« The Anti-Paranoid Style in American Politics | Main | On Conspiracies »

October 17, 2006

Workers and Corporations, Together At Last

SEIU head Andy Stern writes:

what excited me most was listening to SEIU members talk about our partnership approach in the public sector, called Innovation and Quality (IQ). Learning from the efforts of the firefighters, our new locals in Chandler, Tempe, and Pima County have reoriented themselves to work with management to improving the quality of public services. Tom, an SEIU member who drove me from Phoenix to Tucson, said he is experimenting with changing the names of Stewards, who serve as union representatives in the workplace, to “Resolutions Specialists.” The reason, he said, is that they are trying to resolve issues to improve quality services, and management looks at those efforts as a positive approach, as opposed to an approach that creates new problems.

When I talk about the need to re-empower workers to advocate for their interests against corporations, the end point can often be assumed hostile -- a world of strikes and sit-downs, firings and lawsuits. But it needn't be that way. Part of worker power is simply assuring that employees, who have a ground's eye view of their business, get a seat and a voice at management's table, and can argue not only for their direct interests, but for what they see as their company's interests.

The employer's success is, after all, crucial to the employee, and he can often have a better, or different, idea than the management consultants and executives as to what's missing from the everyday operations. It wasn't that long ago that Walter Reuther, head of the United Auto Workers, begged GM and Ford to move towards smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles, and not cede that ground to the Japanese -- he even offered union concessions to aid in the transition process. He was ignored, and both his union and the automakers are the poorer for it.

October 17, 2006 in Labor | Permalink

Comments

He was ignored, and both his union and the automakers are the poorer for it.

In this instance, I'm sure that you are right. That doesn't mean that every suggestion that the union made was gold. Mostly, unions use as much leverage as they can get their hands on for the pockets of themselves and their workers, don't kid yourself.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Oct 17, 2006 1:47:36 PM

I might add that this new age of cooperation with management that you cite is only because they don't have the leverage today that they enjoyed in years passed when they bullied their way into pay scales and benefits that were way above market.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Oct 17, 2006 1:48:55 PM

If, as you seem to be arguing here, that giving more power to workers benefits corporations and makes them more competitive, then it seems that we won't have to take any special action to make this happen.

Those companies that listen will do better, and those that don't will do worse, and eventually we will only have companies that listen.

Of course you don't really believe this to be the case. Hence your continual arguemants about the evils of Wal-Mart and the race to the bottom that must be prevented by government power.

Posted by: Dave Justus | Oct 17, 2006 3:37:00 PM

By law, German worker unions must have a fixed percentage of the positions on a corporation's Board of Directors (this was true decades ago, and likely still is).

Would such a Board approve a $billion-plus stock option for an executive? It seems doubtful. Would such a Board adopt the kind of worker policies that Walmart is forcing on the marketplace as well as their own company. It seems doubtful.

Dave Justus is blowing smoke again (I won't bother with Fred's continued absurdities). Union/management cooperation CAN improve competitiveness, but faced with market-dominating policies by competitors (like anti-union Walmart) this cooperative search for competitiveness is stiffled or eliminated. One bad apple can spoil the whole barrel, you know, and US corporate governance is well on the way to making hard cider with rotten apples.

Our founding fathers put checks and balances into the Constitutional structure to prevent absolute power (which corrupts absolutely - as we have seen in Bu$hCo).

Where is the check or balance on absolute power by top managers within a corporation - particularly when management controls Board of Directors' selection and when management has majority control of the Board directly or through hand-picked surrogates - especially in a corporation committed to controlling their suppliers, in an absolute manner, and controlling their work force, in an absolute manner?

Is there no level of irresponsibility that would cause the corporatist apologizers and advocates to say: "Do you have no shame?"

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Oct 17, 2006 3:56:14 PM

By law, German worker unions must have a fixed percentage of the positions on a corporation's Board of Directors (this was true decades ago, and likely still is).

And they also enjoy about two and a half times the unemployment that we have.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Oct 17, 2006 4:13:30 PM

Here is a link:

http://www.destatis.de/indicators/e/arb210ae.htm

Posted by: Fred Jones | Oct 17, 2006 4:14:09 PM

they don't have the leverage today that they enjoyed in years passed when they bullied their way into pay scales and benefits that were way above market.

No, now CEOs do that.

And I can't help but notice, Fred, that the crippling effect of having worker representation on the board didn't stop Daimler taking over Chrysler...

Posted by: ajay | Oct 18, 2006 12:17:38 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.