WILL THE DISORGANIZED LABOR MOVEMENT MEAN MORE TURMOIL FOR THEM – OR FOR YOU?

WILL THE DISORGANIZED LABOR MOVEMENT MEAN MORE TURMOIL FOR THEM – OR FOR YOU?

October 2005
By Frank T. Mamat Much – perhaps too much – has been written and reported over the last few months on the internal fight between key constituent members of the AFL-CIO, as how best to rebuild the labor movement's sagging membership rolls (less than 8% of the private workforce), and who best to lead the AFL-CIO 's efforts to regain its prominence in the workplace. Ultimately, several unions, including the Teamsters, Service Employees and Laborers (as well as UNITE HERE, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America and the United Farm Workers) split into a separate labor organization. The essence of the "fight": the departing unions want more money assigned for organizing activities, and less for political activities, legislative battles, and maintaining a costly AFL-CIO "infrastructure." What does any of this matter to the average non-union Employer (92% of all U.S. employers), watching what they think is a purely internal civil war play out, with the "Employer" being a neutral bystander. It matters because, as an unorganized, non-union company, you are the target! What the two union factions are fighting about is how to best organize your employees! And, now, instead of a passive organizing mentality built on decades-old, strategies, there will be two different union camps, both trying to prove the other camp wrong, and the only way they can do that is by unionizing your Company! So now instead of having one traditional, familiar approach, you will have two unions fighting over your nonunion employees. In short, there is every reason to expect that there will be much more union activity to "get" your company under the union umbrella, including corporate campaigns that attempt to pressure you into accepting a union. What can you do? Take a good, hard objective look at your employee workforce. Are they competitively paid? Are their fringe benefits comparable to other employees in the industry, in the geographic area? What kind of employee turnover has there been? What has the company's safety record been like recently? What is your history of State or Federal administrative agency investigations or complaints (EEOC, MDCR, OSHA, Wage & Hour, etc.)? How are your supervisors performing? Both union factions will be looking to pick off companies that are vulnerable because of a history of bad or non-competitive wages and benefits or because Management is so out-of-touch that the Company has not even a "clue" of what employees' really think about the Company. It is never too early to do an in-house audit, a candid appraisal of your union vulnerability to a 21st Century union organizing drive - but, if you wait too long, it surely could be too late. A former senior attorney with the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C., Frank T. Mamat is a member of Dickinson Wright PLLC based in the Labor & Employment Department of its Detroit office. The intent of this article is to inform the readers, not provide legal advice. An attorney should be contacted for specific advice before taking action on the information presented. Readers may address questions to Mr. Mamat at his law firm's office at 500 Woodward Avenue, Suite 4000, Detroit, 48226-3425 or by calling (313) 223-3169.
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