Archive for February 22, 2011

Management & Labor- The Yin and Yang of the American Workplace

February 22, 2011 3 comments

I’m a management guy.  Yes, I once belonged to a union but I’ve spent most of the last 20 years of my life sitting on the opposite side of the table from labor unions.  Sometimes I have disagreed vehemently with them.  But I’ve never wanted to do away with their collective bargaining rights.

This business in Wisconsin and 14 other states where attempts are being made to end collective bargaining for public employees is puzzling to me.   While I’ve had my share of disagreements with unions, I have to tell you, when difficult financial times have hit a news organization I’ve worked with, they’ve almost always been cooperative; been willing to give something up- for the greater good.  It’s just not in their interests to bite the hand that feeds them.

I understand Governors having to get tough with government employee unions during this time when state budgets are mostly in the red.  But when unions are willing to make the concessions you need to help balance your state budget, why is it necessary to keep insisting they give up their hard-won rights to collective bargaining- the right to simply sit at a table, representing the interests of workers? 

I’ve just never seen unions as a threat.  Can they be a pain in the ass?  You bet.  Do they get a little greedy from time to time?  Yeah- but you don’t get if you don’t ask.  I’ve certainly never been afraid to say “no- go away.”   I understand that in modern America, most unions are not fighting against things like a 60-hour week or deplorable, fatal working conditions, child labor or sweat shops.  So instead, they fight for salary increases, pension contributions- stuff that 100 years ago would have seemed like fringe benefits.

But a world of management and unions is not a horrible thing.  Sometimes, they actually work together as partners.  It’s the yin and yang of doing business.  Unions have played a significant role in our history in helping to raise the standard of living for regular working men and women. 

Yeah, union rules can get a little picky and can be a hindrance to flexibility and innovation.  But union members- they’re my people.  These are the good folks who work for me.  They’re the folks who are in the trenches and make things happen, whether it’s making newscasts or building widgets.  In negotiations I’ll fight ‘em all day long and into the night if I have to.  But once we’ve crossed our differences and signed the bottom line, we raise our hands in unison because now it’s time to get the job done.  

But ending the right to collective bargaining?  That’s like showing up to play a ball game and making sure the other team can’t make it to the park.  What fun is that, for crying out loud?