I was the child of a blue-collar worker that worked for a unionized corporate plant. He worked for the American Dream of home and family. We had a house because of it. He earned a living wage. There were difficult times, especially during s strike. It is not for those unwilling to make the commitment. He would be forced to work other jobs until the strike ended, a big deal they don’t agree to lightly. It impacts their families and trying to predict a strike’s length is fruitless. But it earned him a job with pride. We were a middle-class family.
Fast forward to being an adult raising children, I became a middle-class blue-collar worker and took pride in the job I did. It was a wonderful company and I loved it there. We were asked if we wanted to vote to bring in a union. We were not pressured even once by the company. I spoke to my teammates (because that’s what we were) and we agreed that it was a company that cared about us. We were already content, so we voted no. I knew some of the ups and downs of a union. We didn’t need it, and we were happy with the vote turning out against it. The best part was a nod of approval to the company. It spoke volumes of who they were. We were happy…..until…..
The company was sold to a bigger corporation and we shifted to not being valued. “You should be grateful you work for such a big company” we were told. Step by step the things that made it such a great place to work were removed. “A happy worker is a productive worker” was no longer the heart of the business and the volume of production required for each worker was increased to the work of two plus. Talk surfaced about the need of a union, the previous vote now feeling more like a mistake. We were told they would shut the place down. A vote was never taken. We could not chance it.
There is good and bad about a union and many are either fans or opposed to them. It is all based on the perspective they have on what they know. So what should come out of this? Where is the middle ground so desperately needed to this issue?
For the Companies
If a company or corporation really wants to “walk the talk” of caring about the workers, perhaps they could take a look at the true value of those who work for them. Do it to the point they feel no need for a union. If threats are the deciding factor of a vote, what does that really say? When your workers can say “we see no need” then you can smile at a job well done at being leaders.
Perhaps you could find out what those who voted for a union felt and study the answers. If the company could use the answers as a learning opportunity to improve things for their workers, they would never have the need for a union. What an opportunity to learn what matters to the employees!
For the Unions
For the unions, look at the regretted votes and what their message in it is, to improve your services. Always strive to be the best allies of your workers without making it a power and dues money grab. You have a Noble purpose and perhaps you could pride yourself on making sure your workers feel that way. Then companies who really do not care will have the protection for the workers. It is a sad statement to say there are many of them.
So, where is the bottom line?
Employees are an investment, not an expense and deserve the respect of that focus. They matter, and it is your job to prove it. For many, the employee is also your customer. Is it because they cannot afford not to, or because they believe in you? The answer is important.