Once again, one of the most popular post on our blog this year predicted trends in Labor-Management relations and collective bargaining for 2017. This week, we will take a look back and see how we did before offering our thoughts on 2018.
The trends we saw for 2017 were:
An increase in real wages was seen in 2016 and should continue in 2017. We were right about this. Wage increases continued for the third consecutive year, although the rate declined in the last quarter. Hopefully, this is not a sign of a return to wage stagnation.
The pressure for “Right to Work” will expand. These attacks on unions continued in 2017. In Ohio, the ongoing undercurrent of a new initiative remains, although nothing concrete has emerged.
Labor relations will become more contentious. This was also accurate, and represents further damage to workplace relationships. Management appeared more willing to try to exact defeats from unions and workers by exerting their political power.
Contract negotiations will become more difficult. While this is true, it was not to the degree we feared. The growing economy provided opportunities for wage gains that helped ease pressure on negotiations.
Worker gains resulting from executive orders by President Obama are in jeopardy. Very true. The current president has been almost gleeful in reversing past gains by employees and unions.
The National Labor Relations Board will become more business-friendly. Also true. The Trump appointees have demonstrated they side with business at the expense of workers.
Union membership will continue to decline, but this may be near its low point. We missed this one, The decline did not occur, as union membership in 2017 remained at 10.7%, the same as in 2016.
Unemployment will slowly continue to decrease, but many of the jobs lost in and following the recession will never return. True. With the exception of an increase in August, the unemployment rate fell or remained the same in every month in 2017, dropping from 4.7% in January to 4.1% at the end of the year. Still, many of the job restoration promises made in the campaign remained empty.
Increases in productivity may inhibit the return of jobs lost in the recession. This has also proven true. Productivity has increased in many industries, but without a resulting increase in employment. This remains problematic for the long-term economy.
Automation will become an increasing issue in the workplace and place new pressures on labor and management and in negotiations. This continues to be a concern. A couple of weeks ago we discussed the impact of automation on trucking, and earlier looked at how autonomous buses would impact the transportation industry and employees. The promise of automation in increasing safety and productivity is interesting, but we need to consider the cost is creates.
The minimum wage will increase slowly through state and local initiatives, but increases at the federal level are unlikely. This has also proven true overall, in spite of some local increases. Interestingly, the cities and other areas that have increased the minimum wage have seen a positive impact on their economy. Still, the Republican controlled government in Washington and many states is not likely to support efforts to increase the minimum wage.
While more options for communications exist, it has become increasingly more difficult to really communicate. This trend continues, as faces seem increasing buried in tablets, smart phones, and other devices. One positive thing we saw this year occurred in training we were delivering. As we discussed issues, participants were able to look up information about the issues being considered instead of having to wait until later to find the answers.
The need for employee engagement continues to grow. This continues to be true. Only be involving employees can everyone work together to improve their work system. CALMC will continue to provide support ore organizations seeking to actively involve everyone in their systems.
It looks like our predictions were mostly borne out, and some will continue in the current year. In a future blog post, we will try to further hone our psychic skills to see what may be coming in 2018.