The ‘Birdies, Bogeys and Pars’ of Union Leadership

The UnionBuilt PC “LeaderBoard”
The ‘Birdies, Bogeys and Pars’ of Union Leadership

– Guest Post by Fred Romanuk, Ph.D.

I asked Pete Marchese if I could write a monthly article on ‘Union Leadership’. He said, “I don’t know. Why don’t you write something and we’ll see if anyone reads it.” But, first, do a Bio so people know who you are”.

So, here goes. My name is Fred Romanuk, I am a Canadian, I worked out of Vancouver for most of my life from my own company, but from Baltimore for a number of years as Senior VP for an international consulting company, and I am an ‘Organizational Psychologist’. That simply refers to the fact that I have a Ph.D. in organizational psychology.

So what does that mean?

farmers

Well, to illustrate, there were 2 farmers talking to each other across a fence about their kids.

The first farmer said, “I here yer boy went off to College”.

The second farmer replied, “Yup, yup, he did”.

“What’s he doin there”? asked the first farmer.

“Well, he told me he wants to get this here BS Degree”.

“I reckon I know what that stands fer” said the second farmer.

“Yup, yup” said the first farmer. “Then he wants to stay there and get this here MS degree”.

“What does that stand fer?” asked the second farmer.

“I reckon that stands fer, More of the Same”

“What is he goin to do then” asked the first farmer.

“Well, then we wants to get this here Ph.D.”

“So what does that stand fer?” asked the second farmer.

“I reckon that stands fer, Piled Higher and Deeper

*  *  *

Most of what I know about organizations I learned from my clients, not from school. And, I am a damn good Organizational Psychologist. I have worked with companies for 40 years and Unions for about 20 years. During that time, I have coached many Supervisors into Managers, Managers into VP’s and VP’s into Presidents. Now I want to coach Stewards, Union Reps, Business Agents, Local VP’s and Presidents to become better leaders.

The long and the short of it is that Unions need to get better at what they do.

I have worked with organizations in Canada, the USA and Europe. Some of my clients include Roadbuilders, Mining Companies, Manufacturers, Retail Stores, and Electric and Gas Utilities. I consulted with Panasonic in New Jersey, British Electricity International in London, and a Swiss Bank in Geneva. I have a lot to say.

Next month, I want to talk about “Giving Good Phone”.

Let Pete know if you are interested in reading my stuff by leaving a Comment, or sounding off on the Union Built PC Facebook Page, or on their Twitter or LinkedIn feeds.

 

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Five Ideas For Union Recruitment of Young People

Communicating to and engaging with young people is notoriously difficult – even for major multinationals with millions of dollars in marketing budgets. For unions, which are under regular attack from media figures and conservative politicians, it is as difficult for join young people up and engage them in campaign as for any organisation.

A key for effective communication is to understand your audience. Communicating with young people requires this in spades. There is no such thing as generic “young person”. Like other groups of potential members, young people are united by common interests, education, income, demographics, needs, geographies, occupations, goals, communities and ethnicities (amongst other things).

The difficulties of encouraging young people to join unions are obvious, but here are some. Young people are more likely to have precarious employment and many will be working in a job they do not foresee as a long-term career. Being casual means they have a smaller income to pay union dues. Young people are often very mobile, so can change jobs easily (if they can find work at all).

Many young people are unaware that a union exists that would cover them. Increasingly, young people have high expectations for organizations in terms of the quality of communication experience: in print, online and on television and radio – it should be engaging, interactive and relevant. Their expectations upon joining may be quite high: as everything speeds up, everyone, including young people, expect instant responses and solutions to problems. The prevalence of smart phones amongst young people means that they’re more and more expecting organizations to have mobile-ready websites and other communications creative, like videos or games.

Finally, more and more young people want customized responses to their concerns and needs. Big service organizations like mobile phone companies, credit card companies, health insurance companies and media companies have responded by fragmenting their offers and allowing a “pick and choose” approach. These companies aren’t doing this because they like choice, but because their customers are demanding and expecting them.

Unions, unlike behemoths like Coke or Nike, don’t have massive marketing budgets. These multi-nationals spend a small fortune on market research, in an elusive search for “cool”. The result is often awfully superficial, and distils young people down to stereotypes focused on consumption. Where they excel however is their creative execution. Their ads are better produced, their websites more engaging.

Most unions understand many of the workplace concerns of young people. In most regards, the needs and desires of young people won’t differ much from their older colleagues. They want recognition and respect, and decent wages and conditions.

Unfortunately, unions are most often let down by their execution. Attempts to pitch at young people are often ham fisted, filled with “grunge” fonts and out-of-date “youth-speak”.

Social-Recruiting

So, having outlined some of the challenges, here are five ideas for unions to use when trying to engage young people at work:

1. Link careers with unions

Most young people who have casual jobs don’t see it as a career, especially if the job in question is one they have while attending college. Eventually however, they will embark on a career, and if they’re lucky, it will be one they are passionate about.

Unions should draw more clearly the link between a young worker’s interests and passions, and thus their future career, with the union. This can be difficult for unions covering those casual jobs — but for unions with coverage over those career jobs, engagement with your future members starts before they enter the workforce.

This is most obvious for young people pursuing professional jobs like teaching, nursing or engineering, but can apply for careers like the law, journalism, architecture or graphic design (or even accounting and marketing).

Having a campus outreach program, student membership (so you can give potential members a “trial” membership) and programs to strengthen the specific career is essential.

For unions that cover those casual, precarious work, it’s time to get more creative.

Perhaps investigate joint membership with those career, professional unions. When a teaching student at university gets student membership with the teacher’s union, could they have an associate membership with the union that covers their fast-food job? (This could be organised through a state or national peak body.) Could unions work with universities, colleges or schools, where the educational institution buys “bulk” membership for their students?

2. Don’t talk down to prospective members

Avoid thinking of the current generation like your own. This generation simply doesn’t think or act as you do.

The way that young people engage online or with television, or even with major corporate brands, is changing constantly. For most of you, when you were entering the workforce, Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist. Now things like Instagram and Snapchat are changing how young people create and distribute content. This generation has simply never lived without the Internet.

The bottom line here is that unions need to talk to young workers as equals. For a start, messages that emphasise how vulnerable young workers are, or how they are being exploited, can make young people feel devalued. Even though it’s true that young workers are more likely to be ripped off or poorly treated, starting from that point is less likely to engage young people.

Effective communication is often informal and personal, with engaging imagery. It is delivered across all key social sites, including through mobile and apps. It relies on peer-to-peer recommendations and often uses testimonials from other young people talking positively about their experience.

3. Put out your messages on multiple channels

Young people consume media through multiple channels. The phenomenon of multi-screen consumption is well and truly entrenched.

Moreso than ever, when a young person engages with an issue, company or cause, they do so on their mobile, and their tablet, and their computer, and the television. It’s no longer enough to have your message just in print, or just online, or just on TV or radio (depending on your budget).

Your message will not only be more meaningful, but it will be more engaging if it can be consumed through multiple channels.

At the risk of sounding obvious, unions should communicate with young workers in places they are likely to be. Don’t just launch your website or Facebook page. You need to promote your message in a wide variety of places: at the cinema, on TV, on Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, out-door, and in apps. In order to cut through the white-noise of modern marketing, you need to (unfortunately) increase your volume and your reach.

Unions are still playing catch up on this front. Most unions are still heavily invested in their print media: journals, posters, flyers. While some are broadening out to improving their websites, email and social media presence, substantial investment is needed still.

4. Use creative that aligns with young people’s lives

By the time they enter the workforce, most young people will have already formed tight social circles, whether through school, sport, music, church or other interests. While unions may not seem like it is their role to help workers “fit in”, it can be an important opportunity for organizers and delegates to engage with young workers. This means simple things like ensuring that delegates welcome young workers and help ensure they are included.

It also means that unions should use creative — that is, graphic design and text copy — that resonates with contemporary culture. I don’t mean that older people should write “cool” lingo. But union communicators and organizers should be aware of communication trends. This is a big challenge, but unions who want to engage with and join young people to the union need to invest more in creative graphic design and communication that is relevant and modern, and be able to adapt.

5. Don’t be stuck to the past

It can be difficult for unions to move quickly or respond to new challenges. As democratic organizations, unions often can only make big (but important) changes through democratic decision-making, such as annual or biannual council meetings or delegate conferences.

However, unions must take a fresh look at what their core message is (not just to young people, but overall). Focus and clarity are essential. What are unions all about? Why does the union exist?

If these simple things cannot be clearly expressed in a contemporary manner, then you will have trouble communicating to young workers.

The essence of all effective communication is focus. Unions must communicate a single thing clearly.

Be prepared to jettison the old ways of communicating — those “ten reasons to join” lists, and outdated slogans about “workers united will never be defeated”. Also, forget about your communications being one way. The days of broadcast communications being effective are over. Even big brands who advertise on TV find that their ads are being talked about on social media like Twitter or Facebook and more. Think about the new trend of major advertisers such as Burger King that activate your smart technologies by yelling out “Hey Alexa” in their ads.

More broadly than just messaging and communications, unions need to start creatively thinking about membership options and plans. Not just looking at price, but considering options where young people can join without the full “premium” service, or “online only” advice. How unions engage with young people will increasingly be online. Should unions look at 24-hour “chat” services to give advice instead of expecting face-to-face meetings with industrial officers or organizers? How can young workers engage in solidarity actions digitally? Unions need to come to terms with the notion that “full” engagement and commitment is a very high bar.

YOUR TURN

Given the challenges inherent in recruiting young Union members, what ideas do you have to try to drive membership among this generation? Sound off on the Union Built PC Facebook Page or on our Twitter or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly UNION STRONG email newsletter. You may unsubscribe at any time.

 

Fair Work Week: Oregon the First State to Curb Schedule Abuses

Oregon is set to become the first U.S. state requiring certain businesses to furnish workers with a week’s notice of their job schedules and a minimum of 10 hours rest between daily shifts under a bill that won final legislative approval last week.

FAIR WORK WEEK

The bill, dubbed the “fair work week” act by supporters, is aimed at giving greater predictability to low-wage employees whose hours tend vary widely from day to day or week to week. Democratic Governor Kate Brown is expected to sign the bill into law.

The measure would go into effect next year and apply to Oregon workers on the payrolls of retail, food service and hospitality companies with at least 500 employees worldwide where abusive scheduling practices have become increasingly common.

Under the bill, those companies must provide employees in Oregon, starting on July 18, with written estimates of their work schedules seven days in advance, with the required scheduling notice increased to two weeks beginning in July 2020.

RELATED: Coast-to-Coast American Workers Fight for Stable Schedules

Workers also would be entitled to a break of at least 10 hours between work shifts from one day to the next, and to receive extra pay if they agreed to a shorter rest interval – typically between closing hours at night and opening hours the next morning.

Moreover, the bill protects employees from workplace retaliation for merely expressing a scheduling preference to their bosses.

RELATED: Yes, We Can Do Something About Insecure Work in America

Work schedule predictability has emerged as a major issue causing growing anxiety in the American labor force even as the U.S. jobless rate has fallen to below-average levels.

Supporters of Oregon’s bill cite recent studies showing volatile work hours becoming increasingly common, posing difficulties in managing personal finances, arranging for child care and making doctor’s appointments, especially for single working parents.

One in six Oregon workers reported having less than 24 hours notice of their job shifts; nearly three-quarters said they were notified of work schedules two weeks or less in advance; and 44 percent said they had worked back-to-back shifts, such as closing one day and opening the next, according to a report from the Labor Education Research Center of the University of Oregon and Portland State University.

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How the Law Works

Under SB 828, retail, hotel, and food service establishments that have 500 or more employees worldwide must:

  • Provide new hires with a written good faith estimate of their work schedule
  • Post work schedules at least 7 days in advance (14 days after July 1, 2020).
  • Provide at least 10 hours between work shifts (unless the employee requests or consents to work otherwise, in which case they earn time-and-a-half for hours worked less than 10 hours after the previous shift)
  • Compensate employees for schedule changes: An extra hour of pay for each time more than 30 minutes is added to a shift, or the date or start time of a shift is changed with no loss of hours, or an additional work or on-call shift is added; and an extra half an hour of pay for each scheduled hour that an employee doesn’t end up working because the employer cancels a shift or changes the start or end time of a shift.
  • Pay half-time for each hour that an employee is on-call but isn’t called in to work.

The employers aren’t required to pay for schedule changes that employees initiate. And they can maintain a standby list of employees who are willing to work extra hours on short notice in case of unanticipated customer needs or unexpected employee absences.

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Oregon’s legislation, which sponsors say would mark the first of its kind in the nation, follows the enactment of similar measures by several cities, including Seattle, San Francisco and San Jose, California.

The bill cleared the Oregon’s House of Representatives on Thursday on a bipartisan vote of 46-13. The state Senate passed the measure last week on a vote of 23-6, following extensive negotiations between Democrats and Republicans.

YOUR TURN

How would you benefit from Fair Work Week legislation? Sound off on the Union Built PC Facebook Page or on our Twitter or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.

Unions — Not Corporations — Stand for Freedom of American Workers

Freedom is one of the most cherished American principles. But freedom means more than the ability to speak your mind, practice your religion, or choose your own democratically elected leaders. Our freedoms don’t end with the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Freedom is also the ability to enjoy economic security and stability. And that means more than making a decent living and having enough to pay the bills. It’s about both financially supporting our families and having time to be there for them. Freedom is the ability to take your mom or dad to a doctor’s appointment, to attend a parent-teacher conference, and to retire with dignity.

Unions provide the power in numbers that allow workers to secure and protect these freedoms.

Unite

Unions champion policies that benefit all Americans. They fight for affordable healthcare for all, especially now, as Congress is considering legislation which would inexplicably throw millions of people off the insurance rolls.

Unions fight to improve the quality of public services. Union member Tyrone Wooten is an environmental technician at a medical facility in Flint, Michigan. He knows firsthand the devastating impact of the water supply contamination in his community. And he traveled 14 hours by bus last year to Washington, to protest the testimony of the Michigan governor, whose austerity policies led to the water crisis in Flint.

Unions are also on the front lines when it comes to retirement security participating actively in protecting public pensions and safeguarding Social Security.

RELATED: The Pros of Joining A Labor Union

It’s hard to believe anyone could be against pregnant women and infants having quality health services, families having clean drinking water, or retirees having rock-solid Social Security benefits. But many people actually are. The privileged and powerful — CEOs, massive corporations, and the wealthiest 1 percent — do not just oppose these freedoms. They rig the rules to undermine them and they spend billions of dollars lobbying against them.

And because Unions fight for these freedoms, the moneyed interests have made Unions a target. They want to use the courts to chip away at the rights and protections Unions have won for everyone. They have now petitioned the Supreme Court to take a case called Janus v. AFSCME, in which the plaintiffs seek to impose “right-to-work” as the law of the land in the public sector.

Right-to-work threatens the ability of working people to stand together in a strong Unions, drives down wages and weakens workplace protections, while redistributing wealth upward. Moreover, right-to-work has its roots in the Jim Crow south, where segregationists pushed it to restrict the labor rights of African Americans and keep them from finding common cause with their white coworkers. Right-to-work, in other words, was created to inhibit freedom.

RELATED: What Are The Common Topics In Most Union Contracts?

Americans value their freedom, and they define it broadly. It is the ability to earn a decent paycheck without sacrificing family life. It is the opportunity to live in a safe community and send your kids to a decent school. It is the peace of mind of knowing that an injury or illness won’t ruin you financially and that you can live in some modest comfort in your golden years.

The labor movement believes in — and are the guardians of — all of these freedoms. So, as the corporate special interests gear up for another well-funded attack, let us do everything in our power to protect and defend our freedom to join together in a union.

YOUR TURN

How is your Union taking a stand to protect and defend the freedoms and rights of American Workers. We want to hear your story. Sound off on the Union Built PC Facebook Page or on our Twitter or LinkedIn Feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly UNION STRONG email newsletter. You may unsubscribe at any time.

Union Membership Hits New Low

Fewer American workers belong to labor unions than at any time since the government began tracking membership, according to a new report released Thursday.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said just 10.7 percent of American workers were members of labor unions in 2016, down from 11.1 percent the previous year, and down from 20.1 percent in 1983, the first year the bureau collected union statistics. The number of union workers dropped almost every year during the Obama administration.

workers-demonstrating-during-the-general-strike-of-1926-pic-dm-304443606

“These numbers bear out a trend that’s been underway for some years, and it puts into starker relief the urgency of the moment for labor, now that the Trump administration is in power,” said Joseph McCartin, director of the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University.

In 27 states, fewer than one in 10 workers are union members. Just 1.6 percent of South Carolina workers are members of labor unions.

On the other end of the spectrum, nearly a quarter of New Yorkers are members of a union, and almost 20 percent of those employed in Hawaii pay union dues.

More than half of the 14.6 million union workers in the nation live in just seven states — California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Jersey and Ohio.

The long-term decline in union membership comes as the American manufacturing industry has fallen precipitously. The automotive industry alone, once the bedrock of the labor movement, now employs far fewer people than it did during its heyday.

Federal labor laws, first written after the Great Depression and seldom updated thanks to political gridlock, have hurt the union movement, McCartin said.

“We have a labor law that’s 80 years old, that was created for a different economy than the one we have now,” McCartin said. “As the economy changed and the law remained the same, it became increasingly difficult for unions to organize successfully.”

The long-term trend of declining union membership has been accelerated in some states, where Republican-led legislatures have passed so-called right-to-work laws that allow employees to opt out of paying union dues. Twenty-seven states have right-to-work laws on the books, after Kentucky passed a version earlier this year. Two more states, Missouri and New Hampshire, are moving to implement right-to-work laws in current legislative sessions.

Some companies that once employed thousands of union workers are opting to locate new production and manufacturing facilities in right-to-work states. Boeing, which employs tens of thousands of union workers in Washington, opened a new assembly line that builds its 787 aircraft in South Carolina, a right-to-work state, in 2011.

In recent years, Republicans in such states as Wisconsin and Ohio have targeted public employee unions, one of the last remaining bastions of strong labor participation. Just more than 40 percent of local government employees are members of unions, the BLS reported, the highest rate of any industry segment.

Older workers are most likely to be members of unions, while new entrants into the work force are least likely. Just over 14 percent of workers between the ages of 55 and 64 are union members, while just under 10 percent of those between 25 and 34 belong to unions.

YOUR TURN

What do you think we can do to increase Union Membership? We want to hear from you! Sound off on the Union Built PC Facebook Page or on our Twitter or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly #UnionStrong email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.

The Pros to Joining a Labor Union

Thanks to labor unions, wages have improved, the workweek is shorter and the workplace is safer.

However, employers sometimes complain that unions are harmful to business and to the economy. From an employee standpoint, is being a union member beneficial? Here are some pros of union jobs.

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Better wages. The median weekly income of full-time wage and salary workers who were union members in 2010 was $917, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For nonunion workers, it was $717.

More access to benefits. Some 93 percent of unionized workers were entitled to medical benefits compared to 69 percent of their nonunion peers, according to the National Compensation Survey published last year by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The survey represented about 101 million private industry workers and 19 million state and local government employees.

Unmarried domestic partners — same sex and opposite sex — also had access more often to these benefits if they were unionized. Workers with union representation also had 89 percent of their health insurance premiums paid by their employer for single coverage and 82 percent for family coverage. For nonunion workers, the comparable numbers were 79 percent and 66 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And 93 percent of unionized workers have access to retirement benefits through employers compared to 64 percent of their nonunion counterparts.

Job security. Nonunion employees are typically hired “at will,” meaning they can be fired for no reason. There are exceptions. Employers can’t terminate a worker for discriminatory reasons such as race, religion, age and the like. Nor can they fire an at-will employee for being a whistle-blower and certain other reasons.

However, workers with union jobs can only be terminated for “just cause,” and the misconduct must be serious enough to merit such action. Before an employee can actually be fired, he or she can go through a grievance procedure, and if necessary, arbitration.

Workers who know they can’t easily be fired, will be willing to speak up freely.

Strength in numbers. Unionized workers have more power as a cohesive group than by acting individually. What you gain is the muscle of collective action. Through collective bargaining, workers negotiate wages, health and safety issues, benefits, and working conditions with management via their union.

Seniority. Rules differ among collective bargaining agreements, but in the event of layoffs, employers usually are required to dismiss the most recent hires first and those with the most seniority last — sometimes called “last hired, first fired.”

In some cases, a worker with a union job who has more seniority may receive preference for an open job. Seniority also can be a factor in determining who gets a promotion. The idea is that seniority eliminates favoritism in the workplace. Ultimately, the chief advantage of seniority is it is completely objective.

YOUR TURN

What benefits do you see in being a Union Member? Sound off on the Union Built PC Facebook Page, on our Twitter or LinkedIn feeds and don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly #UnionStrong email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.

A Sobering Reminder to Unions on the Critical Importance of Supreme Court Appointees

President Trump is looking for a surefire conservative for the Supreme Court. For all the escalating rancor, this round to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia could be the prelude to a more consequential battle. The possibility of a second Supreme Court vacancy in the near future is subtly affecting the strategy of the Republican Trump team in the final stages of selecting a candidate and of Democratic opponents girding for what could be years of political turmoil surrounding the composition of America’s highest court.

Scalia, who died last February, was a rigid conservative on social issues so Trump’s replacement would likely be a wash. But a Trump successor to either of the two eldest justices — liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who will turn 84 in March, or centrist-conservative Anthony Kennedy, turning 81 in July — could truly transform the law in America.

How the Fate of Unions Fell Into The Hands of a Single Man

In Commonwealth v. Hunt, (1842), an American legal case in which the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that the common-law doctrine of criminal conspiracy did not apply to labor unions. Until then, workers’ attempts to establish closed shops had been subject to prosecution. Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw asserted, however, that trade unions were legal and that they had the right to strike or take other steps of peaceful coercion to raise wages and ban nonunion workers.

lemuel-shaw

The case stemmed from a demand by the Boston Journeymen Bootmakers’ Society that an employer fire one of its members who had disobeyed the society’s rules. The employer, fearing a strike, complied, but the dismissed employee complained to the district attorney, who then drew an indictment charging the society with conspiracy. The Boston Municipal Court found the union guilty.

Justice Shaw, hearing the case on appeal, altered the traditional criteria for conspiracy by holding that the mere act of combining for some purpose was not illegal. Only those combinations intended “to accomplish some criminal or unlawful purpose, or to accomplish some purpose, not in itself criminal or unlawful, by criminal or unlawful means” could be prosecuted.

Shaw, in effect, legalized the American labor union movement by this decision.

Let’s hope that the inevitable Democratic show of force on the first nomination serves as a warning to Trump not to put up an uncompromising conservative for a more consequential opening.

YOUR TURN

Prognosticators? What are your thoughts? Sound off on the Union Built PC Facebook Page or on our Twitter or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly #UnionStrong email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.