The Future of Labor Relations
Unions, labor inequities, economics, human resources and legislation are in a constant state of flux. As with any other issues of discussion, unions have advantages and disadvantages. In this paper, I will discuss both the advantages and disadvantages of unions from the perspective of labor inequities, economic activity, human resources and labor legislation to shed some light on the future of labor relations and human resources.
What are unions? Unions are organizations that help employees gain a voice and negotiate for better pay, benefits and working conditions.
A brief history of unions
What do unions do?
Unions provide training and placement to union workers. They also negotiate wages and benefits on behalf of the employees. Sometimes this can result in a strike.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of unions?
The key advantages are that unions help solve social inequalities when employers like Wal-Mart take advantage of people and harm the economy.
The disadvantages – Unions cost money to operate and not every employer needs a union to treat their employees well.
What do employers think about unions?
Employers generally dislike unions, because they feel like they lose control of their labor costs. Union generally increases labor costs and decrease profits as a result. With increasing global competition, unions can sometimes cause more harm than good. Although they do tend to increase wages for the employees; they also tend to cause more jobs to relocated overseas and increase the risk of domestic employees losing their jobs for economic reasons.
What an economist would think about unions – Most economists would view unions as good for employees as long as wages increase more than union dues. On the flip side, unions would not be a good thing for employers if they are successful at increasing wages.
When are unions necessary?
Unions are necessary whenever there are labor inequities. Some companies like Wal-Mart pay minimum wage, don’t offer benefits, lower the average wages in the area by putting small businesses out of business, roll over hours to avoid paying benefits or overtime, show a complete disregard for the environment, close their stores every time a union is formed and will do whatever it takes to increase profits without any regard for their workers.
Do unions adjust to the economy?
There is no flexibility in union contracts. However, they will amend them or not enforce them if market conditions require the unions to be flexible. Although unions typically do not want to appear weak by allowing renegotiation of contracts, they are generally flexible with the economy to prevent employers from having to go out of business and losing members.
Balancing employee wants with capitalism and the economy is in constant flux. Employee wants and capitalism will always be on opposite sides unless pay is tied to higher performance and within reason. Both capitalism and employee wants are directly affected by the economy and should adjust dynamically.
When are unions unnecessary?
There are several reasons that can make unions unnecessary. Exceptional human resources are one of them. When HR departments and executives proactively try to improve the quality of life of their employees, unions are no longer necessary. Unions only serve a purpose when companies are being non-receptive to their employee’s wants and needs.
Google is a great example of exceptional human resources. They offer excellent pay, a creative, flex time environment, a free, healthy lunch, free car washes, profit sharing, stock bonuses, paid vacations, excellent benefits and a free gym with fitness trainers. The things they offer set them apart from other employers allowing them to get and retain the best and brightest employees. This increases their profits and makes Google a great place to work.
KLA-Tencor is another great company to work for. They offer great pay, excellent benefits, profit sharing and an at-cost cafeteria with healthy food.
How can legislation make unions obsolete?
Raising the minimum wage is one way to make things better. Although lobbyists paid by big companies like Wal-Mart would oppose changes in the minimum wage, increasing the minimum wage to a living wage would prevent companies like Wal-Mart from taking advantage of people, harming local economies and shrinking the middle class.
Minimum benefits would also be a big step forward. Just like the minimum wage, I think minimum health benefits and vacation time should be mandatory and loop holes like being an independent contractor or working 30 hours per week should be eliminated. This is because some companies intentionally make sure that none of their employees get 30 hours and they make people independent contractors to avoid paying the minimum wage or benefits. In my opinion, there are way too many businesses trying to scam the lower class into their get rich quick schemes. One solution is to allow access at no additional cost to the employer.
Minimum management training through certification would also be a big step in the right direction. Simple things like leadership training, employee relations, fair hiring, termination and grievance procedures should be put in place to prevent the mistreatment of employees. I also think employees should be able to contribute to their own performance evaluations through a 360-degree approach, so there is a balance between management, co-workers and employee feedback. Human resources should also take a more involved, proactive approach to resolving and preventing labor relations issues. This includes career and professional development.
I think proactive legislation is the key to improving equality in the workplace. These changes are unlikely to affect the best companies that proactively take steps to be a great place to work. They would only affect those companies that pay minimum wage, offer no benefits and have poor management practices. Although these capitalists would most likely throw a lot of money into a campaign that creates fear about lost jobs, etc., the truth is that the customers of companies who pay minimum wages are in the US, and it’s not possible to effectively outsource the employees that serve them. This increased cost would make companies worth less and their investors would suffer, yet the companies can still make a profit and their investors should know better than to put their money into a company that harms people. Unions are would be a thing of the past as long as federal legislation serves the same purpose. I also think companies that are exceptional in human resources should receive tax advantages to reward them and offset the cost.