The fear of an uncertain future has haunted many for the last seven or eight years or since the Great Recession. It’s a feeling like nothing will ever be right again. It’s created a fear of job loss. It’s watching jobs leave your community or seeing empty shells of manufacturing plants that used to employ hundreds of people. It’s a fear of not having enough money to make ends meet or having to work two or three jobs to make ends meet. It can also be a fear of not having the money to retire. These fears were reflected in the recent election. For many workers, union or non-union, the Great Recession took its toll. For some, there has been no recovery.
These fears and concerns as well as the election results have created a lot of uncertainty as we go forward. We’re going to suggest some questions that may address the fears, concerns and uncertain future. We’ll look at them in more detail in future blogs but, for this week, we’ll just hit some highlights.
The questions we’re going to address are some we’ve heard or read about. They are: Will there be an increase in jobs and, if so, will they be manufacturing or something else? What about wages- will they increase so some don’t have to work two or three jobs to make ends meet? What about worker benefits such as healthcare and retirement? Will unions survive a Trump presidency? What about worker voice and collaborative efforts in the workplace? Is collaboration done? If the answer to these questions is positive then that can help to eliminate some of those struggles people have been dealing with and alleviate the pessimism that has prevailed since 2009.
Will there be an increase in jobs, particularly manufacturing?
Many workers have lost their manufacturing job or they’re trying to keep their jobs or want these jobs to return. Manufacturing has traditionally been a source of good-paying jobs. Many manufacturing facilities were unionized which helped strong livable wages. But is there even a chance to save manufacturing jobs or see them return? Some of those jobs are coming back. But as it has been reported many times, those traditional good-paying jobs are not gone because they’ve been exported to other countries but because technology provides greater productivity than workers.
If there is a plan for infrastructure under the Trump administration, these jobs could be very similar to the manufacturing jobs and they could also be apprenticeship jobs that will help to provide job security. Just as many manufacturing jobs were unionized so are construction jobs. If unions have a role, this will help to provide a strong living wage for workers, and if some of these are apprenticeship jobs, they can provide job security and other good benefits. We’ve blogged before on apprenticeship jobs. Here is an opportunity for even more apprenticeship jobs. A couple of weeks ago we blogged unions are willing to work with the Trump administration on infrastructure.
What about worker benefits such as healthcare and retirement?
Once again, the infrastructure jobs through union apprenticeship can provide not only healthcare and retirement but paid training so workers can have up-to-date skills. These apprenticeship jobs have a rigorous schedule but the payoff is great! Unions such as electricians, plumbers and pipefitters, and sheet metal workers have programs that are supported not just by the unions but by managers as well and, as these managers have pointed out, they are extremely happy with the professionalism and work of the unions.
What about wages so workers don’t have to work two or three jobs?
As mentioned above, infrastructure jobs, especially unionized jobs, can provide that single paycheck instead of people having to work multiple jobs. There was, however, one problem that occurred this last week that has the potential of hurting workers. A Texas judge has blocked the Department of Labor’s Overtime Rule. It’s important to note this rule has not been updated since 2004 and reduces workers’ ability to be paid overtime based on the established threshold. This rule would greatly impact workers in various industries such as retail. It also can put pressure on wages overall to be raised.
What about worker voice and collaboration? Will there be opportunity for workers to have a voice in the workplace?
The jury is still out and we’ll continue to blog about this topic because it can provide such positive results for workplaces. Not only do workers get benefit from this because it provides an opportunity for communication and to work on day-to-day decisions, but it also provides great benefit to the workplace by increasing productivity and helping the organization to obtain its goals. This we have blogged about before and provided many examples from both the private and public sectors. This is also a proven way for workers to help increase their wages and benefits plus maintain their jobs. While this is something that can be done in both union and non-union organizations, it can be much easier in a unionized environment because you have one voice – the union’s versus many voices in a non-unionized environment. We’ll continue on this later.
There is no doubt about it, if there is to be an emphasis on workers, it would be important to include the unions. Unions can be beneficial not only in making improvements to wages and benefits but providing significant skills. To give an example of how unions can provide a positive effect for infrastructure jobs, visit the IBEW website to learn more about the great things they do and about apprenticeship. Also visit the AFL-CIO web page to learn more about unions.