Advice from the Career Doctor to the Union President

AFL-CIO Building, Washington DC. (Via Wikipedia)

WASHINGTON, February 8, 2014 – This week’s Prescription: Know your boundaries.

Dear Union President:

I am glad your company has a new Union President who is smart and reasonable. In the past, your leaders pushed the envelope too much. For example, instead of negotiating fair pay and benefits for their members, your previous leaders negotiated for a seat at the management table where they tried to influence every company policy.

We all know that almost anyone can make an argument that every company policy has some impact on employees’ work conditions, and ultimately their benefits and pay. However, because past presidents have fought too hard for a voice in every company policy, they have minimized the strength of the union. They have become weak and ineffective. They have also pushed their employers so far that they have threatened their company’s, and by definition their own, financial future.

Let me give you an example. One past union president of this company offered his opinion on how employees in two different company divisions were to be consolidated. He stated how he wanted the employees trained, mentored, and paid after the consolidation. He also wanted to define how they were to be scheduled for work in the consolidated division.

His opinion did not represent his members. Members thought the company should decide how things should be run in the consolidated division. But, the past president forcefully opined. He threatened to take legal action if the division integration was not done his way.

Many observers of this situation and others like this do not like the act of “bargaining.” They believe that union members take things too far.

I think you are needed. You are sometimes mistreated by management, especially given the kinds of money the big bosses are making. Based upon what is currently occurring at Walmart and McDonalds, I think we can all see that reasonable and smart bargaining with such companies could help.

Your job is to ensure that you and your members work under fair conditions, are paid fairly and receive fair benefits. If you ask for too much in the way of money and benefits, your company’s prices will go up and your customers will buy less products from you. Or, your managers will hire fewer employees like they were forced to do in Detroit.

Please stay focused, reasonable and fair so your company and your members thrive. Maintain positive negotiations that get you a regular invitation to the table.

Boundaries in the workplace are good for all.

Sincerely yours,

The Career Doctor

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  • Jim Bozeman

    Sorry, Doc, but reason and union negotiating do not mix. Having been on both sides of the argument, in my opinion the union hierarchy has one goal which is to grow the size of their treasury. Dues paying union members are merely the means to that end. Decisions made that actually benefit union members are coincidental.