Who Lobbies For Workers If There Aren’t Unions?

We’ve heard news reports of issues that impact workers.   The stories about the Fight for Fifteen and the need for increased wages.  Unions have helped to carry the message about the needs for wage increases, and, in some areas,  pushed politicians to establish legislation that increases wages in local communities.  We’ve also heard the news about unions.  They’re numbers are decreasing and they don’t have the influence they once had.  What impact does this have for workers now and in the future ?  Who will lobby for workers?

According to the Economic Policy Institute, unions help both unionized and non-unionized workplaces.   In September, 2016, Lawrence Mishel wrote non-union workers lost 8% in wages in 2013 because the power of unions has diminished.  This is because unionized contracts help to establish wages as the norm, or, if the managers recognize the wages as the standard, they think it will help to keep their shops from becoming unionized.  This isn’t just about wages.  It also affects benefits and work policies.  In a previous blog, we compiled a list of items unions achieved that affected ALL workers.  Some of those include the five-day work week, the 8 hour work week and overtime pay.

This week a new report came out about worker voice and pay and it responds to the question I asked but it offers a suggestion on what needs to happen and how to make unions stronger.  The report is from The Center for American Progress.  It too, talks about the need for wage increases.  CEO pay today is 235 times more than what the average worker makes.  That’s up from the 1973 salary which was 22 times the average worker’s wage.  In 1973, unions were much stronger.  The author of the report, David Madland, says 80 year old labor laws need to be updated and union growth needs to be encouraged.  He said negotiated worker agreements should be industry wide instead of between workers and a single facility.  This, he said, would help both organizations and workers.  For organizations it would help establish their labor costs and for workers it would benefit them because all workers in an industry would receive higher wages, not just unionized workplaces.  He goes on to say work councils of labor and management need to be established to address workplace issues in each workplace of an industry.  We at CALMC can vouch for the successes of labor and management working together that can help workplaces.

Workers absolutely need lobbyists for them.  Trying to achieve something on your own is difficult but it can be much more effective as a group.  Look at the industries and the number of lobbyists that are out there for them. The  Open Secrets web site gives the names of the industries and the amount of money spent on lobbying efforts.  Pharmaceutical, insurance, business, electrical utilities and oil and gas are just a few that spend millions of dollars on lobbying efforts.  While these industries employ thousands of workers, the focus of the lobbyists is for the organizations within the industry and not the needs necessarily of those employed in those organizations.

One of the economists for Moody’s Analytics also offered some ideas to increase union strength because he, too, said workers need unions.  Adam Ozimek suggests unions focus on how they help through the services they can provide.  Maybe, he says, unions can show employee-owned companies how to be successful, or, maybe, unions could invest in other companies and show them how higher wages can return investment.  Another area he thinks unions are beneficial is to provide HR services or provide employment consultation to other workers.  His last suggestion is unions could provide consultation and support to workers in other industries that are traditionally non-union.

The need for unions is real now and in the future.  They help ALL workers.  Economists recognize their importance.  Government policy experts recognize their importance. Both know wages need to increase and they know unions are a mechanism to help boost wages and they know workers need unions to represent them.  Fortunately, unions recognize this, too, and aren’t ready to throw in the towel.  AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is not happy with the decreasing numbers of union workers.  He says it’s not the best of times for unions but he does see some growth and recognizes it is an opportunity to identify new ways of increasing membership.  For example, Working America, a branch of the AFL-CIO, is actually doing what Adam Ozimek suggested.  Working America services to non-union workers.  These workers network with other workers, learn more about the issues that impact them and find more out about unions.  They go back to their workplaces with a better understanding of what they can do and possibly start organizing efforts.

So I ask my question again, who lobbies for workers if unions aren’t around?  I’m happy to say there are some initiatives in the works to keep unions going now and in the future.  And as far as those 80 year old labor laws that need to be updated, it may be awhile before that happens but I’m optimistic that someday they will be happen.  Unions  may not look the same as they do now or as they did before but there are workers and other people such as economists and policy experts that say unions are absolutely necessary.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thinking About the Storm

Did you spend time this weekend watching the Weather Channel? I did, mostly to check on conditions in South Carolina during and after the storm, but also just out of curiosity. Fortunately, our home in Charleston appears to have come through without major damage, but watching brought a few things to mind:

  • People come together during crisis to do great things. Watching the video of volunteers out during the storm to rescue people and afterwards to help with cleanup reminded me of the power of working together.

    We need to remember it does not take a crisis to work together. Employees and employers can help improve their workplaces and grow opportunities for growth.

  • The more people prepared in advance, the better off they could be. The pre-storm warnings reminded people to prepare their hurricane survival kits, including non-perishable food, water, batteries, and other important items. Even if they had to evacuate, residents with these items were better prepared for what they would face.

    Employee teams also need to be prepared. Their tools will include an effective problem solving process, training in how to work together effectively, and a commitment to working together. With these tools, teams can be better prepared to face whatever happens.

  • Those who waited until the storm approached found it was too late to purchase necessary items for their survival kits. They were faced with long lines for gas and bare store shelves.

    Employers that wait until the crisis is at hand may find it difficult or impossible to overcome the problems. That is why we encourage teams to be proactive, identifying and correcting potential causes of problems before they occur.

  • No matter how well you prepare, there can still be surprises. On Folly Beach, South Carolina, over a dozen unexploded Civil War cannon balls were unearthed by the storm. Nearby residents were told they may hear explosions.

    You may also discover some surprises (hopefully not this dangerous), but if you have an effective team process you will be more able to decide what needs to be done to fix the problem over both the short and long term.

  • If you see Jim Cantore coming into your community, it’s time to run.

    Don’t wait to begin your team process. The time to start or sharpen your process is now. We can help you develop your tools to be better able to head off the next crisis.


Posted in Conflict Resolution, Employee Engagement, Employee Involvement, Labor-Management Committees, Labor-Management Cooperation, Problem Solving, Teamwork | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Needs To Happen For Employee Engagement To Be Successful Part 3?

We have been identifying some of the mistakes that can occur when organizations  start an employee engagement process.  This week we do our last blog in the series and address culture problems that can discourage employee engagement.

Our first two blogs on this series discussed two big mistakes that can occur when organizations start an employee engagement process.  The first one is lack of buy-in, especially from upper management, and in the case of a unionized organization, upper union leadership.  Both sides absolutely  have to be in support of the process or it will fail.  We identified a couple of examples.

In the second part of this series we identified another problem that can occur with employee engagement.  That problem was not involving all employees in problem solving and every day decisions.  Some organizations don’t view employee engagement as that but think it is more of involving employees with communication efforts, flavor-of-the-month programs, incentive programs or benefits – anything but involving employees in the everyday operation of the organization.  Again, we used the large company, Kimberly-Clark, as an example and we’ll continue to use them in this blog as we cite other mistakes that can happen.

For employee engagement to be a success it takes a workplace environment or workplace culture that “walks the talk,” or actually practices what it preaches or demonstrates through actions not just words.  Having a strong culture to support an employee engagement process is the most important part, can be the most difficult to achieve and also is the area where most mistakes occur.  A culture that supports employee engagement demonstrates a true belief in the people and provides support to them.  People feel comfortable enough to speak out without retribution.  They are made to feel like they are appreciated and important to the organization.  It also is an environment willing to take risks and realizes mistakes will be made but people learn from those mistakes.

Let’s now look at Kimberly-Clark.   In both articles, Good to Great:  Reinventing HR at Kimberly-Clark and At Kimberly-Clark, “Dead Wood” Workers Have Nowhere to Hide the Chief Human Resource Officer said the company operated as a team environment or as a family-like culture.  Conflict was avoided and decisions were done through consensus and didn’t last.  All this, she said, was not good for innovation and increasing market shares.  She said the company went down-hill.  Talk about a huge mistake – red flag!

If you want to encourage employee engagement, the culture described at  Kimberly-Clark is the type of culture you want.  It shouldn’t be stopped.  It’s a great starting point and if there are problems this provides an opportunity to utilize your best resource, employees.  Yes, there may be a problem with decisions not lasting and the lack of conflict but why was that?  No decision should be cut in stone. They should always be re-evaluated.  That’s just good problem solving.  The lack of conflict may be a problem but there are ways to address that, too, and again, why wasn’t there conflict?  Maybe the conflict wasn’t the type of conflict the HR executive felt was beneficial.  It is true there are a lot of traditional organizations and managers that think organizations should be run like a business and not like a family which may be but it also can be an environment where people are willing to work together and feel comfortable to offer ideas and not be worried about repercussions.

There are more red flags in these articles about the inability of Kimberly-Clark to create a positive culture that could embrace employee engagement, or People Philosophy as they called it.   and the idea that they were a “caring” organizations with some of these other red flags doesn’t say they were.

Kimberly-Clark said they were a “caring” organization which is very important  in creating a positive culture but calling employees “dead wood” and boasting about large turnover rates doesn’t say to me they are caring or that employee engagement can happen.  It simply  identifies more red flags.   Employees don’t start out as “dead wood.”  They were hired because they gave a good impression.  The “dead wood” theory is more of a symptom of other problems than the problem itself.  In most organizations when there is a turnover rate of 65% that is cause for alarm.  A healthy turnover rate is considered 10-15%.  The direct costs of that turnover plus the indirect costs would be extremely large.  Some of that may not be in dollars  when you consider all the experience that left or the relationships that had to be established.

The time element was another red flag. There were references about time constraints.  This can be a real problem for some organizations.  They want things done fast and they want things to change NOW.  It takes time for culture change.  Changing culture is much more difficult to do than changing a piece of equipment or a work process.  The lack of patience to spend time on problem solving processes can be a problem and we identified that in the first blog.  There really wasn’t a desire to take time to really explore what problems were actually occurring which created the lack of buy-in from the executives.

There are two red flags with the electronic performance system that was implemented at Kimberly-Clark.  One was a lack of support to help people with the new process which caused a lack of buy-in with it.  Once again, it appears the time element was more important without addressing other issues.  An employee engagement process can involve people to look at different processes, determine what process is best and also develop a plan for implementation that could address support issues.  The other red flag is an electronic performance system does nothing for the culture because it decreases the amount of interpersonal interaction.  It doesn’t necessarily create an opportunity for one-on-one coaching which helps to support employee engagement.

The last red flag comes from something the CEO  said.  He said  support processes were not in place to help the company stay on course.  Maybe the lack of resources or support was more of the problem than placing the blame on the people.   Placing blame on people is a knee-jerk reaction and is a common mistake in many workplace environments.  It goes along with the lack of willingness to spend time on problem solving.

There were other red flags but we’ve identified enough to say this really wasn’t about employee engagement or a People Philosophy.  It does, though, identify what to watch out for if you are wanting to implement an employee engagement process.  The articles both say the financial picture of Kimberly-Clark improved at least in the short term but how will it do in the long term?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Do You Know: Is It Better to Use Pizza or Praise to Motivate Employees?

Many employers struggle with how to motivate employees. We have heard them argue they cannot afford the cost of motivation programs. The truth is, motivation does not require significant expense.

Dr. W. Edwards Deming, the founder of the Total Quality movement, argued monetary awards did not produce lasting employee motivation. Although many people disagreed with him, Deming believed once employees are making a living wage, money does not produce an improvement in employee performance or productivity. It can even become a demotivator if employees do not believe bonuses are awarded fairly or if they begin to look at them as an entitlement.

Financial incentives are often the choice employers make since they are the easiest to implement and require the least creativity. As numerous studies have shown, they are not as effective as other lower cost options.

A recent study reported by New York Magazine examined an Israeli semiconductor manufacturer and its motivation program. Employees were divided into four groups, and on a Monday morning, employees in three of the groups were promised a reward if they met their goals for that day.  One group was told they would get a cash bonus of about $30, while another would get a voucher for a free pizza. The third group was told their boss would compliment them with a text message that said “Well done!” for good performance. The fourth group was a control group, so they did not receive a message or the promise of a reward.

Which of these options would motivate you? Which would provide the least effect on you?

After the first day, the results were

Motivation                  Increase in Productivity (Compared to the control group)
Pizza                                         6.7%
Compliment                           6.6%
Cash Bonus                             4.9%

After one day, money was the worst motivator. The compliment was barely edged out by the pizza.

Are you surprised? So was the employer, but not as much as they were as the experiment continued. After the second day, the group receiving the cash bonus performed 13.2% worse than the control group. Through the entire week, while the differences narrowed, the cash bonuses resulted in a 6.5% drop in productivity. Not only were cash incentives the most expensive option, their outcome was worse than offering no incentive.

While the final numbers for the groups receiving compliments and the pizza declined by the end of the week, they still out performed the control group. This means they were better motivators than doing nothing.

Which technique produced the greatest improvement? Compliments proved to be the best motivator. This outcome should not be surprising, as these results echo those reported by Janice Kaplan in her book The Gratitude Diaries. Her study of 2,000 Americans showed:

  • 81 percent of respondents said that they’d be willing to work harder for an appreciative boss.
  • 70 percent said they’d feel better about themselves and their efforts if their boss thanked them more regularly.
  • Only 10 percent of survey respondents said that they regularly showed their colleagues gratitude.

Wharton Management professor Adam Grant explained in The Wall Street Journal,  “Extrinsic motivators can stop having much meaning — your raise in pay feels like your just due, your bonus gets spent, your new title doesn’t sound so important once you have it. But the sense that other people appreciate what you do sticks with you.”

How often are compliments given in your workplace? How often do you recognize the work of others? These results show the least expensive form of employee motivation is the most effective.

It turns out Deming was right after all. We hope you will heed his advice and the results of these studies to improve your employee motivation.

Posted in Customer Service, Employee Engagement, Teamwork | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Needs To Happen For Employee Engagement To Be Successful Part 2?

A couple of weeks ago we started blogging about mistakes to be aware of when starting an employee engagement process.   This blog is a second in the series on the same topic.

In our first blog, we cited a few examples of some mistakes that had occurred in organizations such as Kimberly Clark.  This week we continue with another example from KC.

If you recall from before, some members of the executive staff decided the lack of innovation that was occurring at Kimberly Clark was a major problem and it was because of them.  Not everyone was in agreement and were angry and did not have buy-in when a consultant was called in and proclaimed the problem was with the executive staff.  This developed into a major culture shift for the entire organization.

When you read articles about leaders telling about their stories on their organizational improvements in culture changes, you really have to read between the lines.  There can be lots of  “red flags” lurking in the stories that identify mistakes and the stories about Kimberly Clark’s culture change is no different.

We’re going to focus on an area that is at the heart of any employee engagement process.  It’s the reason why organizations need to do employee engagement.   Some organizations, such as Kimberly Clark,  make the mistake of not including problem solving with employee engagement.  They don’t see the benefit of including employees to address issues impacting the organization.

The “red flag” in the KC scenario is not everybody was in agreement with the problem.  That mistake was a lost opportunity to utilize the talents of employees to identify what everybody saw were problems occurring within the organization.   Each employee, no matter if they are senior executives or those on the shop floor have their own perspective as to what is going on.  Each has a different idea to provide based on their experiences, their abilities and so on.  By actually doing some real problem solving, it may have brought everybody together on what the actual problem was.  In the KC scenario, if everyone would have been involved in identifying what the real problem was, it probably would have created better buy-in.

This isn’t just about discussing  what we think is the problem but actually doing some problem solving.  Getting some information.  Getting some data. Utilizing some problem solving tools such as flow charting, control charts, and cause and effect diagrams.   That also takes time and some organizations don’t want to spend time identifying what the actual problem is.  They instead end up spending a great deal of time, and probably money, cleaning up from what they thought was the problem.

What can be better than to utilize the intelligence and  ideas of all employees! Think how many new and different ideas there would be when real employee engagement  occurs.  Not only that, when employees are actually involved  in helping to make some decisions for the workplace, their productivity improves because they feel like they’re part of the workplace which may help to improve market shares.  With those new and different ideas from involving employees, innovation  may also gain.

Instead of guessing the problem is the executive staff in the KC article,  some time should have been spent in gathering data and information to prove it.  The lack of innovation maybe wasn’t the problem.   In the Wall Street Journal article on MSN it said the CEO in 2008 was concerned about K-C’s market share.  There were lots of issues looming around the Great Recession in 2008.  Maybe the market share problem wasn’t the problem.  Maybe it was more about the recession.  Maybe everyone needed to look at  multiple solutions to resolve it.

On PBS Newshour Sept. 15, 2016, one of the segments talked about what employers want from new college graduates.  Two of the items were problem solving skills and critical thinking skills.  Now, if employers are wanting those skills doesn’t it make sense to actually do it to set the example?

What a shame real employee engagement was not used at Kimberly Clark as it should have been.  Without actually taking the time to determine what the actual problem was, a  lot of people were labeled failures and the time they put into a job they may have enjoyed wasn’t valued.  They were the “dead wood” at Kimberly Clark.  That is an even bigger mistake than not utilizing problem solving in employee engagement.

We’re not done with mistakes made when implementing employee engagement.  We’re also not done with the story on Kimberly Clark.  There’s stil more “red flags” to blog about on employee engagement mistakes.

To be fair, Kimberly-Clark , in its sustainability reports of the last two years does not mention employee engagement occurring in their organization.  Employee engagement was mentioned though while they were implementing their culture change.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

CALMC Golf Outing Recap

On September 9, we held our annual CALMC Golf Outing. The largest number of teams in years enjoyed a day of golf, fellowship, and networking at the Links at Groveport.

2016-golf-227You can see some of the photos of the outing on our Facebook page. What made the day great was the participation of our members and guests, with representatives from area unions, managers, and neutrals from both the public and private sector.2016-golf-35

Congratulations to our victors, the team from the Ohio Association of Public School Employees, who reclaimed the championship. We also want to congratulate the winners of skill holes and other prizes.

Our thanks also go out to our hole sponsors who help make the event possible. Their continued support is valuable to us at CALMC.

 Central Ohio Labor Council, AFL-CIO

Columbus/Central Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council

National Association of Electrical Contractors, Central Ohio Chapter

IBEW, Local 683


Plumbers and Pipefitters, Local 189

PERU, Local 5

United Steelworkers – District 1

United Way of Central Ohio

RDP Sports

Mark your calendars for the outing next year, September 8, 2017, at the Links at Groveport. We hope you can join us.


Posted in Labor-Management Cooperation, Teamwork | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

What Needs To Happen For Employee Engagement To Be Successful?

There are some really great stories out there about successful employee engagement practices at workplaces.  Employees focus on innovative ideas that help make improvements and save money for organizations so they remain competitive.  There are also organizations who have problems starting an  employee engagement process and either don’t understand why or say they are but really are not.

So if you’re a manager and sincerely interested in starting an employee engagement process what do you need to do to make it a success?  There are some specific aspects that can help and we’re going to blog about them starting with this blog.  Other items will be identified in future blogs.  We also have some specific examples that will help to identify what to do and what not to do.

The most important fundamental aspect that is required for employee engagement or any change process there is commitment and buy-in at the top so the process will be supported.   First, of course, is to meet with the CEO, unless that person has already declared support, and then the rest of the executive staff.  Executives may need to understand how employee engagement will benefit them but it will also be important to identify potential problems that could occur.  It’s a good idea to anticipate some of the questions they will have.  In other words, maybe some FAQs need to be prepared.  Having that buy-in or commitment will also help with the skepticism that may be out there especially if the organization tried other processes in the past and gave them up.  If you don’t have the buy-in and support, don’t start it because the process won’t work and it could cause problems if you try it again in the future or it could harm any other change process in the future.  The following two examples are what can happen when there is no commitment.

This first example is one we experienced that pertains to this issue was with a labor-management committee we were training.  Under a grievance settlement, both sides agreed to labor-management committee effectiveness training not only to help with their relationship but help with issues related to the grievance.   Even though the training application was signed by both the union and executive management giving their commitment to the process, management said during the third day of training they had no intention of really doing labor-management cooperation.  They only did it for the settlement.  There never was commitment or buy-in.  Obviously, the training and labor-management cooperation was done.  In addition, the ability to do anything together in the future was hampered because of the trust levels that were broken.  Trust was not high to begin with but it was even lower because of this.

Another example is an article from the Wall Street Journal posted on msn.com about Kimberly-Clark.  Kimberly-Clark has been concerned about long-term viability just like many other organizations. According to another article, Good To Great:  Reinventing HR at Kimberly-Clark, the culture in K-C was very conducive for a team based environment.  It had a family-like environment and employees worked there forever without concern of being laid off.  Pay was good so very few people left for other jobs.   But in 2008 everything changed.

The CEO of the company, who had been there for over 30 years himself, decided it was time to change because there appeared to be a lack of innovation and the company wasn’t providing enough for shareholders.  Instead of getting buy-in from executives to change, K-C did the exact opposite. At a meeting with executive staff, some concluded the innovation problem must be with themselves, the executive staff, and decided an outside consultant was needed to do an executive staff assessment.  Since some of the executives did not agree the problem rested with them, they were not happy about the staff assessment.  These people balked and were ready to resign, and they did once the assessment confirmed executive staff was the problem.    For a company that had little turnover before, the turnover rates started to increase beginning with the executives.

Considering there was a lack of buy-in on the cause and the solution of the problem from the executives, it gives a good indication it probably has been difficult to make any change.  Not to mention placing blame on people who didn’t feel they deserved probably caused lower morale and less productivity.

We recognize commitment and buy-in as the most important indicator of success.  Without either, it becomes very difficult for a group to accomplish anything in the entire organization for any type of change process.  In addition, the lack of buy-in or commitment impacts other areas related to group process.  Basically, the entire process fails, trust is non-existent and, probably, in time if nothing changes, the future of the organization can be at stake.

We’ll be addressing the other items needed for an employee engagement process in the near future.  Continue reading our blogs for more discussion on employee engagement processes!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Back to School – How Is the Labor-Management Relationship?

As summer comes to an end, students and staff head back to school. Most school districts in Central Ohio have already opened, while others around the country are preparing to begin their academic year. When they do, what kind of labor-management climate will they see?

We have written several articles about the advantages of employee engagement and effective, problem-solving, labor-management committees. The many positives they offer in the private sector also apply to school districts, including the ones in your communities.

The key is not to wait until situations are terrible and positions become intractable. Employee engagement can help improve instruction, and labor-management committees can plan the systemic change needed to  resolve the underlying problems that can impact everyone in the district and community. Communications between all parties can be improved.

Studies have consistently shown when employers are happier they do better work. Working conditions are impacted by the labor-management environment and affect teachers, administrators, and other staff just as they would any employee. While I do not believe teachers would intentionally do a lesser job for their students if they are unhappy, working in a toxic labor-management environment is very difficult.

For example, there is a school district in Central Ohio that has developed a pattern of difficult labor-management relationships. Things got so bad in this district there was a highly acrimonious strike by teachers a couple of years ago.

Certainly no one can make a reasonable argument that teacher strikes are good for education in a district. Money spent preparing for a strike is not being used for needed classroom supplies or equipment. Time spent in meetings weighing the decision whether or not to walk out is not being spent preparing lessons or developing new curriculum. Time spent by students in classrooms staffed by “replacement teachers” is rarely quality instructional time.

In districts such as this one, the damage caused by a strike ripples throughout the community as divisions grow and the public takes sides. When the contract is settled and the walk-out is over, what happens next will be critical to all involved. Will all parties use the opportunity to put things back together or will the conflict continue to simmer?

Unfortunately, for the district we mentioned, the labor-management relationship does not appear to be improving. There was a significant loss of good, experienced teachers to other school districts. Trust levels have remained low, and the labor-management sniping has continued. This week, it resulted in the filing of an Unfair Labor Practices complaint against the Superintendent. Whether or not the complaint is valid, it is evidence of the continued bad labor-management environment.

It is not our purpose to use this article to point the finger of blame at one side or the other in this dispute. Finding blame does not fix problems. Only if both sides decide to change the game and work together to repair the climate can things improve in this or any other school district.

As citizens, ask your school district if they have a cooperative labor-management committee. If not, ask why. Ask the same questions if you are employed by a school district or if you serve on a school board. The time to begin labor-management cooperation and engagement is now. Do not wait until it is too late.

If your schools want to consider ways to start or improve on their cooperative endeavors, have them contact us. We have worked with (and in) schools and can help them build a strong relationship.

Posted in Conflict Resolution, Employee Engagement, Employee Involvement, Labor-Management Committees, Labor-Management Cooperation, Problem Solving, Public Sector, Systemic change | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Most of us have seen the picture at the top, the Rosie the Riveter poster that represented women helping in manufacturing plants during World War II but it also is a good representation of women in general and what women will do to get a job done!  And that applies to roles they have played in the union movement.  In fact, if you visit the American Postal Workers Union site, you’ll see women union members and retirees doing their version of the poster!

We’ve blogged about unions before but nothing specifically about the role of women in unions.  The history of women involved in the union movement goes way back to the 1830s in the textile mills of Massachusetts when women formed a union to get better working conditions.  Girls as young as 10 were working an average of 14 hours a day.  Conditions were not always good, and the Mill Girls, as they were called, were seen as being at the very lowest rung of the ladder.  The occupation was not viewed favorably.  When they were threatened with a wage reduction, the women decided it was time to take action.  They went on strike, not just once but twice.  Nothing came out of it other than they did form their own union and it was a beginning of workers raising attention to workplace issues.

According to Institute for Women’s Policy Research, there is a greater wage advantage for women working in unionized jobs than for men working in unions.  That difference is a little more than 10%.  A woman working in a unionized job can make an average weekly, full-time wage of $899 compared to a non-unionized weekly, full-time job of $687.   In other words, unions help women earn more!  In addition, women also have much better benefits.  These include healthcare and other benefits which could also include pension benefits.  In addition, the working environment may be much better!

This can help to ease the stress for a single mother who may not have had the ability to go on to college.  She’s able to have the strong support in child care because her wages help to cover the costs and the increases that go along with it.   A mother working in a unionized facility can take care of the medical needs of herself and her children, and she can have a better work-life balance than the mother who has to work multiple jobs to make ends meet which helps to encourage strong family values.  So much pressure is removed from that single mother when she knows she has a good financial foundation to help raise her family.

Today’s women in unions are not much different than the Mill Girls.  They fight not just for workplace injustices but community injustices, too.  According to an article from The Nation  women union leaders also look at issues impacting women even if they work in non-union organizations.  Domestic violence, child care and housing are some of the social issues they’ve tackled.

For example, one leader wanted to find out more about domestic workers.  Some of the workers were being abused and they couldn’t leave their abusers because they didn’t make enough money to support themselves and their children so the leader worked at improving wages that could help women be on their own and live without the fear of abuse.

Another strong union leader  was able to negotiate better wages for the employees in one workplace only to find out the building where many of them lived was going to be demolished.  The increase in wages wasn’t going to help because many of them planned to leave the community for more affordable housing.  The building also was the home of other non-union workers.  Because of this woman’s strong leadership efforts, she was able to coordinate community leaders to save the building and make improvements to it.  In addition, she also was able to gain even more union members as the non-union occupants of the building asked her to help organize a union in their workplaces.

In the past, unions have focused more on wages and benefits thinking those were the most important issues and ignoring other issues they deemed less important.    One example that has been very important with many workers is the issue of flex-time.  Many workers want the ability to see their children off to school or go to an after-school event.  Flex-time issues  have sometimes been ignored because it was deemed better to negotiate on the wage and benefit issues.

While wages and benefits are important, to some workers the flex-time issue has equal or more importance.  Women union leaders appear to have a better understanding of that need and other worker needs that have become more relevant now to society.  They have seen or been part of the women’s movement so they are much more aware of the non workplace issues that impact people that can directly or indirectly play a role in the workplace.  It could be the  domestic violence or housing issues like the examples above, or it could be child care needs that can be an important issue to many people.

Because these women have a better understanding of the needs they also seem to do better at increasing union membership.  When women are in key leadership roles for their unions, they do better by about 10% than their male counterparts in organizing efforts according to The Nation article.  However, this is not to say women are the only answer to union problems as far as sustainability but the issues that are being addressed by women and how they go about addressing societal needs can help unions for the future.

NOTE:  It’s important to know that some of these causes women have been fighting for, such as domestic workers or restaurant workers, are not necessarily traditional unions but are labor movements that are fighting in areas traditional unions could assist.  For example, the Fight for $15 movement has received assistance from Service Employees International Union.  Traditional unions can help make their issues more enforceable.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Did You Know: Golf is a Lot Like Employee Engagement? (Part 2)

With the Olympic golf tournament this week, I want to return to the final part of the comparisons between golf and employee engagement or labor-management cooperation. We will look at similarities between them and offer some ideas about employee engagement and labor-management relationships. For example, we need to watch out for the:

Trees – The trees add great beauty to the course. They have been there for years and will remain for more. For all they add to the golf experience, they are less than appealing when you ball is directly behind one of them.

Teams will also find themselves behind trees. They are the paradigms in or workplace or organizations. Teams may hear comments like “That’s how we have always done it.” They need to recognize the challenges the paradigms present but not let them block our success. Golfers and teams need to:

Develop a Plan – When the shot location is less than ideal, professional golfers have a strategy for how to deal with the situation. Through practice, coaching, studying the course, and their experience, they know what to do next. Guesswork is replaced by advanced planning.

Teams also need to have plans for how they will proceed under difficult circumstances. They need to have the tools that can help overcome the paradigms and difficult circumstances they will face. We work with teams to develop a tool-bag of problem solving tools and procedures to help them prepare for any outcomes. They also need to:

Watch Out For The Wind – In the opening round of the Olympic tournament, golfers were plagued with strong, gusting winds that blew their shots off course and raised havoc with putting. Teams may also face strong winds created by uncertainty, opposition, rumors, competition, and other forces from inside and outside their work systems. Like the golfers, they need to be prepared for these challenges and have strategies to deal with them. They also need to be able to:

Finish – Imagine a professional golfer hitting a great tee shot, then following it up with a strong approach shot to the front of the green. They then walk up the ball, pick it up, and declare they don’t feel like putting today.

Sometimes teams do the same thing. They carefully analyze the problem they face, develop multiple good options that meet the interests of all parties, select the options they want to use, then walk away. They fail to develop implementation plans or decide the criteria that will be used to determine if their solution has been successful. Unless teams have implementation plans that address the what, when, who, and how their solutions will be put into place, it is unlikely their ideas will ever be seen. Without plans for how to evaluate their work, the opportunity for continuous improvement and process growth are lost.

For both golfers and employee engagement teams, all of these things require:

Commitment – Both being a great golfer or a member of a great team requires commitment. Professional golfers do not just pick up their clubs and head for the opening round at a tournament. Their success is a reflection of the dedication, practice, and hard work they put in.

In the same way, the most effective teams with which we have worked at CALMC have been those where the members were committed to the success of the team. They wanted to solve problems, improve the workplace, and do whatever they could to ensure the success of the organization. They knew this would require them to give their own time and energy, and are prepared to do the work necessary.

Golfers do not just buy a set of clubs and head for the course the first time. Most take lessons or get assistance with their swing and strategy. Teams must heed this and get assistance with how to effectively work together and solve problems. If your team is ready to start employee engagement or cooperative efforts, or if your game just needs some improvements, CALMC can help.



Posted in Change Management, Conflict Resolution, Employee Engagement, Employee Involvement, Labor-Management Committees, Labor-Management Cooperation, Managing Change, Problem Solving, Teamwork | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment