyes were opened!  They were nothing like communities in the U. S.  They saw how poor the families were and why it was important for the workers to travel to Wisconsin for work.  The farmers remembered long ago how it was for them when they didn’t have the conveniences they do now in their rural communities.  The farmers then decided to make more trips back to Mexico and with each trip they made, they saw improvements to the small communities where the workers came from.  The farmers realized what a difference they were making for others despite their reluctance to hire them at first.  Now, the relationships between the farmers and the workers is much better.  There is a better understanding between them and the farmers have become more acquainted with the families of the workers and their needs.

The Wisconsin story kind of sums up this relationship between natives and immigrants, workers and managers.  It’s about the truth and having all the facts.  When managers take the time to learn more about their  workers, it helps to improve productivity and the work being done. We blogged before the Market Basket grocery chain and the owner Arthur T. DeMoulas.  Artie T., as the employees called him, knew his employees and that gained their trust, respect, and admiration.

The farmers, too, learned about their employees.  What they thought they knew about them, wasn’t true.  They got the facts.  They saw firsthand what life was like for the immigrants that worked for them..   They were good workers with a need even the farmers could recognize which is nothing different for any immigrant whether they’re trying to take care of their families or escaping war or political strife.

All of this shows how badly we all need FACTS of what is actually occurring instead of relying on rumors, pundits, news events or politicians that scare us.  How can we solve problems if we don’t know the truth and facts?

Two years ago Congress started on immigration reform.  It started in the Senate with Senate Bill S.744.   Unfortunately, the House killed it. One of the things we can do is go back and look at the bill to see what was in it so we have the information and facts.

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Some Insights on Current Trends in Labor-Management Relations

Last week I heard a speaker discussing how the labor-management environment has changed over the last few years, and would like to share a couple of his points with you.

Mike Duco, Labor Relations Manager for the City of Columbus (and a member of the Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee Board of Trustees) was the speaker. His combination of insight and experience resulted in an excellent presentation. He cited a number of examples of recent and coming changes, and I would like to focus on two of them.

He believes the win-lose mentality is back. This change is reflected in the attitudes present in our society. People view victory over the other side as the only acceptable goal. Whether we are talking about politics, workplaces, or our personal lives, winning is what we think is important.

Remember the concept of the “loyal opposition”, the minority party in politics which had an agenda, but placed the good of the country ahead of political gain? One look around shows the concept no longer exists.

Mike compared those attitudes with the current labor relations picture. He noted that for many years an attitude of cooperation, data-based decision making, and joint problem solving became the norm. Concepts like win-win bargaining grew as both sides realized the benefit of working together.

Today, that cooperation is suffering. It has been replaced with a return to traditional adversarial bargaining, position taking, and intransigence. Anti-union movements, mostly thinly veiled political pressures to “restore power” to management. The outcome has been weakened opportunities and protections for employees as top management rakes in profits.

Mike discussed several of these, including “Right-to-Work”. One of his points about it is a new take I had not heard before. He noted an argument made by those in favor of this legislation, who claim unions will have to become more responsive to their members under right-to-work. While I believe this argument is spurious at best, he looked at it from another perspective.

He contends unions will become less responsive to mainstream members as they are forced to respond to the demands of employees on the “fringe”. More time will be given to these employees and their demands and less to the employees who are the true heart of the union.

I think Mike was absolutely correct in his views on these and the other points he discussed. Think about your organizations and how attitudes have changed over recent years. One positive we have seen beginning to emerge is the sentiment of both labor and management of “enough is enough”. They are tired of the fighting on both sides and want to rebuild a cooperative labor-management atmosphere.

If the latter sentiment is present in your workplace, CALMC can help you build on it to create a cooperative workplace. Contact us if we can help you.

Posted in CALMC, Change Management, Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee, Conflict Resolution, Data-Based Decision Making, Employee Engagement, Employee Involvement, Labor-Management Committees, Labor-Management Cooperation, Problem Solving | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Union Stereotypes and Myths Part 2

This week we’re doing a continuation of one of our more popular blogs, union stereotypes.  There are so many stereotypes or myths about unions being circulated we decided it was time to counter a few more of them.  Listed below are some of them.

#1.  Union people are lazy, don’t do very good work and will not allow work rules to be changed.

This is one of those stereotypes that has been around for years.  There may be some union workers who are not as productive as they should be but there also may be some non-union people not very productive either.  It’s more about people in general and there is some information to counter the claim against union members.

In a 2007 article from The Economist, it says union workers tend to be more productive.  The article says not only are union workers more productive, they do very good work and have very high work standards.  The article highlights New York electricians as an example.  They are more deliberate in their approach to work which may slow things down but the higher skill level and work standard is far superior to non-union workers.

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI), also in 2007, cites union productivity not just in the U. S. but in other countries as well.  EPI says that despite the rapid decline of unions in the U. S., productivity rates did not increase, and, those other countries with higher union participation, have greater productivity rates but the average rate of all those non-U. S. countries with union workers equals the productivity rate of U.S. union workers.

What the Economist article does mention is unions may be reluctant to allow more efficient processes simply because it could decrease the number of workers, or simply put, cost the job of a worker.  If it’s your job that could be eliminated, maybe because of a new robot, you want the union to fight for your job.  You expect that from a union.

At the same time, we have blogged extensively about unions encouraging members to seek training for any changes that could occur on their jobs.  A couple of weeks ago in a blog, we mentioned union members looking to change their job process as technology is changing to make the workplace more efficient.  In addition, in another blog, we mentioned UAW was willing to help automakers with a two-tier pay approach until automakers were in a better financial situation.

While there are some unions that may not be perceived to be flexible or willing to help with work rules or the workplace in general, it comes down to each individual situation.  There may be specific reasons why the union is not willing to make changes but there are still countless examples of union flexibility to help with work rules and processes, or assist with financial conditions, or work on improving processes for safer working conditions or just help the workplace in many other circumstances.

#2 Unions should not be in the public sector.  They cost taxpayers too much money.

Public sector unions can include firefighters and police – people that risk their lives to keep us safe.   In a 2011 article from The Economist, there is a comparison of the salaries of a couple.  The wife is a nurse and the husband is a firefighter.  The husband’s salary was over $70,000 but every day on the job he risks his life to save others.  It’s not to be demeaning to the wife that’s a nurse who also may save lives but her husband may have to sacrifice his life for saving those of others or take other risks that could impact his life.  The article complains about his salary and benefits but to have quality people willing to risk their lives you may have to pay a little more.  Firefighters go through extensive training.  They’re professionals.  You don’t want just anybody doing their job and not everybody is willing to do their job.  Don’t you want someone who is highly skilled to save your prized possessions and maybe even your life?

In the private sector, some people are lucky enough to have a job with good pay and benefits, too.  That cost for the good pay and benefits is probably passed on to the consumer.  Is that okay or is it a problem?  How is that any different than the complaint of the costs to taxpayers in the public sector?  While we hear more complaints about the public sector, why don’t we hear about the private sector?  Why should it be any different?

People also need to understand that if a person is paid well and has a good benefit plan, they are more inclined to remain at the job.  If public sector employers don’t pay well or have good benefits, taxpayer cost can be driven up because of turnover and training costs.  Finally, public sector employers have traditionally paid less in salaries but provided better in benefits to offset salaries but also attract quality people.  Currently in the private sector, wages are low and have become depressed.  Benefits packages, too, have become smaller which may make it appear public sector employees have more than those in the private sector.

Yet at the same time, public sector unions have great support.  In a New York Times article of 2011, a New York Times/CBS poll conducted said almost 2/3 of Americans did not want public sector collective bargaining rights reduced.

#3 Younger workers are not supportive of unions and have no interest in them.

Wrong!  In a more current poll taken by Pew Research in January, almost 2/3 of those polled supported unions overall.    Three-fourths of workers from the ages of 18 to 29 support unions compared to only half of older workers.  In fact, according to the poll, younger workers have more support for unions than corporations.

#4 Unions are outdated and no longer needed.

This, too, is completely wrong!  As the blog, ThinkProgress, reported, Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, said some unions were established in a different era that doesn’t work for jobs of the future.  He said communication and organizing efforts need to change so unions will be viable for the future.

An article from Bloomberg BNA on April 10th, states some unions are actually doing that and growing.  For example, United Auto Workers saw some strong increases in 2016 as automakers started investing more in U. S. plants.  Some of that came out of contract negotiations between the UAW and the automakers.

Unions have been trying to work on organizing plants in southern states but, unfortunately, not without difficulty.  It hasn’t kept them from trying though.  UAW was successful at organizing the skilled trades workers at the Volkswagon plant in Tennessee, but as we blogged two weeks ago, Volkswagon management is not interested in recognizing the union.  They also are trying to organize a Nissan plant in Mississippi.  IAM(International Association of Machinists) has been trying repeatedly to organize the Boeing plant in South Carolina but has been unsuccessful.

SEIU(Service Employees International Union),  though, has been very successful.  They have organized healthcare workers, janitorial staff and airport workers.

The ThinkProgress blog provides examples of how local unions are communicating or changing their approach.  Some are doing more community activism by helping those in need to show the positive role unions play.  They’re also changing their organizing approach by passing out business cards to workers in non-union shops.  Some are using technology to reach out to possible new members.  They’re sending emails to let non-union people what the union is doing in their area and it has helped!

We have reported on previous blogs the different ways unions are providing support to other work groups.  These work groups may not be  unionized but unions have the experience and skill to help these non-union work groups achieve some of their goals.

In central Ohio, local unions are sharing information with politicians about some of the issues they find very important.  Labor 101, as it has been coined, is a session to explain the union viewpoint to politicians.  The first event was held last spring with good attendance.  Local politicians from both parties responded to the invitation and those who attended the event said the event was great and very beneficial.

In addition, local unions in central Ohio get out and help in the community in a variety of ways.  One union was on the local news tv station for their water bottle drive.  The union took water bottles to Flint residents during the Flint water crisis.

Some unions are training future leaders.  CALMC has been involved with union leadership training and a local electrical union in the western part of the country is also addressing leadership issues as members retire.

#5 Unions give more money to politicians and less assistance to members who pay dues.  Union leaders make way too much in salaries.

There also has been a lot of talk about unions giving money to politicians.  It is true but so do corporations and business associations.  According to the Bloomberg BNA article, unions have spent much more money on members’ needs than on political issues.  Some members may perceive they did not receive the assistance they need but every year unions must report to the U. S. Department of Labor a detailed account of their finances and how it is spent.  Money is set aside in political action funds for politicians and other political goals.  It does not come out of funds to assist members with grievances, contract negotiations and other activities that protect workers.

Some people also say union leaders make way too much money.  But what about salaries for executives?  There have been many stories about excessive pay for executives.   Salaries for union leadership are usually established through boards or oversight committees who are more than likely made up of membership.  If there are other members who feel salaries are too high they should contact their representative or someone from committees that establish pay.  Again, this information must be provided under the financial disclosures to the U. S. Department of Labor on an annual basis.

One last comment about union stereotypes and myths.  When we work with any group, and we’re working on workplace issues, we tell them make sure to have the facts because it’s much easier to work with facts.  If we try to solve problems based on assumptions or what we think we know, we may not solve any problems, we waste time and end up blaming each other for issues that may not exist.  It’s the same with stereotypes and myths people bring up.  People need to make sure they have facts, know what’s behind the facts and be open to the facts before making any judgments and coming up with what they think is occurring.

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Did You Know: Even Michael Jordan Missed Game Winners?

When we work with teams to develop their problem-solving skills, they often express a familiar worry, “What if we are not successful?”

Team members may be concerned they will not be able to solve the problems they face. They may look at the complexity of the issues they face and doubt themselves. There may be a history in the organizations of failure to solve specific issues. They may worry their colleagues will regard them as failures.

It is important not to let the fear of failure keep you and your team from trying. The only way to really fail is to never try.

Michael Jordan is arguably the greatest basketball player of all time. He is remembered for his outstanding play that contributed to six NBA championships. He is best remembered for his successes, not his failures.

Jordan missed 26 game winning shots during his career (he made 25 game winners, 24 in the last 10 seconds of a game). He missed more than he made, but failing on one attempt did not hold him back the next time.

If Jordan had let any of those misses hold him back, we would not remember him in the same way, if at all. His successes became what mattered, his misses are all but forgotten.

There may be times when your team struggles or even fails. We find when teams learn and regularly utilize effective problem solving tools they tend to make fewer mistakes. Just like Michael Jordan, you need to prepare and practice to make yourself ready to succeed. If a mistake is made, your team needs to learn from it. Review the steps you used when working on the problem to diagnose what went wrong and fix it.

Just like Michael Jordan, do not be deterred by your misses. Learn from them, and keep moving forward. Like Jordan, your team can best be remembered for their successes. May your team’s record be as good as his.

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Why Is Labor-Management Cooperation Not Being Used For Economic Development?

A couple of weeks ago, we addressed the issue of labor-management cooperation as an economic development tool.  Something, we said, that is needed to address the economic issues in communities across the U. S.  Who else but the people that actually do the job can respond to the issues impacting jobs and their work places.  Labor-management cooperation, or worker voice, needs to be encouraged to help with wages and jobs issues of today.

But it’s also about getting everybody to do it.  There needs to be a driving force on all sides.  Lately it seems there is a lack of energy to come together.  Why is that?  Has it become so polarized or politicized that it’s difficult to change?  Is it because union membership is down or they’re perceived to be weaker?

Let’s take the Volkswagon plant in Chattenooga, TN.  Volkswagon is a good example of a company that uses work councils.  Work councils are made up of hourly and salaried employees to look at some of the decisions VW makes.  VW encouraged union representation at the Chattenooga plant so work councils could be established.  Many employees thought this was a great way to address the problems and concerns they faced on a daily basis including the issue of temp workers making less money than permanent workers even though they do the same job.  The permanent workers were hoping they could use the work council as a vehicle to encourage wage increases for temp workers.  Plus, permanent workers thought having work councils at different locations could help attract more jobs to the Chattenooga area.  Unfortunately, when UAW tried to unionize the plant, a political firestorm broke out.  UAW lost in union representation for that plant.  While many believe it was because of the political motivations of some individuals, it can’t be confirmed.  UAW later organized a smaller group of workers within the plant that represented the skilled trade workers but that, too, has created resistance.  This time, surprisingly, it was from VW management who had previously encouraged union representation.  The timing of this resistance raises suspicion.  This was at the time the U. S. was charging VW with emissions cheating.

Politics can also have an impact through local and federal laws.  As we have blogged before, U. S. labor laws are 80 years old!  Politicians could update those laws that would encourage worker voice, increase wages, and create jobs.  Today, many politicians vote for laws and regulations that hurt workers such as Right-To-Work laws which have the ability to diminish financial resources to unions.  Right-To-Work is not at all what the name implies.  It allows workers to opt out of paying dues to unions that negotiate wage settlements, benefits and work rules that include scheduling and work times.  By reducing the financial support of unions, it also can limit their overall ability to represent workers and the contract they negotiated.  Those workers who live in Right-To-Work states and opt out of paying dues must still receive the same union representation as workers who pay dues.  Most businesses or services such as attorneys do not provide clients with this type of service.  If they did, they would probably go out of business.  Why should unions be any different?

Despite an overall 60% support for unions, the amount changes depending on political affiliation, age and other demographics.  Some workers complain unions use dues money as a way to advance political ideology they don’t agree with.  Workers do have a right in many states to have a certain amount of money reduced from their overall dues for political action funds.  Corporations also give money to political action funds or to lobbyists who support the interests of corporations.

In addition, workers who don’t believe in unions and don’t want to pay union dues, should not apply at unionized workplaces if they do not like unions or for what they stand for but they also run the risk of not being paid as well or having good benefits as in a unionized workplace thanks to contractual agreements negotiated by labor and management.

Are unions at a greater disadvantage than before?  Are they weaker?  According to Jake Rosenfeld, a Washington University sociology professor and someone who has studied unions, employers have run campaigns against unions for some time but other things like global competition and automation have also greatly reduced union membership.  Some employers dislike being restricted by contracts and having to pay higher wages which normally happens in unionized environments.  They threaten to close plants, leave communities and that works because everybody is afraid of losing jobs.

Within the last 40 years, employers have become more aggressive because of increased competition and other issues that put pressure on profits.  But as we have blogged before, labor-management committees can help with employers’ fears.   Many of the committees we at CALMC have worked with understand flexibility issues.  They know customer service or production is important.  They are eager to share ideas and thoughts to help with competition, can be willing to address flexibility issues and are sometimes harder on themselves than most managers.  Partnerships have and can be developed.

One problem unions need to work on is communication.  Many people don’t know what unions are all about especially younger people.  Many of them don’t realize the typical things we take for granted such as the five -day work week, eight hour day, paid time off and many other things are because of unions.  There is no doubt about it, unions need to speak up and tell what great things they do.  Some unions have started advertising but more must be done. On our blogs, we’ve talked about the compassionate work or drives unions do that is not always known.  Maybe there would be even more support if   communication increased.  It also might encourage an increase membership.  Unions need to have as big a campaign as the employers fighting against them.

Unions may have to change.  They may have to update themselves for the jobs of today.  Some unions have been a means of support for some non-union groups.  They have provided guidance and expertise that non-union groups may not have but can learn about.  We’ve mentioned some of these in previous blogs.  Providing leadership either to others or improving the leadership skills of their members is something unions need to continue to do.

It’s important to note, union wages impact non-union workers.   Jake Rosenfeld, in the article cited above, said more than $1 billion in wages have been lost.  Some sort of worker voice is needed to help push for wage increases and also to keep workplaces safer and continue to push benefits more conducive to lifestyles and work of today.  There are lobbyists that are very effective for employers and corporations but unions need to be maintained as the lobbyist for workers.  Today people want better wages and jobs.  That can happen with unions.  In other countries, union membership is higher.   Those other countries don’t always have the strong campaigns as the U. S. does.  Maybe if there was more visible support, it would also help.

What’s the conclusion?  Is it politics or polarization?  Is it changes in unions or is it all the above?

Leadership skills are necessary on both sides.  Both sides have an obligation to come up with multiple solutions instead of making ultimatums.  Sometimes ultimatums are necessary but for the most part there is always more than one way to solve a problem.  Ultimatums put people in corners and create power games.  That usually is not the way to have a good outcome.

It is imperative for people on both sides within an organization to demand they work together to address problems and not be complacent about it.  Trying is better than not trying.  If people don’t try they can be assured nothing will happen.

Community leaders, business leaders, and union leaders need to make sure everyone is working together to make it a priority to do what’s necessary to improve wages, create jobs and eliminate divisive attitudes and actions that hurt everybody, and, as we are learning, our country.  It must be demonstrated workers are just as important as corporations and businesses.

In addition, laws that are 80 years old need to be revised that help everybody, not just one side.  The work we do today is very different than what occurred 80 years ago.  Laws should be updated that take that into consideration.

The number of members in unions may have changed but it doesn’t necessarily mean they are weaker.  They have the ability, and have been doing things, to make lives better for all workers.  Just last week Ford announced they would be investing more in some of their U. S. plants.  The reason was because it was a negotiated agreement between the union and management.  It’s crucial for unions to continue to “flex their muscle” when they can and consider other alternatives such as public relations or other communication.

Remaining complacent is not an option.  Local labor-management committees are one way that can help communities with job and wage issues.   It takes both old and new ways of doing things to make a difference but what is necessary is something must be done and it needs to be made a priority!

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Two Facts from Our Membership Meeting

Last week we held our membership meeting featuring the United Way of Central Ohio. Staff from the United Way described some of their programs that benefit employers and employees.

We enjoyed highlighting the work of the United Way since the programs they discussed are of significant benefit, but they are not as well-known as they would like. If someone does not know an opportunity for help exists they cannot take advantage of it or refer it to others.

Valerie Ridgeway from the United Way shared a great deal of information, but two facts stuck out with me in contrast with each other.

Employment levels in Central Ohio are near an all-time high.

The number of people living in poverty is at an all-time high.

Do these sound contradictory? Unfortunately, they are not.

Valerie mentioned fast food jobs as one example of the changing paradigm of employment. When I was young, these jobs were where people entered the workforce. They often worked there primarily for spending money, but did not stay in those jobs long.

Valerie Ridgeway from the United Way of Central Ohio describes United Way programs at the CALMC Membership Meeting

Today, more of the workers in these jobs are older, including many senior citizens. They work there for subsistence for themselves or their families or to supplement retirement incomes. It’s not for luxury, it’s to live.

Yet when there are discussions about raising the minimum wage, opponents point to fast food jobs and claim raises are not needed for the employees they stereotype as working there. As a result, the low wages continue and provide a force for increasing poverty.

The jobs paradigm has shifted, and those in control of our economy must take note. Helping those in low paying jobs will take a team effort from both labor and management.

As the United Way representatives spoke, a variety of new partnerships to provide service through their programs were suggested by our members. More opportunities for partnerships were created providing the opportunity to help more people.

It was a great meeting, with opportunities to learn and work together. We hope you will be able to join us June 7, 2017. Watch this blog and our Facebook page for more details.

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Labor-Management Committees Are Economic Development Tools

A few weeks ago, the radio program, Marketplace, on National Public Radio had another segment on their continuing series about the economic situation in Erie, PA, and how it related to the outcome of the November election.  In this segment, one of the local union leaders mentioned people who usually did not work together or who normally opposed each other had decided to overcome their differences to work together to help improve the economic situation in Erie.  The question that came immediately to my mind was, why did they wait?  Why didn’t they come together before factories closed and people lost their good paying jobs?

Unfortunately, they’re not alone.  Working in reactive mode is common instead of being proactive on solving problems.  When we’re proactive we have some time to really explore options to produce positive outcomes instead of being pressured or having time constraints that don’t allow for good problem solving to take place.

In a 1983 report on the website of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, labor-management committees help economic development within communities. They do not take the place of collective bargaining at individual workplaces but they look at issues impacting workplaces and jobs in the broader community.  The objective of the community labor-management committee was, and still is, to help those in individual organizations work together on issues impacting the organization that could help to avoid shutdowns or layoffs.

While the report is dated almost 25 years ago, the mission of these committees is still needed as we look at closures and disappearing jobs.  In fact, the report stated community labor-management committees went back much farther.  They cited the community of Jamestown, NY, when manufacturing plants closed in the 1950s and ‘60s. The loss of jobs and young people leaving the community, much like what happens in communities today, was devastating.  Jamestown leadership organized a meeting of labor and management people to address the situation.

This, however, does not say all labor-management efforts are successful.  In fact, there is nothing to guarantee any success by any economic development tool.  We also cannot give a specific number of jobs saved by labor-management committees not because the committees haven’t saved any but because identifying an exact number of jobs saved is an unknown, unless there is an avoidance of a closure and that doesn’t happen very often.

While we would love to say a labor-management committee saved their jobs and those of their co-workers through modifications they made to their jobs because of new technology, we cannot confirm it because we don’t know if or how many people would have lost their jobs.  We also cannot say a labor-management committee saved jobs when they developed a voluntary furlough policy to avoid layoffs because we don’t know if the layoffs would have occurred.  In other words, a crystal ball is needed to determine that!

The classic case we can use is the diesel repair shop we have mentioned previously in our blogs.  The owner was ready to close down because of his workers’ compensation costs being too high due to a number of lost time accidents.  We can say, in this particular instance, at least 45 jobs were saved and, because he has been able to expand his business, more jobs are available or have been created.

Economic development professionals will tell you it’s more important to concentrate on job retention than to focus on new jobs coming into a community.  Politicians may like the big, splashy stories about a company relocating and promising a lot of jobs but those types of events don’t happen that often.  That means with job retention being so important it’s imperative labor-management committees be a tool in any community because they can be the eyes and ears of that community as to what’s going on or they can help individual organizations bring people together to address issues impacting their viability.

The story about Erie is reminiscent of a similar situation that involved in one of our colleagues.  Several years ago, she worked with a small community in north central Ohio.  The community is smaller than Erie but the problems were the same.  Companies with good paying jobs were closing and the unemployment rate was high.  The crisis peaked for this small community when a long-time furniture company announced it was closing because it was no longer able to obtain loans through their bank.  When the mayor learned about this, she got to work.  As a life-long member of the community, she was not about to let the closure happen.  After contacting, state officials, she organized the community to address the problem.  She invited labor, management and other community people to work on the issue which is exactly what a typical community labor-management committee is all about.  They were able to avoid the closure crisis plus they also learned they could be suppliers for each other which would also retain local businesses and jobs.  As far as the furniture company, this community effort identified new owners for the company.  People from the town purchased the furniture company.  The company is still producing furniture today and local jobs have been retained!

Again, the situation described above doesn’t happen very often but the emphasis is on trying with the same fervor as the mayor and community members had.   When the Great Recession occurred, economic development tools to create jobs were at the forefront.  There was a strong effort to use any available resource, including labor-management committees.  But as the unemployment rate has fallen, that strong effort has eroded, disappeared or relies on the encouragement of using other sometimes ineffective tools.  Community officials are not the only ones who lack vigor to address situations such as Erie.  It’s also imperative for labor and management to be out there forming local committees before a crisis hits or fighting for jobs or businesses for their communities.  Maybe people are tired.  Maybe it’s complacency.  Maybe it’s politics.  But whatever it is, it’s time to get started before it’s too late!

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