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Why I support labor unions as a manager

Labor unions – an organization’s biggest nightmare. And for good reason, the most recent strike at Ford cost $1.7 billion in profits.

That’s quite the cost, especially when you take into account that they didn’t just lose those dollars from production, but now owners won’t be able to pocket as much since their employees will be taking a bigger piece of the pie. Fortunately, inflation increases will cover that, so thank you Ford customers for your generous contribution to their cause.

Ultimately, though, from a leadership perspective, did that strike and all of the other ones that get proposed across the country and world really have to happen? Or was it just bad management that led them there?

Now I know that no manager or business owner is ever going to think for a moment that the problems that are developing under their watch are a result of their decisions – it’s impossible, they are too exceptional. Instead, they will probably paint the picture that their employees just don’t have their impressive business acumen and are unable to see the big picture, and while that may be true to some degree, from my experience it is much easier to just go with the flow instead of trying to resist change.

Don’t get me wrong, labor unions and the very concept of them still perpetuate greed and can cause impressive bureaucratic headaches from getting projects done in a timely manner. They also can cause divisions amongst teams by pitting people against each other and accusing managers of not doing enough, and anyone who says otherwise is probably the person leading the movement.

Fortunately, it really does not need to be this way. In fact, there are times in U.S. history where the labor movement and business were actually able to agree and move our country forward. While I would never want to take you back to the 1950s since I wouldn’t be able to handle wearing an apron all day waiting for my impressive husband to come home, it does prove that a lot of the lost revenue and progress that is happening due to these strikes is a direct result of the wrong mindset.

Because as a manager, if I have 5 employees who want to work together to negotiate on their salary and benefits with me, thank god. That way I can have 1 conversation with 1 person instead of 5 unique conversations with 5 people, some of whom may not really care one way or the other.

Yep, I put efficiency and that saved time which can now be used on strategy for the organization ahead of those unique conversations that end up taking a lot of time and energy. Also, have you ever had a conversation with an employee about money? It’s probably one of the worst conversations to have. Our system is designed to make people feel like that no matter what they get it will never be enough, and even if you give them frequent inflation-based boosts and have graded promotional systems, it still will never be enough. So if I can have one conversation about it, please let me do so – save me the time and the headache.

And don’t get me wrong, employees should be very aware of potential negatives of joining a labor movement. For one, it locks you into a system that determines your earnings based on how other people perform. If you are a go-getter then this is probably not going to be for you since it will probably cause some angst when Betty down in Human Resources who spends 7 of the 8 hours of the workday shopping while you are hustling gets the same rate as you, and that’s assuming Betty isn’t exempt since she may fall under management. See what I mean, flaws in every argument.

But if that is what you want, and working together as a team is what you need to do to feel successful then so be it. Do whatever you want, you only live once. But when the organization can’t meet its goals because you were more concerned about nickeling and diming the owners, or the taxpayers if you’re a state employee, then that really falls on you, the employee. Because instead of working with your managers to determine what you can do to help grow the organization, meet its goals, or help find the money to pay for whatever expenses you need the increase for, you decided that putting them under the microscope was a better way to gain traction for your cause.

Don’t listen to me though, I’m supposed to be a housewife – what do I know?

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