Last week the White House hosted a summit to discuss ways workers can be more involved in the workplace such as forming and joining unions or, in the case of non-union facilities, just playing a role or being engaged in workplace issues. Participants in the summit included employers, employees, unions and other interested parties to help the cause.
The White House says workers’ voices can help make a stronger economy. Workers can help workplaces develop new ways of doing things by suggesting and developing new processes or products.
This, of course, is nothing new. CALMC has been advocating this for a long time and have seen organizations prosper from employee engagement. Whether it’s a unionized environment or non-union environment, the principle of employee engagement is the same – allow workers a voice in the workplace. It provides the same benefits.
What is really good about this summit is the push for employee engagement practices. U. S. Department of Labor Sec. Tom Perez writes these practices are necessary not just because they give workers a voice in the workplace but they also can be an opportunity to increase wages. He tells about the difficulty families have paying their bills and how one engagement practice, union membership, can make a difference. Sec. Perez used DOL’s Bureau of Labor Statistics to report the average weekly difference between union workers and non-union workers is $200. Not only does this have an impact on families’ income but also increases revenue for workplaces. This, of course, as he states, helps to make the overall economy stronger, too.
In addition to the increased wages, Sec. Perez said, unions and employee engagement processes help improve benefits and make organizations safer. One example of that we have blogged about is Skinner Diesel in Columbus, a non-union facility. Skinner’s safety record has improved because of the employee engagement safety process. Just as Sec. Perez wrote, employees have received more money back at the end of the year and are also now receiving more in benefits. The organization has also profited. Skinner has been able to expand the business because of the reduced costs related to safety which also helps the economy.
Of course, President Obama and his administration is not the first president to encourage worker voices. Under the Eisenhower Administration, the Republican Platform of 1956 recognized the importance for workers to have a voice in the workplace, encouraged labor and management to work together and recognized the importance of workers’ voices in the workplace as a means to help the economy grow. Below are some highlights of that doctrine under the Labor section:
“Labor is the United States. The men and women, who with their minds, their hearts and hands, create the wealth that is shared in this country—they are America.”
“Under the Republican Administration, as our country has prospered, so have its people. This is as it should be, for as President Eisenhower said: The Eisenhower Administration has brought to our people the highest employment, the highest wages and the highest standard of living ever enjoyed by any nation. Today there are nearly 67 million men and women at work in the United States, 4 million more than in 1952. Wages have increased substantially over the past 3 1/2 years; but, more important, the American wage earner today can buy more than ever before for himself and his family because his pay check has not been eaten away by rising taxes and soaring prices. The record of performance of the Republican Administration on behalf of our working men and women goes still further. The Federal minimum wage has been raised for more than 2 million workers. Social Security has been extended to an additional 10 million workers and the benefits raised for 6 1/2 million. The protection of unemployment insurance has been brought to 4 million additional workers.”
“All workers have gained and unions have grown in strength and responsibility, and have increased their membership by 2 millions. Furthermore, the process of free collective bargaining has been strengthened by the insistence of this Administration that labor and management settle their differences at the bargaining table without the intervention of the Government.”
“Revise and improve the Taft-Hartley Act so as to protect more effectively the rights of labor unions, management, the individual worker, and the public. The protection of the right of workers to organize into unions and to bargain collectively is the firm and permanent policy of the Eisenhower Administration.”
“In 1954, 1955 and again in 1956, President Eisenhower recommended constructive amendments to this Act. The Democrats in Congress have consistently blocked these needed changes by parliamentary maneuvers. The Republican Party pledges itself to overhaul and improve the Taft-Hartley Act along the lines of these recommendations.”
So, if both Presidents from opposite parties have recognized the need for unions and employee engagement, even though it’s at different times, it must be the right thing to do. Everybody wins when people work together whether it be at the workplace or in politics.