What changes are needed for unions to maintain support from their membership, the community, and the employers?
In order to maintain support from their membership, the community, and the employers, unions have decided to change the dynamics of organizing by changing the environment and conditions where organizing occurs. They have become conversant with the idea that when the employers decide to use the entire 'arsenal' at their disposal, it becomes impossible for unions to win organizing campaigns. Their organization is basically pegged on employer mistakes hence union's insistence that laws have to be changed.
Unions are fighting hard to influence behavior and attitude of employers with regards to collective bargaining. Using corporate campaigns, they try to prevail on companies to deal fairly and equitably with unions. Corporate campaigns involve exerting pressure on financial backers to discourage employer resistance to union organizing. This is primarily used during contract negotiations. This has worked where the traditional use of strikes as an economic weapon declined. Unions endeavor to convince employers to remain neutral, provide greater union access to employees, and establish alternative recognition procedures (Feinstein, 2005).
One of the strategy unions uses is bargaining to organize. They seek to expand their recognition within a corporation when their employees become organized. The communication workers of America and Verizon agreed that Verizon should be neutral when it comes to issues pertaining to CWA. CWA collective bargaining also integrated non-NLRB procedures. There was also consensus on the union's access to for future organizing campaigns (Feinstein, 2005).
Unions, in a bid to win the support of Employers, provide positive incentives to minimize employer resistance to union organizing. Unions take advantage of prevailing political clout to help employers if they agree to be union friendly. They have taken to helping employers acquire funding for their businesses or even get government contracts. They also help employers in acquiring permits. They do all these on condition that the employers agree to observe neutrality. Political alliances have been mooted between unions and developers. Other community groups have also not been left out.
Community groups are reigned in to conditionally support specific projects. The involvement of developers with employers is pegged on employers' readiness to agree to community friendly policies that encompass union neutrality and alternative union recognition procedures. These agreements are not pegged on change in labor laws and are therefore insulated from federal preemption concerns. One of the organizations that have promoted this approach is Los Angeles Alliance for New Economy (LAANE). Organizations have also made pledges that endeavor to provide assistance and expertise to unions and other community groups with a view to developing new strategies that take advantage of union political strength. Unions have also received the much needed support from procurement and contracting policies that are in favor of responsible employment practices.
Low bid contracting has been substituted with contracting methods with clear criteria for awarding contracts. These criteria are based on a number of considerations namely past performance, quality, health and safety performance, past compliance with labor law, and ready access to a supply of well trained workers. A number of government agencies have since enacted laws that promote these principles. Responsible contracting laws and procedures improve chances of union's contractors winning government contracts. Contractors have therefore become less resistant to unions. Unions also use trigger agreements to enhance employer neutrality and employee access to unions. Trigger agreements urge employers to be less hostile to unions especially after specified numbers of employers in an industry have adopted the agreement. A union has to organize employers in a given market before it organizes employer's employees in order to gain employer's acceptance.
The trigger agreement reduces employer's resistance to neutrality and access agreements. Unions presently pressurize recalcitrant employers to act in a less hostile manner by seeking to block the needed government approval of development projects, building permits, and award of contracts or funding. Unions have also intensified community-based campaigns to force the employers to adopt neutral posture towards organizing (Feinstein, 2005).
Another change that unions have initiated to win the support of the community, its members, and the employers is building public support for unions. This involves making the case that unions are for the good of workers because of their involvement in collective bargaining and advocacy for needed social reforms. They operate under the premise that violation and suppression of worker's right to join unions is an offense not less than supporting racial or workplace discrimination. By building public support, the unions intend to increase the social cost of fighting unionization. Some campaigns like Voice at Work Campaign promotes Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) agenda champion for labor law reforms as well as increasing public awareness on obstacles workers face when organizing unions. When the public becomes aware of the failure of the existing labor laws the union becomes capable of mobilizing public criticism of employers who use the error in law for their selfish gain (Feinstein, 2005).
Unions organizing environment have also changed due to enactment of state and local laws. Of much significance have been state and local legislations that extend bargaining rights to state and local employees. State and local employees are members of unions that have been re-invigorated by bargaining laws. Unions are presently promoting innovative reforms at state, county, and municipal levels to encourage union growth at these levels where management of labor relations is restricted to the doctrine of federal preemption. This doctrine is retrogressive as it limits the ability of states to enact legislation intended to regulate private sector labor relations. Employees who are not covered by the NLRA are under the Municipalities "card check" union laws. They are therefore beyond the reach of federal preemption. Unions have therefore taken to improving workplace conditions and enhancing worker organization to get employees' approval (Feinstein, 2005).
Labor unions are experiencing a decline, which includes political influence and membership. How do politics influence membership decline?
Politics has from time immemorial played a significant role in labor union politics. Talk of the non-union industrial relation system of the 1920s and their near collapse when the great depression of the 1930s exposed their weaknesses. This made the political support that they enjoyed to dwindle. This was fueled by the fall in real national income, nonagricultural employment, and general rise in unemployment. Welfare capitalists did very little to stem unemployment and maintain wages. They lost the independent support of the unionisable members. Union membership dropped because of depression era politics. The unemployed members dropped their membership. Employers, because of their stronger bargaining position, thwarted every union's drive. However, during President Roosevelt stint in the White House there was significant rebound of union membership because his government was pro-unions.
When the Knights of labor (KOL) got engaged in national general strike with a view to pressuring employers to allow its employees to work for eight hours in a normal workday, they nearly collapsed. The strike coincided with the bombing of the Haymarket square in Chicago. This provoked red scare. Because of politicization, KOL membership dropped to half a million in 1887. The union was subjected to a series of harassment by Chicago police who broke up union meetings, seized union records, and banned coloreds from advertisements. In spite of the support that KOL gave to the Populist Party in 1890, its membership persistently declined falling to under 50, 000 by 1897 (Blewett, 1988).
After the Second World War, it was eminent that America had the weakest labor movement. This was a major set back bearing in mind that United States was at that time an advanced capitalist democracy. Second World War politics must have played a significant role in the decline of unions. After the Second World War, over 8 million workers went on strike especially between 1945 and 1946. This had very little impact on labor's political positioning or bargaining power. CIO's failure to organize the south was attributed to a number of factors politics being one of them. Forces that were against unions mobilized and began engaging in private repressions. They also exploited racial divisions. The south therefore became a non-union. They were therefore subjected to low pay. The south eventually became a bastion of anti-union politics (Whatley, 1993).
Legislations that impact on labor relations are also an example of the role politics play in the decline of labor unions. The aspirations that labor movements had during the WWII error quickly vanished after the war. When the Republican congress decided to amend the Wagner Act and enacted Taft-Hartley Act in 1947, employers and state officials were given new powers against strikers and unions. With the new law in place, union leaders had to sign a non-Communist affidavit to enable them to compete in NLRB-sponsored elections. As a result, labor became divided at a time when normalcy had not fully returned. This was occasioned by radical politics and Lewis resolve to enter into an alliance of convenience with Communists. This destabilized CIO. In an attempt to appease the political right, the CIO expelled…