The Apple Corps In Maryland (and Elsewhere) are Unhappy

We have written about companies that have undertaken extensive anti-union campaigns. Many of these have been large employers such as Amazon, retailers like Walmart, and other organizations that have spent millions to avoid unionization or bust existing unions. Their techniques are well-know and well documented, such as in the Union Busting Playbook.

Sometimes employers surprise us in their approach to unions, but it usually not in a good way. A recent example of this is Apple’s response to organizing in Towson, Maryland and other sites. This week we want to look at these efforts, their fallout, and how to put things back togther.

Apple has spent a great deal of time, energy, and money building a positive corporate culture. The image of the modern stores with knowledgeable employees has been important to the organization and part of its success. 

Apple workers in Towson became the first US retail store to unionize. Workers voted to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM). Wired reports that a week and a half later, workers launched a petition on Change.org calling Apple’s union-busting campaign “nothing short of traumatic for many of us.” The petitioners called on the company to refrain from waging similar blitzes at other stores, where several campaigns are underway. “We are deeply concerned about our fellow employees’ mental wellbeing because we are all too aware of what awaits them if they decide to organize a union,” they wrote.

(The Wired article is a good read and cites numerous examples of Apple anti-union tactics.)

The result of the anti-union campaign cast a pall over the store and the company. Wired notes, “Workers say that some managers who were fed anti-union talking points to deliver during the campaign continue to hold a bias against union supporters, complaining when they miss work and painting them as lazy.”

Anti-union companies and law firms often suggest that in small organizations, “local managers or supervisors will be the most effective anti-union shock troops,” says San Francisco State University labor studies professor John Logan. Because of their relationships with employees, they are generally seen as more credible than outsiders. “But there’s potentially a very high cost to doing that. Because if it’s very adversarial, as these campaigns usually are, it can poison workplace relationships for years to come.”

Apple employees were surprised by the bitterness of the company’s campaign, especially given the public image Apple tries to project. As one organizing committee member in another store reported, the experience “was eye-opening for a lot of people in our store. There’s definitely a massive lack of trust now.” With more elections coming in more stores, the problems could get even worse.

Now that the election is over, what happens next for the stores? Lingering mistrust, a hostile environment, and resentment do not go away overnight. The negative impact it will have on the store will undoubtedly be felt by employees for years to come and will likely impact dealings with customers. Managers who previously worked hard to build a good relationship with their staff will now be viewed with suspicion.

Whether problems are caused by an anti-union campaign or other workplace events, one might hope things will quickly begin to improve. This is highly unlikely. A complete change in the workplace culture will be needed, and this is not easy to accomplish. Lingering doubts about the sincerity of both sides will have to be overcome before any real change is possible.

First, both sides will need to recognize and admit the hostile climate exists. We have seen organizations where one or both parties are unwilling to acknowledge problems exist and the role they played in creating and sustaining them. A workplace climate assessment can provide evidence of worker feelings and existing problems.

Labor and management must make a commitment to working together to correct concerns identified by the assessment. This should begin with selection of a joint team to work together on the process and training the team on the tools and techniques they will need. Lack of adequate training will prevent the team from being effective.

The team can then prioritize the problems and decide where to begin. They should use a joint process to find solutions to the problems and determine implementation plans for them. Once in place, the solutions should be evaluated to be certain they are as effective as possible.

Does that sound like a lot of work? It should, because it is. When management engages in an anti-union campaign, it is designed to be divisive. Whether the union is formed or not, the damage is done and will need to be corrected. Doing so is worth the effort.

Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee has worked with organizations where both parties recognize the need for climate change and demonstrate commitment to accomplishing it. This kind of sweeping change does not happen quickly. Let us know if you would like to talk about how it can happen with your organization.

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

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 683

Central Ohio Chapter, National Association of Electrical Contractors

Our activities are also made possible in part by a grant from the City of Columbus.

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

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Will They Survive?

Our blogs have been stressing the need for employers to improve workplace cultures.  As we have validated through various educational, professional and government sources, the need for positive workplace cultures is more important than ever as employers struggle to maintain existing employees and recruit new employees.

The need for good jobs with positive work environments  is apparently evident after three stories came out recently about two popular retail establishments that unfortunately provide models for other businesses.  These establishments could definitely benefit from culture change and then be a model for change.

One of the stories was OSHA fined two Dollar Tree stores in Ohio, one in Columbus and the other  in Cleveland.  This was not the first time OSHA has fined Dollar Tree and its sister chain Family Dollar.  The Department of Labor has been checking Dollar Tree/Family Dollar since 2017 and has found over 300 safety violations.  The violations have typically been the same.  They include blocked exits, blocked fire extinguishers, blocked electrical panels, unsafe walk areas and unsafe stacks of boxes of merchandise.  The penalties for each of the Ohio stores were more than a half-million dollars.  There have been other problems.  Two examples are from other government agencies earlier this year.  Dollar Tree/Family Dollar received a warning  from the U. S. Food and Drug Administration for rodent and salmonella problems and from the Massachusetts Attorney General  who fined the chain over a million dollars for nearly 4,000 employee break violations. According to DOL, the chain’s profit last year was in the billions.

The other two articles are from Vox about Amazon.  A  leaked report and internal memo both substantiate the need for Amazon to make some serious changes to the work environment.  The first article is about the leaked report. It tells how Amazon is having trouble finding employees and that could cause future problems for them.  While the report says the new CEO wants to improve workers’ lives, the article with the internal memo tells another story. In that article, the  memo is more about creating a positive image for Amazon which will also help to recruit potential employees.  The memo says working with community non-profits, schools and politicians can aid in this effort.  The work with non-profits and schools will demonstrate Amazon’s social concerns and that will help to attract recruits, especially those that struggle.  It will show politicians the positive work Amazon is doing for their communities.  For example, Amazon wants to work with non-profits that help recently released offenders.  This will give Amazon a pool of potential recruits and it can also  mean a change to the workplace because policies, like drug screening as the memo says, will have to be amended.  The overall effect of this will help make communities, and, of course, customers safer.  This image change also helps to thwart union campaign drives against them.  In one California community, unions led a successful campaign to keep Amazon out of the community.

It’s interesting Dollar Tree/Family Dollar is willing to spend millions in fines and loss of product but doesn’t invest in improving workplace culture.  It is true there are many store locations and each location has their own management staff but corporate executives can also encourage better managerial behavior especially when the same problems keep occurring.  Forming joint safety committees that actually involve employees in making improvements to the workplace is a great way to change culture.  It’s an investment that can be much  cheaper than the fines and provide excellent returns in profit.  Not only are fines reduced or eliminated, employees feel more valued and are more loyal to the workplace as their voices help to make positive changes.  As we blogged a few weeks ago, it’s difficult to understand why executives and managers don’t want to create high performing workplaces.  It’s been proven to help improve customer service and increase business and profits.

As far as Amazon is concerned, executives at Amazon just don’t get it.  The memo describes a back handed approach that doesn’t focus on a real concern for people but only for Amazon and what they want to achieve.  Their plan will no doubt fail as community groups that become involved with Amazon see them for what they are and what they’re trying to accomplish.  Just as it would be for Dollar Tree/Family Dollar, a sincere investment to promote worker voice would do much better to impress people in communities than the social justice attempts described in the memo.

Amazon is far from being the best employer as Jeff Bezos envisions in 2021.  According to the first article, Amazon’s turnover is two to three times higher than the national industry average and it’s no wonder with all the problems occurring.  Increased productivity goals that are hard to obtain and lead to injuries have been reported by workers in many media outlets including in this first article.  Once again, that’s where changing the culture can play a significant role especially if the goal is to be the best workplace.  The article does mention a workplace safety committee exists at one Amazon facility but considering very little has changed in regards to Amazon’s safety record, the safety committees must not operate as true joint committee or one that’s very effective.  When workers have a voice on safety issues or concerns or policies,  and can make decisions, it helps to get their commitment to improving safety and other workers are more willing to accept the words of their peers.  Plus, just like with Dollar Tree/Family Dollar, real safety committees can be the starting point for improving workplace culture but Amazon executives must first change their attitude on employees and people in general.  Using people to obtain goals does very little to be the best employer or obtain community buy-in.

Focusing only on numbers as both of these organizations do will not help them succeed.  At some point that will catch up to them.  As an MIT Sloan article said if employers don’t change, their survival is jeopardized.  How much longer will businesses like Dollar Tree/Family Dollar and Amazon be around?  We’re seeing evidence of the future now.

Join us on Friday, August 26th, for the CALMC Annual Golf Outing at The Links in Groveport! Not a golfer, join us for lunch! Contact us for more info.

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

 

Our activities are also made possible in part by a grant from the City of Columbus.

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

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Behind the Numbers: 200, 1, 1000, 58, and Everyone

This week we will take at look at some numbers to help us consider current happenings with labor and management.

200 – Last week Starbucks workers passed 200 stores successfully organized, While this may be only a small fraction of their 15,000 locations in the United States, it represents a seismic shift in the power of workers to help shape their environments. Just eleven months ago, there were no organized store.

Most of these victories have not been earned easily. On Labor reports Starbucks management has engaged an aggressive anti-union campaign. Through its actions, the company appears to be threatening workers with the possibility of workplace closures. They write, “Only about 3 percent of Starbucks stores have seen active organizing campaigns, but these locations account for 30 percent of the stores slated for permanent closure.” Starbucks’s CEO Howard Schultz recently made clear that the company would not be “embracing the union.”

The union wins have helped create change in the company. Schultz recently announced, “in fiscal 2022 the company will make additional investments in partners (employees) and stores for prioritized areas such as increased pay, modernized training and collaboration, store innovation, and the celebration of coffee.” They note the investment enables Starbucks to “meet partner needs.” Would this have happened without the presence of unions?

The Starbucks unions have won increased pay, better working conditions including workplace safety, and provided other opportunities for their members. We congratulate them, and hope the company will decide not to spend millions of dollars fighting the union and work with the to create a cooperative atmosphere.

1 – Challenge to eliminating captive audience meetings.

Bloomberg Law  reports several staffing firms have argued in a federal court in Texas, claiming NLRB General Counsel Jennfer Abruzzo’s memo against captive-audience meetings is unconstitutional. The lawsuit states that “[t]he new interpretation prohibits employers from speaking to employees about unionization” and “directly restricts employer speech on the basis of its content, viewpoint, and speaker.” As Tascha reported in April, Abruzzo’s memo stated that captive audience meetings where employees are cornered by management or forced to convene to hear anti-union rhetoric are unlawful under the NLRA. They note this interpretation would reverse decades of anti-union judicial precedent and could significantly embolden union elections. 

It is unfortunate these companies want to intimidate workers, lie to them about unions seeking to represent them, and try to coerce them against organizing. We have examined the amounts spent by many of these companies that could have been used to improve conditions for their employees. Control is their end goal, and companies have shown their willingness to try to win.

1000 – In another example of management coercion, On Labor reports Amazon “ramped up its anti-union campaign at its ALB1 fulfillment center in Albany.” The 1 million square foot center can employ around 1000 full-time workers.

Amazon distributed a flyer to all workers titled “What is the ALU?” which stated the ALU is seeking to form a union to “speak for you,” repeatedly emphasized the collection of dues, and attempted to scare workers away from signing an authorization card by stating that it was a “legally binding contract with the ALU” that allows ALU to speak on workers’ behalf and gives their “personal contact information to a third-party.” Amazon also put up digital signage in the warehouse on Friday that cycles between seven slides telling workers “Don’t sign a card.” Workers at ALB1 have been organizing to form a union since May. Sounds like the typical anti-union rhetoric.

Ask yourself a question: “Why is it so important to these employers to avoid unions that they support these techniques?” The answers come down to control and profits. Amazon continues to demonstrate these two factors are more important to them than their employees.

58% – the NLRB reports union representation petitions filed at the NLRB have increased 58% during the first nine months of Fiscal Year 2022. The Board also stated that unfair labor practice charges increased 16% over the same period from 11,082 to 12,819.

It is common to see ULP charges increase during representation or other periods of labor-management conflict. These reflect the charged atmosphere surrounding these events. They also show the harmful effects of traditional, adversarial labor-management environments.

These numbers reflect an undisputable change in workplaces: union are growing. We know unions are viewed more favorably in recent Gallup polls, and this view is spreading. The growth is spurred in part by independent unions focusing on individual workplaces rather than huge representation elections.

We hope the winners in all of this strife are workers, who have better jobs and workplaces, and companies who consistently work together with union and employees to create positive change.

Everyone – On Labor posted, “[U.S.] states with the highest union density generally have among the highest minimum wage levels in the country, ensure access to paid sick or family leave and have lower-than-average poverty rates. . . . Put simply, the presence of unions in a state correlates with low-wage workers being economically better able to care for themselves and their families.” Emma Sara Hughes, a Lecturer in Human Resource Management at the University of Liverpool, argues the benefits of collective bargaining through unions also reach employers and “extend beyond individual organizations, boosting sectors and even the economy by reducing staff turnover, providing or promoting training and encouraging innovation.”

The ability of employees to make a free choice of whether to be represented by a union is a benefit extending beyond just the employees and the company. As the old saying gors, “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

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

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 683

Central Ohio Chapter, National Association of Electrical Contractors

Our activities are also made possible in part by a grant from the City of Columbus.

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

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The Clock Is Ticking!

Last month, MIT Sloan Review published a article about the need for employee collaboration training to help with workplace relationships.

The author and one other person surveyed more than a thousand people in workplaces and found that almost 75% of the respondents collaborated more than 40% during a work week.  Of those respondents, more than 70% said their collaboration experience was not good and only one-fourth of the respondents said they had only received more than a couple of hours of collaborative training. In the article, the author said something that we at CALMC have been saying, if collaboration benefits  both individuals and the organization, why is it not encouraged more in organizations?

It has been proven over and over again, collaborative workplaces are more productive, they have less turnover  and the overall  financial picture is better.  But even with those positives, it still does not persuade leaders  to consider collaborative processes and training.  The author suggests one of the reasons is because people think training on relationship building is unnecessary.  That’s  something we also have experienced.    Some people think putting a group of people together doesn’t require training.  They believe groups or teams  will  automatically be able to work on their own.  Resolving  differences  and identifying problems and solutions will naturally come to them.  That can’t be expected for every team or group even in a positive workplace environment and that’s why it’s important to get training.   In fact, if a group or team process doesn’t work out, it can have a negative impact on existing positive environments. Real collaboration takes some work.  Group process is not necessarily  an automatic and it doesn’t help when a well intended process breaks down.

If a group or team only allows a few people or one side to speak or make decisions without allowing others to have a voice or be involved in decision making, that’s not collaborating.  If people are part of a group or team to simply rubber stamp a decision, that’s not collaboration.   The lack of voice and rubber stamping are common reasons why group processes stop.   Collaboration is about getting everyone’s ideas and perspectives, utilizing  individual talents and expertise.  It’s about LISTENING to individuals and having an open mind to what’s being said.  It’s also about determining outcomes that satisfy everyone’s concern, fears, wants.  If group or team members don’t see  any of those things happening the process will  quickly fail and that will resonate within the work environment.

It’s important to get training and do it right the first time because each attempt thereafter will be more difficult to develop as trust levels are diminished and there’s a lack of willingness to try again. Techniques can be learned during training sessions to help groups when they get in difficult situations.  Training can also show people the workplace and leaders are serious about creating a collaborative environment.

Both the process and training can take time and keep people from doing their regular job and that’s another complaint  from some.  People are impatient and want things done quickly.  Training can identify ways to get around the length of time.    Collaborative processes can also save time as more ideas and thoughts are considered instead of one or a few people jumping to a single idea that may not work and cause re-work.

The quality of the work and the amount of work that can be derived through a collaborative group process is rewarding for the workplace and the individuals involved so again why is it so  difficult to embrace a collaborative process?  As the blog author said leaders need to do collaborative processes especially now as many workplaces are having difficulty finding and maintaining employees.

Unfortunately, though, leaders can be the single reason why workplace  collaboration does not occur.  When it comes to labor-management, some leaders, both management and union, prefer a more traditional approach despite their ability to get more out of a collaborative approach.  Some like taking positions,  playing gotcha games or using power to determine outcomes.  Those types of behavior  don’t give either side what they want and they damage relationships making it difficult for future positive endeavors.  There are other reasons, too.  Some may not  understand how they work and are unwilling to learn about them.  Unwilling to learn new things is not about being a good leader.  That’s selfish and lazy.  Commitment must come from both sides for a successful collaborative relationship and leaders need to encourage support from constituents and other leaders.  If leaders are unable to obtain that support it  limits the ability to have a collaborative relationship.

Maybe it’s the current environment but it’s very discouraging there is less appeal for collaborative relationships.  Leadership retirements or the uncertainties surrounding covid may be to blame, too, or new leaders finding their way but change must happen now instead of kicking the can down the road. Workplaces have become more divisive or us-vs-them type cultures.  This keeps them from being a success.  As we’ve blogged before, if organizations do not change to a culture of collaboration, and do it immediately, they risk their survival!

Even in this new article the author also emphasizes it’s imperative leaders focus on improving the culture now.  Poor workplace cultures is the main reason people leave their jobs and organizations can’t afford to lose experienced workers.  That has been reported over and over again:  MIT Sloan, Society of Human Resource Management(SHRM), Forbes, and CNBC.

Here’s a few reminders of what  can happen without a collaborative culture:

  • Less productivity because of new people lacking experience.
  • Not enough employees because unable to attract new hires which also means unable to meet or serve needs.
  • People experience burnout easier causing them to quit their jobs
  • In unionized environments, more grievances related to job demands which takes people away from what they need to do to help the organization survive.
  • Accidents, injuries, sickness occur  more often in toxic cultures.  It adds to the poor workplace culture and is an advertisement not to work at that location.  The safety costs can add up and take away from profits.  A  joint safety committee is a great way to start a collaborative process!

An organization will more than likely have more issues than just those items but that also means the ability to survive is diminished. If you’re a workplace leader, do you want that?  What will it take to start collaboration and improving the culture?  Good, strong collaborative processes don’t happen overnight.  The clock is ticking.

Join us on Friday, August 26th, for the CALMC Annual Golf Outing at The Links in Groveport! Not a golfer, join us for lunch! Contact us for more info.

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

Our activities are also made possible in part by a grant from the City of Columbus.

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

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Signs

Last week as we were driving through another state we were greeted by overhead highway signs proclaiming, “State law. No driving while impaired”.

I found it strange that this state needed to emphasize what should be common sense. Do we need to be told impaired driving is illegal? Isn’t that common sense? While this rule seems obvious, I began to wonder how some other people might react.

In keeping with some of the attitudes we see today, perhaps some people might react differently. This view could be some of these.

  • This is another overreach by the state. Why do they think they can tell when I can drive?
  • Driving is my constitutional right; they can’t take it away from me.
  • This can’t be true. Some socialist liberal must have hacked the sign and changed the message.
  • The constitution says I am entitled to happiness. Not being able to drive when I want won’t make me happy, so I can ignore it.
  • There is no scientific evidence to support this. I know because I read it on the internet.
  • The Bible doesn’t say anything about this, so I can’t be forced to do it.
  • I don’t agree with the results, so someone must have tampered with the machines.
  • Maybe we could get a former governor to organize a mob, storm the capitol, and make them change the rule.
  • It is my right to drive while impaired. Other drivers need to watch out for me.
  • I don’t worry about hurting other drivers. They’ve already been born, so I don’t care about them.
  • Other people do it, why can’t I?
  • They never told me!

OK, you get the idea. As silly as some of these statements may seem, they are very close to things said by those suffering from the loss of reason. If you close your mind and cling to things in which you want to believe, it becomes possible to ignore common sense and reality. “The Big Lie” has resulted in deaths, the destruction of lives, death threats, and acts of domestic terrorism.

We see similar occurrence in labor-management behaviors, as those clinging to outdated paradigms use absurd arguments far remoced from the reality of today to convince workers tht unions are evil.

Stick to facts that sustain the burdens of proof. While there is no tool better than common sense and rarer than valuing the truth, the experiences of the last couple fo years prove we need to do better.

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

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 683

Central Ohio Chapter, National Association of Electrical Contractors

Our activities are also made possible in part by a grant from the City of Columbus.

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

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Support Those That Help You

We’ve been blogging about the need for employers to make changes in the workplace so we’ll continue this topic by looking at some other work environments where employers must change themselves and the culture of the workplace.

The first one is about a case recently decided in U. S. federal court.  The plaintiffs are legally trying to change working conditions.  It’s about something most of us like – cocoa or chocolate and it involves a human rights organization filing a class action lawsuit for eight children who were used as slaves to harvest the cocoa crop for West African plantations.  The plantation owners sell the harvested cocoa crops at much lower prices to major companies like Nestle, Cargill, Mars, Hershey and others.  Because these large corporations knowingly purchase the crops at the lower prices is  why the human rights organization filed the  lawsuit.  According to the U. S. Department of Labor, using child labor is common and DOL is working with others to end it. More than a million and a half children are used to harvest cocoa beans.  The children, ages 5-17, are trafficked without being made aware of what is happening to them.  The working conditions are bad for adults but even worse for children.  Some of the things these children encounter are extremely long hours with very little food and very few safety protections.  Some have visible cuts from machetes being used to harvest the crop.  The increased use of pesticides for insects and the increased number of accidents occurring has made this an extremely dangerous job for children to do.  Most of the children have little interaction with each other and some have difficulty communicating even when they can talk because of the different areas they come from.  While adults are hired by some to harvest cocoa, children are used to produce 70% of the world’s cocoa.  Corporations complain about the  practice but instead of buying from those that hire adults,  they continue to buy from those who use children to harvest the crops.  Using child labor has increased over 10% in the last decade.  The false promises from the corporations of ending child slavery is another reason why the lawsuit was filed.  Unfortunately, the federal court judge said there was not enough evidence to show the connection between the cocoa plantation owners and the large corporations. Last year the case was heard in the U. S. Supreme Court but a decision of 9-1 (Alito dissenting) said the same so nothing has changed in the last year but obviously, the human rights organization has not backed down and will hopefully continue to pursue the legal system for these children.

Another group of workers with poor working conditions is the garment workers.   Every year we blog on the anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire.  The Triangle Shirtwaist fire was a tragic example of the poor working  conditions in the garment industry in 1911.  Unfortunately, things are still bad in the U. S. and around the world.  According to a Vogue magazine article, very little has changed from the time of the Triangle tragedy especially with the pandemic.  When the pandemic hit, many  garment workers were laid off.  Those that remained employed received inadequate wages, few hours, and suffered other bad work related issues.  One garment worker tells in the article about her experience at a Los Angeles workplace.  Before the pandemic, the pay was less than half the minimum wage for Los Angeles, a 60 hour work week was common and there were no benefits.  When the pandemic happened, she became sick with covid and since she had no sick benefits, she eventually had to seek assistance from others to pay the rent and other bills.  Issues such as those are common for these workers.  According to Clean Clothes Campaign, an organization that strives to improve the lives for both garment and sportswear workers around the world, some of the issues for workers include poor wages, unsafe working conditions, job insecurity, discrimination, exploitation, anti-union campaigns, and lack of support from fashion brands.  Workers are routinely paid less no matter where they are located.  European sweatshops pay 20-30% less than a standard living wage.  In Asia, where most of the garments are made, workers will receive wages two to five times less than a living wage.  The hours are long.  In Europe, workers experience the same.  One European worker was not able to spend time with her children.  All of this is the same thing the workers at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory experienced in 1911.  Another issue garment workers face is unsafe working conditions.  Just like the fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory that killed 141 workers, Pakistan and Bangladesh suffered tragedies in 2012 and Bangladesh again in 2013.  In 2012, almost 400 garment workers were killed in fire accidents.   In 2013 the Rana Plaza building collapsed in Bangladesh killing more  than 1,000 garment workers.

The final example is about gig workers.  Last month, The Economic Policy Institute(EPI) reported on a gig worker survey.   The platform companies, like Uber,  do very well but they do it by denying the people they hire to do their jobs basic protections.  According to the survey, gig workers lose out when it comes to wage protections, safe working conditions and financial security.  For example, most gig workers are unable to make enough money for food or utilities.  They make less than half the federal minimum wage. Lost wages typically happen because of malfunctions with the platforms or they become sick and there are no sick benefits to cover the wages they lose. There also are no unemployment benefits  or workers’ compensation if they can’t work because of a  work related injury.  Gig working is a choice but it also needs to be watched as some employers will purposely try to misclassify workers as independent contractors instead of actual employees.  EPI says more information is needed to determine what can be done.  In California, the state Supreme Court recently made a determination as to what is an employee and what is an independent contractor.  Known as the ABC ruling, some members in Congress and President Biden want similar federal legislation and have added it to the PRO Act. The PRO Act has passed the House but not the Senate.

There are some things to remember about each of these groups of workers.  We are consumers and we buy the products or the services these workers produce or provide. Most of us have been employees.  We know what can happen in workplaces.  It’s not just the employers that need to change, it’s us, too.  We can help end these practices from occurring.   Are we willing to buy cocoa or chocolate at a more expensive price so children can have the same lifestyle as our own?  Are we willing to pay a little more for our clothing so workers can go  home at the end of their shift and have time to spend with their children and give them the things they need to grow up comfortably?  What about gig workers, are we willing to pay more so they can have a decent lifestyle and the same protections many workers have?  These are the things we need to think about when we make purchases but above all employers MUST change their working environments whether it’s in the U. S., Asia, Europe or West Africa.  We also shouldn’t have to use a legal system to get employers to make improvements in the working environment.  It should be an automatic for employers.  Human lives are valuable and fragile, especially children’s lives.  Employers must value those lives.  Let children play and do the things they normally do and not be used as slaves to produce a product cheaply.  Let parents have time to spend with their families and have a wage that will provide a comfortable living for their families.  Profits aren’t the end all of the means!  Yet some employers see big profits as being successful and putting  rewards only in their pockets instead of their workers despite those workers being the reason they’re receiving those rewards. It’s time for employers to create positive change in their workplaces.  Support those that help, produce and provide for us!

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

Our activities are also made possible in part by a grant from the City of Columbus.

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

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Independence Day – I Hope We Have More

On Monday, the United States celebrated Independence Day. For our readers outside the U.S., July 4th marks the 248th anniversary of our country declaring its independence from Great Britain.

The holiday is marked with parades, fireworks, concerts, and speeches of praise for our country. We are reminded of our many benefits, but also reminded that “Freedom is not free”, and we need to work to be certain we keep our democracy. We hear that every year, but this time the latter sentiment took on even more meaning.

We almost lot our democracy. In the last couple of weeks, the Congressional Select Committee hearings about the January 6, 2021 incursion at the U.S. Capitol have demonstrated how close we came to losing it. The attempted coup to overthrow the election results and install the losing candidate would have nullified the election and the will of the people, replacing them with a desperate attempt to put political party and the thirst for power ahead of the country.

Spreading “The Big Lie” to cast doubt on the validity of the election jeopardizes future elections. Election officials and legislatures in some states have positioned themselves to disrupt elections through voter suppression, ignoring election results they do not like, violence, and outright fraud. The January 6 coup failed, but the battle is not over.

It has also been a rough week for freedom and democracy courtesy of the United States Supreme Court. By placing right-wing politics ahead of people and the wishes of the majority, they have issued several rulings that hurt women, the environment, schools, gun control, and others.

This is one of the few times in the country’s history the court has chosen to take away rights from groups of people. The justices should remember that such efforts in the past, like upholding slavery, internment, Jim Crow laws, and the suppression of minorities and voting rights have brought scorn and disgrace on the court and are viewed as discrediting our country and the judiciary.

On a positive note, it has been encouraging to see the number of workplaces engaged in organizing efforts. Employees are realizing the benefits of union membership and the protections it offers. It may not seem important that your barista is a union member, but it demonstrates they had the opportunity to make a free choice to join. We hope this trend continues.

Freedom isn’t free. Be alert, and do not ignore the signs around you or we will run the risk of losing our rights. If we are not vigilant, future Independence Days will be meaningless.

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

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 683

Central Ohio Chapter, National Association of Electrical Contractors

Our activities are also made possible in part by a grant from the City of Columbus.

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

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Managers, Tough Words For You: Get To Work!

Earlier this month, the U. S. Chamber of Commerce reported on their website about the Great Resignation.  The U.S. Chamber recognized millions of workers had quit their jobs for other opportunities but the Chamber considered it more of a re-shuffle as those who quit found new jobs.  That’s a little different than what they reported in 2021 when they said there was a shortage.  The Chamber contributed some of the problem to employees’ preference to continue  to work from home.  That’s not what other sources are saying.

While the U. S. Chamber does not recognize the worker shortage as the Great Resignation, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) does.  In fact, the President and CEO of SHRM wrote an article saying employers were caught off guard because they weren’t watching when employees made their job decisions.   The SHRM CEO identified workers have two needs and employers need to match those needs.  One of those is wages and benefits and the other  is related to workplace culture.  Traditionally, he said, employers have focused mostly on the wages and benefits needs but now it’s important to look at the workplace culture.  Employees want a better work environment.   The lack of focus on workplace culture, especially during the pandemic, the CEO said, is why many employees left their jobs.  He stressed to employers they need to work on creating  a positive workplace culture.  SHRM has devoted an entire section on the Great Resignation and provides assistance to employers on how to navigate the shortage.

A few weeks ago we wrote about the U. S. Surgeon General issuing an advisory to healthcare and insurance employers about the burnout their workers are experiencing and said issues related to workplace culture must change in order to attract and retain workers.  In a video on the page, Dr. Vivek Murthy said 54% of doctors and nurses were burned out before the pandemic and it became worse during and after the pandemic causing 66% of nurses to either resign or consider it.  He warns a critical time is coming when there won’t be enough doctors and nurses to take care of patients unless employers make some changes.

As far as wages and benefits, it has changed for some but not enough.   According to the Economic Policy Institute(EPI), for those workers who actually worked during the pandemic in 2020, their  pay increased 4% but that’s not nearly as much as executive pay increased.  During the pandemic in 2020 executive pay jumped almost 20%. The adds to the overall wage comparison of executives  to workers for the years 1978 to 2020 as a ratio of 350 to 1, or, that equates to executive compensation growing 1322% compared to 18% for workers.

And what about workplace culture?  Those who quit or are thinking about quitting confirm not only is pay a driver but also the culture.  In a Pew Research poll, wages were the first reason to leave a job but 57% of workers said the lack of respect in the workplace was also a reason to quit.   A Forbes article says something similar about the reason workers are quitting.  Pay and benefits alone are not the only reasons employees quit.  That article, too, says it’s about a lack of respect in the workplace and the burnout workers have been experiencing.   This last winter, MIT(Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Sloan Review posted an article on their website that said toxic work cultures were to blame for many employees leaving their jobs.  The same authors, in another article, provided  factors that can lead to a toxic work culture.  Those factors included lack of respect, lack of support, lack of honest and ethical leaders, and lack of collaboration.  In other MIT Sloan articles, authors have written that if employers do not pay attention to their workplace culture, they risk survival.

So if all these sources are saying things must change, why aren’t they changing?   Some  employers complain about the quality of applicants or  blame workers for the poor working environment.  Some cry they’re already paying their workers enough.  It’s as if they want the respect and trust to come on like a light bulb but it doesn’t happen that way.  It takes some work.

As we’ve repeatedly blogged a high performing workplace provides a great model for managers to change workplace culture.  So the rest of this blog is directed to management.

It is up to you to create a positive workplace environment and you don’t have time to waste.  It is up to you as to whether your workplace will survive or not.   It is YOUR responsibility.  You will have to initiate it and, when you first start, you won’t get far.  You will have to keep trying and it will take awhile.  You will need TIME AND PATIENCE.  This is YOUR job.

Once again, managers, here are the 5 key characteristics of high performing workplace:

  1. Invest in your people. This is where increasing wages and benefits can help.  It also can be providing good training or helping employees to succeed.  Managers, you cannot afford people to quit or be terminated.  You need them!  It will cost you more in turnover and re-training.  You need to work with your employees.  Coach them.  Make sure they understand your expectations.  Communicate so they do understand but do it in such a way that’s respectful of them.  You can do that by asking questions, offering suggestions and having compassion.  That can be tough for some of you.  Some of you don’t like fluff.
  2. Supportive leaders. What do your workers need to succeed?  You better find out.  Once again, asking questions can be a great way to start.  If they run into problems, help them.  Share your knowledge but don’t take the problem away from them. Provide them with the resources they need.  Take time, be patient  with them.   Yes, some you think will not make it but you might be surprised  about those that will.  Provide a sense of humor.  Correct them when they’re wrong but don’t belittle them especially in front of others.  BE RESPECTFUL.  Don’t use “You” messages or get angry.  Constructive criticism works best.  If you have to use discipline, do it in a way that’s private and allows for improvement.  A 3-step disciplinary process is good.  It lets employees know when something is serious but it also gives them opportunity to improve and succeed.
  3. Create flexibility in the system. When systems don’t allow for change or adjustments, they fail. What happens when customers need an item quicker than they thought?  Can you provide it?  What happens if a customer has made a mistake and calls you for help?  Can your system adapt to help?  What if an emergency happens to an employee, can someone else step in?  If you rely on a rigid system, that puts pressure on yourself and your employees.  When pressure happens, people sometimes don’t react well. It will impact your bottom line if you don’t build flexibility into your system.
  4. Empower employees. Who knows the product or service better than the employees working on or with it. Get their ideas, use those ideas.  Involve them in the everyday decisions and get their thoughts.  You and other managers don’t have all the answers.  They have wonderful ideas that you and other managers may not have thought about because you’re too far away from the actual work being done.  Ask questions of them to provoke thought and get them to respond.  They may not at first but keep trying and keep showing them you’re serious about involving them.  The more you do it, the more it will happen and you and the organization will reap rewards.
  5. Customer focused quality. Once again, employees  can help with this.  They make the product or do the service.  Get them involved on looking at improvements and how to help customers.  Asking questions, using problem solving techniques can help create a team that will be productive and help make the organization thrive.  Give them some pats on the back but make sure they’re sincere.  Employees can see right through you if not.

Now, managers, roll your sleeves up!  Get to work!  It has worked before.  Over and over we’ve seen our labor-management committees in both union and non-union facilities do great things.  It’s time to quit thinking and acting like you’re the only ones that know because you’re not!  You’ve got several resources right there if you allow them to be involved.

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

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 683

Central Ohio Chapter, National Association of Electrical Contractors

 

Our activities are also made possible in part by a grant from the City of Columbus.

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

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Congratulations to Graduates Entering the Skilled Trades

Over the last month or so people have been honoring graduates of high schools and post-secondary education for the completion of their work. Ceremonies honor these graduates with much pomp and circumstance.’

We read about high school students who have received academic and athletic scholarships, and they certainly deserve recognition for their accomplishments. This year, I’ve enjoyed seeing another group of students being honored.

Students choosing to enter the skilled trades have usually not received much recognition, but this year we have seen more. Special ceremonies at Career Signing Days provided recognition to these young people, honoring them for what is probably a good choice. These ceremonies also promote the option of skilled trades.

In Central Ohio there are presently many job openings in the skilled trades that are going unfilled due to a lack of qualified workers. As businesses are expanding. the number of experienced workers is decreasing as existing employees choose other fields or elect to retire. These factors contribute to opportunities for students to enter careers that not only promise good jobs, but are also financially rewarding.

“We want to grow the talent pool and we want to give students opportunities,” Chris Witte, a senior vie president with the chemical company BASF said. “The goal is to show them that these are very good, high-paying jobs.”

School have generally been slow to recognize students entering the skilled trades. Ohio high schools are rated on the percentage of students who pursue higher education. Parents who have pushed college as the target for their children may not be happy if they choose an alternative.

The high school at which I taught was proud that we sent around 60% of our students to higher education. They were not as quick to note around 50% of these students did not get a college degree within the next five years, a number similar to the national average. These students may have been better served by choosing the skilled trades.

There are multiple options for students choosing these careers. They may decide to join a company that is hiring new graduates to join their workforce. Others may enroll at technical schools or community colleges that offer training programs leading to entry into the trades. Many are unaware of another valuable option worthy of their consideration, apprenticeships.

Most of the skilled trads have established apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs designed to train employees who seek to enter their fields. In Central Ohio, the best of these programs are jointly sponsored by the employing companies and the unions that represent the workers. Together they build a training curriculum that will meet the specific demands of the jobs that will be available.

For example, the National Electrical Contractors Association and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers jointly run a highly successful apprenticeship program. It is a five-year program combining on-the-job training along with classroom instruction.

Do not assume these programs are easy. The classroom portion is rigorous, and students are held to high standards. Their classroom work is conducted by Columbus State Community College, Students completing the program can choose to enter directly into their field of study, and are in high demand. As Journeymen, they also command well-paying jobs nearly anywhere in the country.

One other benefit – students completing the program also receive a degree from Columbus State, either a Associates Degree in their field or, in some cases, a Bachelors Degree.

The cost to these students for the apprenticeship program, classes, and their degree is $0. Funding is provided by the employers and unions that benefit from the apprentices, who also earn money from the on-the-job work they do.

If that sounds like a good deal, it is.

College enrollment steadily declined between 2011 and 2020. There are a number of causes for this, including skyrocketing college tuition. Yet, as college enrollment falls, skilled trade programs are growing. Now, over one-third of high school students said they believed a career and technical education could lead them to success.

While the demand for some traditional careers for college students is waning, demand for workers in the skilled trades is high. In Central Ohio there are 13 joint labor-management apprenticeship training programs. The demand for workers in each of these fields is high and should remain so, even with a looming recession.

It’s time to recognize the importance of the skilled trades and the students who choose to enter these careers. Encourage the schools in your community to offer Career Signing Days to recognize these students and encourage others to consider these fields.

For more information about apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs in Central Ohio, visit the Columbus Building Trades Council web site, https://columbusconstruction.org/jatc-training-centers/

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

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LISTENING: It’s All Part of the Process!

There have been lots of articles about how to manage remote work or what it’s like to be a leader in the new world of work but there was an article from a couple of years ago on listening skills that seemed to provide some excellent advice for leaders  wherever work may be.

The skills are similar to those we describe for a facilitative leader and, as the article suggests, that  can be beneficial in creating a positive workplace culture.

Positive workplace cultures are those where employees feel respected and valued.  They’re encouraged to participate on the everyday issues and, again, they are supported for their actions.  Facilitative leadership skills are ideal for that type of environment.

Facilitative leaders are about guiding process especially during discussion.  Unlike traditional management skills with leaders giving  instruction to employees on what needs to be done,  facilitative leaders need to LISTEN, not just hear,  what employees are saying as they discuss the work that needs to be completed or the issues they need to resolve.  Asking questions are a great way to guide discussion and it’s a suggestion from the article that creates positive two-way communication.  While it’s important not to appear to manipulate the process, questions can help stimulate thought and guide employees’ thoughts and ideas on how to proceed.  Also when questions are asked appropriately, it shows employees leaders are interested in what they have to say and are actively helping them to succeed.  It also can put some ownership back on employees as everyone is involved in decision-making.

The article identifies people sometimes have difficulty  because it can appear as a loss of power and that can scare some leaders.  Power, though, is more of an illusion and not so much reality.  But by giving up some of that so-called power, it gives leaders more time to do other work.

Along with relinquishing power, there also is some risk-taking involved and that can be just as threatening.  There is a fear the ideas employees come up with may be outrageous or not work.  On the other hand, risks can also mean employees come up more and better ideas.

Another problem the article tells about listening is impatience.  Some people think listening, asking questions and guiding process takes too long or is ineffective.  We live in an instantaneous world and it can be much quicker if one person determines  the outcome.  But what if that person’s way is the wrong way or their perspective didn’t give  a thorough exploration of the situation?  That may cause more time and work if things have to be done over.  Employees doing the job usually have a good idea on what’s occurring and what needs to be done.  Plus, if employees don’t have the ability to be empowered or engaged, they lose a sense of purpose and respect and that means less interest in work and the workplace.  That results in lower productivity and higher turnover as employees begin to look for other jobs.

Another problem cited in the article is the fear of change.  That fear is why it’s so important to involve as many people in a process as possible.  Asking those questions, asking for thoughts and ideas and allowing an opportunity to resolve everyday issues creates more support for change.  When facilitative leaders ask those questions, they set the example for employees to do the same with others and that increases support even more.  It establishes a practice throughout the workplace for positive change to take place.

The article suggests when listening to individuals it’s important to remove distractions like electronic devices so the concentration can be on the discussion.  That’s absolutely true.  In fact, it’s a good idea to record the ideas or thoughts given.  Those ideas and thoughts won’t get lost and are available when needed.  It also demonstrates people are being heard and what they are saying is important.  That makes people feel good about themselves and their organization.  It also shows all ideas, not just one or a select few, are considered.

Something else the article says is it’s important not to cut people off.  Along with that ideas should not be criticized.  When ideas are interrupted or stopped or judged or criticized especially by leaders it limits the discussion as people are less likely to contribute  to the discussion.  Leaders need to encourage participation.  Everyone has a different perspective and those perspectives are necessary and valuable to address workplace situations.  The more perspectives the better the opportunity of actually resolving a problem.   Asking questions, on the other hand, can be used to clarify ideas so everyone understands  what people are saying and where they’re coming from.  It also encourages people to participate.

Inflicting own ideas is something leaders must watch because they’re accustomed to making decisions but it’s something they must step back from when encouraging employee participation and creating a positive workplace culture.  There will be times when a leader has to make a decision such as a critical incident decisions but most every day issues and encounters can be something left to employees.  We encourage the groups we work with to set up boundaries or expectations of areas they can work on and what they can’t work on.  That way everyone understands what the limitations are.   Nothing can be more discouraging to a group to start working on something and then be told they can’t.   It’s best to have consensus on boundaries or expectations because  there will be better support from everybody.

The last item in the article suggests reflection.  That’s a great idea!  One way of doing that is to do that at the end of a meeting and asking everyone for their opinion on how the process worked.  Some may have ideas, some may not.  Also, just as the article mentioned, patience is necessary because supervisors or managers changing style can take some work.  The same is true for everyone when starting a new process.  A new style or a new process doesn’t happen overnight.  There will be mistakes along the way and everyone needs to recognize that.

What is important to remember is when people LISTEN to each other, misunderstandings can be avoided and relationships can be strengthened.

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

Our activities are also made possible in part by a grant from the City of Columbus.

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

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