2018 – Trends Impacting Labor, Management, and the Workplace in 2018 – Part One

Every year, one of the most read posts on our blog predicts trends in Labor-Management relations and collective bargaining. A couple of weeks ago, we reviewed on our ideas for 2017. This week, we will begin to look at the issues we see that will impact us in 2018.

We will begin by considering items that will have particular impact on labor and management. In an upcoming blog, we will examine other issues affecting the workplace.

Real wages should continue to increase in 2018, but at a reduced rate. The Economic Research Institute predicts U.S. salaries will increase 3.2% in 2018, up slightly from the 3.1% increase seen in 2017. This is higher than the 2.4% inflation rate they predict in 2018. Part of the increase in wages results from the difficulty in finding new employees resulting in a need to maintain competitive wages we discussed in my last blog.

There are still a number of economic factors that could reduce these gains, including unexpected increase in interest rates, protectionist strategies, and rapid deregulation of workplaces. The impact of these increases could be tempered by another emerging trend:

Bonuses are replacing real wage increases. Following the passage of the tax reform act in December 2017, many employers offered bonuses (usually around $1000) to employees.  While these bonuses were welcome, they create an illusion of increased pay that can pose a threat to future wages.

A $1,000 bonus is not the same as a $1,000 raise. Bonuses are short-term, and do not carry over into next year. Even if they did, another $1,000 bonus leaves the worker exactly where they are today with no additional gain.

A $1,000 raise represents an increase in salary that will carry forward. Any increases next year will be in addition to that $1,000. This is clearly preferable for the employee.

Will businesses continue to provide another bonus or a salary increase next year, or was this just for show after the tax legislation? Only time will tell.

Critical thinking and data-based decision making are disappearing skills. In our current political climate, facts have become increasingly less important than perceptions. Whether a statement is true or not, whether we want to believe it is more important than fact.

Adolph Hitler wrote “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” It seems this strategy is being employed regularly today. Few things can be more harmful in our workplaces or lives.

We have written before about the need for data-based decision making based on access to all relevant information. This is essential for individuals and teams. If we rely on misinformation (deliberate or not) or speculation, we will make decisions that are short-sighted at best or just plain wrong.

We hope this trend can be reversed, Critical thinking is essential to the success of our businesses and our society. Critical analysis of claims and the use of problem-solving tools are more important than ever.

The pressure for “Right to Work” will expand. We predicted this last year, but the efforts did not materialize as strongly as we thought. This year, however, the political pressures for right-to-work are again growing. The illusion the supporters try to paint of these laws being beneficial to workers will fool many into supporting it. Supporters will continue to obscure the real goal of diminishing the clout of unions in the workplace and in the political arena while limiting worker gains and protections.

Labor relations will become more contentious. This goes hand-in-hand with the “Right-to-Work” initiative. Management is more emboldened by the political climate, declines in union membership, and the elimination of worker protections implemented under the Obama administration. Demands for union concessions in salary, benefits, and workplace rules will increase in 2018.

The National Labor Relations Board will become more employer-friendly. This trend began in 2017 the result of new Trump appointees. They already began to demolish rules protecting employee rights, compensation, safety, and other areas. Supported by Executive Orders, the trend has the potential to hurt workers, particularly those who lack Union protections.

The decline in Union membership may bottoming out. We are beginning to see data that indicates union membership maybe ready to increase. Ron Bieber, president of the Michigan AFL-CIO reports that data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show “labor unions in Michigan added 52,000 new members in 2017. This was the biggest annual jump in union membership in Michigan in over a decade, and even more importantly, it means there are now more dues-paying union members in Michigan than there were in 2012 — the year Gov. Rick Snyder signed right-to-work legislation into law.” In Ohio, we are also beginning to see narrow increases in union membership.

Additional support from Millennial employees appears to be bolstering unions, as does new organizing in developing industries such as casinos. Changing union strategies also appear to be helping increase membership.

The union movement certainly is not where it used to be, but the reversal of the decline may be in sight. The speed at which this continues will be determined in large part by the results of the mid-term election this November. A change in the political landscape could bring about significant changes in union support and worker protections.

Automation will become an increasing issue in the workplace and place new pressures on labor and management and in negotiations. We predicted this trend last year, and we continue it in 2018. We saw the potential impact of automation, ranging from robots in manufacturing to automated buses.

There is no doubt automation is coming, but questions remain about its speed, and the short or long impact on existing workers and communities. While some believe there will be little real effect in the next few years, others are not as optimistic.

Recently, the Columbus Dispatch reported a University of Oxford study which identified jobs likely to be automated in the future. These include tens of thousands of cashiers, truck drivers, fast-food workers and warehouse laborers. The Dispatch reports about 2.5 million jobs in Ohio are at risk of being automated. Total employment in the state was about 5.5 million in December. Although the Oxford study does not place a time line on this job elimination, it can not be ignored.


Does your organization need help with developing communications, problem solving, and workplace improvement skills? CALMC has helped many organizations, and we can help you. Take a moment to look at our website, calmc.org, and contact us to discuss ways we can help your organization.

In an upcoming blog, we will look at some of the issues that will impact the workplace in general beyond just labor-management relationships. Please join us then. In the meantime, let us know your thoughts on these or other trends you see in your workplace.

About CALMC Blog

Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to involving employers and employees to preserve jobs, resolve workplace issues, and promote labor-management cooperation. Visit our website at http://calmc.org
This entry was posted in CALMC, Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee, Communications, Conflict Resolution, Data-Based Decision Making, Employee Engagement, Employee Involvement, Labor-Management Cooperation, Problem Solving, Right to Organize, Trends in Labor-Management Relations, Worker Voice and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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