Posts Tagged ‘organizing’

In the past couple of months I’ve attended at least 4 seminars or meetings in the Human Resources community where the proposed Employee Free Choice Act of 2009 (officially, H.R. 1409) has stirred up a minor or major panic in HR professionals. Part of the reason for the panic is that in each case the presenter was a labor or employment law attorney. It’s part of their job to cause you to panic and then call them up because you need their assistance to put your mind at ease.  There are billable hours involved, of course. I have very close friends who are attorneys so before you all start treating me like Benedict Arnold, I said only a part of the panic was induced by dollar signs. I will go further to say that it was the smaller part (but still effective). 

If you are not familiar with H.R. 1409, a brief overview is available at http://morahr.com/hrnewsview.aspx. However, here are the major aspects in a nutshell. Introduced in the US House of Representatives on March 10, 2009, H.R. 1409 is known as the Employee Free Choice Act of 2009.  This act if passed in it’s current version will impact employers in three very important ways. It would (1) amend the National Labor Relations Act to establish an easier system to enable employees to form, join, or assist labor organizations through a signature/checkcard system rather than private ballot elections; (2) provide for mandatory and stiffer injunctions for unfair labor practices during organizing efforts, and for other purposes; and (3) require companies and newly certified unions to enter into binding arbitration if they cannot reach agreement on an initial contract after 90 days of negotiations and 30 days of mediation.

The majority of the panic I saw on the HR faces of the audience and that I heard voiced is attributed to three points that I pieced together from each presentation. The HR leaders within these organizations know that a union may be attractive to their workforces because:

  1. the workforce is currently compensated and provided benefits at a much lower level than their organized competitors;
  2. management does not have and have not made appropriate efforts to forge a positive working relationship with the workforce; and
  3. the HR professional seems to feel powerless to effect change to either of the two points above.

The unsettled HR professional now sees organizing, if made as easy as the attorneys have stated it will be, as an inevitability. Is it really so?  I don’t think so.

As an HR professional I began my HR career in labor relations and loved it! I am the product of a union steward, my mother, and a business owner, my father (just to be clear, not in the same business). Conflicting views? Definitely! Being a child brought up in between the two worlds, it seems natural that I chose a path that also exists in between the two worlds. Some would say that my path was not truly in between bacause I worked for the company. To them, I would say, if anyone in business has not yet figured out that the company’s success rest solidly within its workforce, get it now. If you are in the profession of human resources, your very effectiveness depends on whether you understand how important it is to unify these two groups in a positive and productive working relationship and whether you are able to communicate the mutual benefit in a manner that everyone gets it. 

I’m not a labor attorney, legislator, nor am I a prognosticator. However, given that one of the more liberal Democrats, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D. Ca.) has already indicated she will not support the EFCA as is, I don’t  believe it will pass in its current form. I do believe it will pass in a milder but still potentially worrisome form. I have a hard time seeing our legislators eradicate private balloting. That would be so un-democratic! We can all see a compromise in the future for this legislation.

For the sake of making a clear enough case to your managment teams, let’s assume that H.R. 1409 does pass in its current form. All the unions around the US are now openly celebrating in the streets. Does your organization have little to worry about or a lot to worry about? You know the answer already.  Share it with your leadership teams and start making the changes needed to stay union-free.

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