Tag archive for "employee free choice act"

by Bill, Leadership, Management, Think About It...

A Crisis of Trust

No Comments 20 July 2009

Within the next year, it seems likely that three things will happen, each of which will put added pressure on employers. In likely order of occurrence they are:

Health care legislation – The odds are that some kind of health care bill will soon be signed into law. While this is generally a good thing, the devil they say is in the details. Regardless, it seems quite likely that health insurance in some form will be made available to all (most), without prejudice on the basis of pre-existing conditions. One of the unintended consequences of this is that lots of people, millions perhaps, who have stayed in jobs they really don’t like because of the difficulty in replacing their health coverage will bolt for greener pastures when that is remedied.

Economic improvement – By even the most pessimistic of projections, the current recession should wind down sometime in the next year. Here again, as conditions change, a lot of workers who have been biding their time (and biting their tongues) will find it considerably easier to move on to greener pastures.

“EFCA lite” – Though it now appears that the so called “Employee Free Choice Act”  legislation will not be passed in its current configuration, my bet is that congress will succumb to pressure and give unions something that makes the organizing process considerably easier, a change that is justifiably not especially welcomed by the business community.

Taken together or independently, the message for employers couldn’t be clearer. Despite the fact that we currently enjoy an “employer’s market”, we would do well to take steps now to preserve, and where possible enhance our reputations as leaders, employers, and business people. How?

A great place, no, a necessary place to start is in taking steps to rekindle trust in ourselves and our organizations. In our recently completed “Post-AIG Leadership Survey” 95% of the 286 mostly management level respondents indicated that rebuilding trust (internally and externally) is a Significant/Very Significant factor in successfully emerging from the current business and economic crisis.

If nothing else, leadership is the earned consent of followers, consent that begins with the trust that, as leaders, we are who we say we are, and that even in the absence of guidelines, we will do what is right. Make no mistake, that faith has been broken, not bent, and either by our own actions or by presumed association, our institutions and leaders, each of us, has to some degree been painted with the same brush of suspicion.

The implication for those of us who would lead others is that we must re-earn that trust, and in a larger sense, re-qualify for duty. It doesn’t matter whether you were busily approving bushels of crazy, shady loans at Countrywide, or diligently minding your p’s and q’s as an honest, hard working floor manager at Claim Jumper Restaurants, or a Delta Air Lines in-flight leader. We all bear the burden. As Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo put it recently, “Corporate America, after the immediate financial crisis, has now found itself thrown into a far more corrosive and durable crisis – a crisis of trust. The victims of recession may not differentiate between guilty and innocent parties – everyone in corporate America could take a share of the blame, deserved or not.”

Let’s get going!

*****

A thought leader in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website at www.contentedcows.com, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

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by Bill, Extra Milers, Leadership, Management

Being Union-Free Involves Commitment & Real Work

No Comments 07 June 2009

Our readers have seen consistent mention of the potential risks to workers and employers alike posed by currently contemplated Employee Free Choice (EFCA), or so-called “card check” legislation. We continue to believe that any statute that negates a worker’s right to have the serious matter of union representation resolved by secret ballot vote is a step backward. That said, organizations that are committed to remaining union-free must do more, far more than simply joining lobbying efforts to defeat proposed legislation. Sadly, too many companies are losing sight of this axiom, or are mistakenly using a temporary “employer’s market” as an excuse for failing to do the necessary things to retaining a focused, fired up, union-free workforce. It’s akin to saying that you needn’t brush your teeth because your town puts fluoride in the water.

Businesses that choose to tap into the discretionary effort (we call it Oomph!) of an engaged workforce unencumbered by an uninvited third party need to routinely (as in consistently) take measures which make it unnecessary for people to look outside the organization for representation. Like what? Like…

Listening – Really listening, both personally and institutionally. One of the absolute requirements for selecting managers ought to be communications skills – including the propensity for listening. People who can’t or won’t routinely evidence understanding of the fact that they were issued two ears and exactly one mouth have no business leading others. One way to augment listening on an institutional level is to diligently use employee surveys, with the results tracked across time at both the unit and leader level, and used as a significant piece of the organization’s performance metrics.

Making Sure that No One Is Abused or Humiliated – In a speech at the Armed Forces Staff College (Delos C. Emmons Lecture Series), Major General Melvin Zais suggested that leaders who push people around because they can are “a little man with a little job and a big head.” I’ll take it a step further and suggest that they are not leaders at all, and need to be on someone else’s payroll, preferably a competitor’s.

Treating People Fairly & Providing an Avenue for Problem Resolution
– One of the chief things that drives employees into the arms of a labor union is the lack of an internal mechanism for resolving workplace problems. As a matter of course, each of us wants to know where we can go to get a fair hearing and resolution if/when we think we’re being treated unfairly. Smart organizations realize that it is far better to provide that avenue internally rather than leaving it to the courts and other outsiders.

Showing Up When People are Having a Tough Time – When everything is said and done, leadership is personal. We either gain or lose our folks one heart at a time. One important way to earn the benefit of the doubt in a world that has become entirely too crusty, cynical and self-absorbed is to be there, in person, whenever someone on your team is having a tough time. Don’t send them a Tweet or an email, show up.

If you’re unwilling to do these things day in and day out, regardless of the economic weather, then you don’t deserve (and likely won’t get) the benefit of the doubt of your workforce when it comes to deploying their discretionary effort, or for that matter, voting “No” in a representation election.

*****
A thought leader in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website at www.contentedcows.com, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

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by Bill, Think About It...

EFCA and March Madness

1 Comment 19 March 2009

Before it was even re-introduced in the U.S. Congress last week, the Employee Free Choice Act (Card Check) legislation produced howls from many in the business community over the fact that, if approved, the bill would make it decidedly (and unreasonably) easier for unions to organize workers. While it will take time to play out, some who read Washington tea leaves think they see signs that the bill’s passing may not be quite the slam dunk (pardon the March Madness) that had been expected.

That said, employers who who are firmly interested in maintaining a union-free posture would do well, regardless of the outcome, to re-visit their employee relations practices, identifying, and improving those policies and programs that annoy workers, stifle effort, and give them pause…the real stinkers. One example: Sick Days.

In recent weeks, Johnson & Johnson has run full page ads in USA Today for its Tylenol Cold medicine. The tag line of the ads is, “If you’re sick, take a sick day.” Easier said than done, especially if you work in many parts of the hospitality industry where, when you’re sick (really sick, as opposed to just wanting a day off), you either go to work, find someone to cover your shift, or call in dead. Those are effectively your options. There is no such thing as calling an individual whose job title is “manager’, reporting your illness, and going back to bed, the toilet, whatever. In other words, the organization has somehow offloaded the staffing obligation long reposited in the manager’s domain to its hourly paid worker-bees.

While we can debate the merits of affording workers paid time off for sick days, it is fundamentally stupid to tell someone that, in addition to providing timely notification of their intended absence, they are expected, while sitting on the throne with violent stomach cramps perhaps, to disturb off duty coworkers at some glorious hour in search of a replacement. Aside from being inconsistent with good employee relations, this practice is an absolute deal breaker for customers, who really resent being sneezed and wheezed on, particularly when it involves food. Come on folks!

A thought leader in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website at www.contentedcows.com

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by Bill, Management

EFCA – More Real than You May Think

No Comments 08 February 2009

EFCA rallyIt is no accident that, in the past few weeks, it feels as though we’re being bombarded by television ads promoting the so called, “Employee Free Choice Act” (EFCA). We are. Big Labor has launched a multi-million dollar ad campaign to stir up interest and support for “card check” legislation that would make it far easier to organize employees, and thus secure new dues paying members.

The ads cleverly capitalize on President Obama’s twin campaign mantras of “hope” and “change”, and the growing resentment of fat cats who continue to pay themselves outsized bonuses while dining at the public trough. The clear implication is that the time has come for America’s workers to level the playing field.

As currently conceived, EFCA would replace a scrupulously fair secret ballot representation election process overseen by federal agents, with a procedure in which union organizers would collect “authorization cards” directly from employees (no secret ballot, no federal oversight.) Collect enough signed cards and it’s all over. Indeed, no less a friend of organized labor than former US Senator, George McGovern has gone on record suggesting that the proposed legislation is harmful to worker interests.

Sadly, a lot of managements fail to appreciate the danger that EFCA presents to them. Recent conversations with the general counsels of two corporations revealed a completely nonchalant attitude about the threat. According to one, “we’re (a $400 million company) too small for unions to bother with.” The other asserted that, by virtue of having the majority of its workers in the south, “it is not likely they will come after us.” Wrong, on both counts. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and just as businesses around the globe are seeking new markets and customers, so are the labor unions that would represent their workers.

Under EFCA, the easiest way for organized labor to to get its foot in the door of one of these companies would be to have an organizer quietly chat up and then collect signed authorization cards from a dozen employees at a small, twenty person plant.Under the proposed legislation, it would then be game over, and the company could be compelled to accept contract terms. In other words, a group of housekeepers in your Santa Fe hotel property or international customer service agents in your Memphis call center could be union members before you even know there is a problem.

Some suggestions:

1. Keep your finger on the pulse of employees throughout your organization. If you’ve not yet made the results of employee opinion surveys part of your business metrics, do so without delay. See to it that the results are attributed by manager, and that they are listened to and acted upon.

2. Learn more about the EFCA and once you have an informed opinion, make sure that your management team, industry associations, and elected representatives know what that opinion is.

3. Develop plans now for how your organization would respond to an organizing campaign. As the U.S. Airways flight crew demonstrated recently, the time to think about the procedures for pulling off a down wind water landing is not when you’re at 1800 feet over the Hudson River with two cold engines.

A thought leader in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website at www.contentedcows.com

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by Bill, Management

"Employee Free Choice Act" – A Storm is Brewing

No Comments 05 November 2008

StrikeRecent conversations with executives from a variety of industries give rise to concern that the so called “Employee Free Choice Act” now dormant in the 110th Congress is being largely and unwisely ignored by American business.

I say, “unwisely” because the legislation is materially dangerous to the interests of businesses and employees alike, and because its resuscitation and passage by a 111th Congress more beholden to organized labor seems likely.

To the uninitiated, the EFCA is a piece of labor legislation intended to make it easier, a lot easier, for unions to organize workers and extract a collective bargaining agreement. Unlike current law which provides for a secret ballot election overseen by federal agents , EFCA would certify a union as the collective bargaining agent after a majority of employees have signed “authorization cards”… no privacy, no anonymous vote, no federal representative – just a union organizer who is free to exert unseemly influence in whatever fashion he chooses.

EFCA impact extends beyond the organizing process by providing a 120 day window for the business to agree to a contract after authorization of the union. If those efforts fail, the union is free to invite federal arbitrators into the process to stipulate contract terms.

Given the prospect of a new congress wanting to flex its muscle and repay a campaign debt to organized labor at no direct cost to the federal budget, it seems nearly certain that this legislation will soon be resurrected. Managements and employees interested in remaining union-free would do well to proactively:

• Institute improved employee relations practices, to include employee opinion surveys and management training
• Contact their elected representatives to make their thoughts known
• Have a strategy discussion with their labor counsel and industry association

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