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No. 1

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State Of The Unions: Changes & Tactics
line Recruitment Concerns: Crucial Changes Evolving
line Retention: The Flip Side of Recruiting
line Terminating Employees:
Ten Tips On Firing

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Top State Of The Unions: Changes & Tactics

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Checkmark Graphic Overview: Unions Down But Not Out / Re-energized

American employers are now facing a world with TWO large union organizations
rather than one.

Major unions have broken away from the AFL-CIO taking millions of dollars with them.
This new situation will likely herald significant changes relating to labor relations and union organizing efforts.

There is a sentiment that unions are down, but not out.

At first glance the fracture of the unions may appear to weaken them and potentially lessen their impact on employers across the nation. But upon closer examination there are ramifications of this split that may motivate many businesses to re-assess their position and status in relation to the unions and union organizing.

The "Change to Win" (CTW) coalition says that they have left the AFL-CIO because they must change their ways to grow back to prior glory.

Employers may want to prepare for more frequent and more aggressive union organizing campaigns resulting in part from the new attitude and new money in the Change to Win group.

With the ramping up of competition among the unions brought about by this public split, it is expected that there will be a new round of organizing efforts and an increase in press and publicity surrounding these events in the future.

Now two organizations are going head to head in competition to organize non-union labor forces, and so it appears that the declining labor movement of the last decade may be waking up to a renewed energy spurred on by a positively charged competitive environment.

Union organizations will likely be vying against each other for increased membership to prove that their way is the better way. Each wants to impact the world of labor relations and national politics by increasing the role and power of unions in America, but each wants to do it in a fundamentally different way.

For those who are directly affected by this new situation there may be some trying times ahead. With preparation and insight into changing union tactics, renewed union organizing efforts can be met head on with expectations of a positive outcome for employers.

Both the AFL-CIO and the CTW group have not made any product change - they continue to sell a 1950's fear of management. Workers who are better educated and more questioning then ever may not be buying that same old hype about their new age boss who acts more like a coach than a tyrant.

In this article we will look closer at the split of the unions and briefly identify why this happened. We will also look at how this breakup may effect the new union landscape and what we can expect the fallout to be.

Finally we will offer some ideas on what employers can do to meet this new challenge and how labor relations consultants can help.

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Checkmark Graphic AFL-CIO Split: Two World Views Compete

After seven unions withdrew from the AFL-CIO in August of 2005 they formed the "Change To Win Coalition". According to Teamsters president James P. Hoffa this new organization plans to position itself as a "lean, mean organizing machine".

Among the largest of the groups who left the AFL-CIO are the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) and the United Food and Commercial Workers.

Their defection took away more than 4 million of 13 million members and an estimated $28 million in annual dues. That 28 million dollars is money that can be used to organize (read sell) workers on the union model of work place life.

Following decades of attrition in union membership the goal of the new "Change To Win" union organization is to focus more on organizing non-union labor with non-exportable jobs like service, transportation and health care.

Consider that the number of unionized wage and salary workers has dropped from a high of 20% in 1983 to only 12.5% in 2004, and that in the private sector union membership is down to less than 8% from a high of 26% only 50 years ago.

Among the most important reasons for the break up of the unions was the "Change to Win Coalition" frustration over the AFL-CIO's focus on national politics rather than in stopping the continuing loss in union membership.

They wanted more money spent on organizing and a more concentrated effort focused on gaining new members. Now that they are their own organization they are assuring that they have that money and organizational focus.

"In our view, we must have more union members in order to change the political climate that is undermining workers rights in this country. The AFL-CIO has chosen the opposite approach," said Teamsters president James P. Hoffa in a statement. We find this statement fascinating given that the facts are that as union membership has declined we have seen the largest nonstop passage of employee rights legislation of all time. This is hardly an undermining of worker's rights.

Each organization is claiming that the split will not harm the labor movement as a whole. "Our goal is not to divide the labor movement but to rebuild it," noted SEIU President Andy Stern.

So what the new CTW group is really upset about is that the workers no longer want their 50's-60's product - so Labor's solution is to kick up a stronger sales and PR effort. Even if the product is no longer wanted they will use the labor laws to sell it anyway.

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Checkmark Graphic More Money for Organizing

Studies show that 30-60 million non-union American workers are willing to consider unionizing. So the potential market is there - the question is will workers knowingly buy the antiquated union product line.

What continues to be fascinating is that the union's are promising "job security" to be what a worker gets for their $20.00 to $100.00 per month (or more). This is the same union rhetoric that was being sold in the Steel industry, the Auto Industry and many others that are now gone from our shores.

There was no job security provided by the unions. The fact is that unions may have inhibited change and therefore hastened the job-loss to US workers.

While there have been substantial disagreements among the divided union factions about priorities and allocation of resources, there is a new focus on reversing the steady decline in union membership. As a result of this focus, more money is being allocated to union organizing (read sales efforts) and we can expect to see an increase in activity in this area from now on.

Change to Win members have pledged to devote all of their $23 million in savings from leaving the AFL-CIO to organizing efforts. That is $23 million of NEW money to convince workers they should be paying dues to a union.

The new constitution adopted by Change to Win in its September 2005 founding convention devotes 75% of per capita taxes to organizing. It also permits the affiliated unions to devote additional funding to specific organizing campaigns, on top of the 75% of per capita taxes already devoted to such purposes.

It is estimated that the new federation and its member unions will spend nearly $750 million annually on organizing, including spending at the local, state, and national levels.

At Change to Win's initial convention in September of 2005, SEIU organizing director Tom Woodruff promised to create the most aggressive organizing program in fifty years, and set a goal of launching organizing campaigns to target more than 500,000 workers by the end of the year.

For its part, the AFL-CIO has announced it will spend more than $22 million to support local organizing efforts and training for 100,000 union stewards.

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Checkmark Graphic Aggressive Union Tactics Expected

The new Change to Win organization has approved its "campaign for the future".

This includes a commitment to support local organizing and bargaining through demonstrations, boycotts, and corporate campaigns. It also includes building alliances with community, civil rights groups, and others.

As part of this effort Change to Win will have a "strategic organizing center".

The strategic organizing center will guide both multi-union and single-union organizing campaigns and will have the best strategic organizers from each union working with other member unions to spread their expertise.

Some areas we may see more aggressive union organizing tactics demonstrated include:

check graphic  More Corporate Campaigns:
Labor experts expect to see an increase in corporate campaigns, in which unions use public relations and picketing to target specific companies. This may include coordinated pressure tactics that rely upon media exposure, boycotts, and political attacks.

Corporate campaigns have already caused concern and anxiety among business managers in the health care, telecommunications, hospitality and textile industries. As another example, the SEIU sees Wal-Mart as being the equivalent of what the auto, steel and coal companies were back in the 20's and 30's and we can expect a lot of activity directed towards them.

check graphic  More Use of Internet technology:
Unions are expected to expand their use of web sites, weblogs and other information technology to generate interest, link political and social actions to organizing drives, and to set targets demographically.

check graphic  More use of Card Check and Neutrality Agreements:
In recent years some of the leaders of the new Change to Win group have used card check agreements in addition to federally supervised union elections as a method of seeking new union members. Unions will likely try to obtain "neutrality" agreements from employers to ease the unionization of other company operations.

check graphic  More union raiding and mergers of smaller unions:
Though the new union coalition has said that it is focusing on organizing non-union labor and will not raid other unions, it is still likely that this will happen anyway. The threat of raiding may even affect companies with good union relations since some grievances may be filed as part of an effort to avoid criticism from the outside.

And smaller unions are likely to merge with larger unions since this was a plank in the Change to Win platform.

If the Change to Win group can demonstrate immediate success in growth it may convince other unions to leave the AFL-CIO.

Other Tactics we could see in the future may include:

  • Unions are seeking coordinated contract expiration dates to increase economic pressure as the contract terms draw to a close.

  • The use of investigation and disclosure of an employer's policies to customers and the community to try to apply pressure by painting the employer as unfair or needing reform.

  • The possible use of government agencies such as OSHA, State Attorneys General and the Department of Labor to investigate and prosecute violations of law.

  • An increase in national, regional, and industry-specific bargaining to mirror the growing size of many businesses and industries.

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Checkmark Graphic The Role of Labor Consultants

Some labor experts are now saying that the increased use of labor consultants by employers presents a special challenge for the labor movement's newest call for union organizing.

In fact, the AFL-CIO's national organizing director Stewart Acuff has called labor relations consultants "a horrible menace" who are "a problem for unions who are trying to help workers pursue the goal of collective bargaining."

Many labor consultants typically remain in the background during union organizing campaigns while working with supervisors and management personnel to advise on strategy and the various options available to employers for any given situation.

Labor relations consultants working with companies fighting union organizing campaigns usually avoid any intimidation but will more often work effectively by answering the worker's general questions and concerns about unions, and by debunking unrealistic promises made by union organizers.

What NLRB statistics show is that once a worker has become an informed consumer they tend to reject an antiquated product being repackaged with rhetoric and sales hype.

In the event of finding your company the target of an organizing campaign you should consider contacting an expert in labor relations immediately.

You'll need guidance from someone who understands the intricacies of both labor laws and organizing techniques.

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Checkmark Graphic What Employers Can Do

Here are some action points that employers may consider in preparation for any potential union organizing campaign:

  • Assess vulnerability to both union organizing campaigns and anti-corporate activity. If you aren't sure about how to do this, consider hiring a labor relations consultant to help.

  • Check to assure compliance with all federal and state laws, particularly related to NLRA, OSHA and FLSA, etc. All of these may be under scrutiny and should survive close inspection of compliance if called upon to do so. Review all of your employment policies as many may appear to be OK on the surface but subtle word choices make a statement either legal or illegal. An example is the distinction the NLRB makes between "work time" and "work hours". The NLRB says it is OK to prohibit employees from engaging in union activity under one but illegal under the other.

  • Review company practices and procedures and confirm that they are in line with area and industry standards.

  • Assess HR policies and practices to confirm that they meet your company objectives in either countering an actual union organizing campaign or in dealing effectively to prevent a potential campaign.

  • Monitor how your employees feel about workplace issues and ensure that you are providing employees with avenues to voice their concerns internally. A positive environment with open communication and fairness can be crucial in preventing or defeating an organizing campaign.

  • Continue positive supervisory training on a regular basis and assure that all supervisors treat employees fairly and respectfully. Supervisors can make or break an organizing drive by either being the first line of defense, or the first line of vulnerability.

  • Analyze company policies in light of how union pressure can be responded to most quickly and effectively. This can include things like no solicitation policies, employment practices, and employee empowerment programs.

  • Train HR staff and facility managers to read the signs of union interest and union activity. Give them specific information on how to respond effectively and legally to any issues that might arise. Labor relations consultants can assist in this area if help is needed.

  • Prepare your public response to potential anti-corporate campaigning. Don't wait until criticism occurs from workers or outsiders but have a plan for an effective response in place in advance.

  • Implement a regular system on meetings with workers to solicit their input and concerns so you are in tune with what is of concern to workers and show concern for what is of concern to them. Then take action and give feedback to your staffs.

  • Adopt and enforce job application and background check protocols. This may help prevent future problem employees and union "salting" practices.

  • Know your company rights, including property rights.

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Checkmark Graphic Summary

With the split and breakup organized labor in this country happening in public view and with such fanfare, the reputation and future of the new union organizations is on the line now for all to see.

We can expect that the invigorated "call for organizing" (read big sales push) will result in some very public and concentrated examples of organizing to kick things off and set the tone for the future.

Regardless of the outcome of these new organizing efforts the future of unions in this country has taken a turn recently, and there is no turning back.

If your company needs help with union organizing issues you can find out more about Bob Braun Jr. and Braun Consulting Group by clicking here, or contacting him via the contact page on his web site.

To read an interview with Bob Braun Jr. in October 2000 Entrepreneur magazine just click here.

This information should not be used as legal advice or as legal opinion on any matter. Obtain proper professional advice prior to using any information, including the above that could affect your legal liability.

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