A high-powered management law firm–which has offices in 16 states, including Arizona and Colorado—recently published an interesting article on its website that says employers sometimes can’t blame their employees for joining a union.
Labor Letter—written by attorneys Michael Mitchell and Matthew Simpson—is a publication of the firm of Fisher & Phillips. It might surprise Fisher & Phillips’ clients to learn that unions might agree with most everything in the piece, which summarizes five reasons that employees turn to unions for help in the workplace.
According to them, the primary reason workers join unions is that they believe the employer is treating them unfairly. “Where employees feel they have been subjected to discipline which they did not deserve, or did not expect, or that another employee got a break that they did not, union organizing may not be far off,” say Mitchell and Simpson.
“The solution here is a simple one,” they assert. “Establish clear policies and regulations and follow them. Too often employers satisfy the first step and fail to meet the second. You also need to train and update managers and supervisors on employment practices and make sure they are being implemented effectively and consistently.”
Number 2 on their list is non-competitive pay and benefits. Companies that provide fair and competitive wages are less susceptible to this argument, according to the Labor Letter article. “The bottom line in an organizing drive often comes down to wages and benefits. Unions argue consistently that representation leads to higher wages, better health care and a secure retirement. The ‘union advantage,’ they are told will put money in their pockets.”
Substandard workplace safety is the third most important factor in workers unionizing, say Mitchell and Simipson. “They expect safety training, appropriate equipment, and clear guidelines and procedures for responding to and reporting workplace accidents.” Failing to meet basic safety expectations not only leaves the company susceptible to OSHA citations, but also adds fuel to union organizing campaigns.
Respect, or lack thereof, is ranked fourth on the list of reasons workers organize. Employees don’t like to be ignored and they don’t care much for being disrespected, says Labor Letter. “Disciplining employees in front of others, assigning blame before reviewing the facts and generally playing favorites are all factors that can cause employees to feel disrespected, and turn to a union for help.”
Number five is ignoring employee complaints. “You don’t like to be ignored. Neither do your employees. When you overlook employees’ complaints and especially claims of discrimination and payroll concerns, or fail to resolve them quickly and efficiently, resentment grows.” Indeed it does.
The order of importance Mitchell and Simpson’s five reasons for worker unrest are probably debatable, but without question they all offer motivation for workers to seek union representation.
It is no secret to labor organizers why workers seek union representation. Since the colonies were established, employers have treated workers unfairly, seeking to pay the lowest wages possible, limiting benefits, operating unsafe workplaces, disrespecting workers and ignoring employee complaints.
Unfortunately, when confronted with a union organizing campaign, anti-union employers usually respond with a collective, “Who me. I’ve never done that.”
With that attitude, lawyers will be in demand to represent them, and unions will be needed to protect their workers.