Saturday, September 09, 2006

Workplace Safety Is Most Important Reason To Join Unions, Poll Finds

Workplace safety is the most important issue encouraging employees to join unions, according to a poll sponsored by the new survey conducted by the Employment Law Alliance, an organization of management employment and labor lawyers. Sixty three percent of those polled cited workplace safety first, followed by getting better benefits (60%), obtaining higher wages (57%), and increasing job security (54%). (pdf charts here)

According to ELA CEO Stephen J. Hirschfeld,
In light of recent corporate scandals, news reports indicating executive manipulation of stock options and continued outsourcing of work overseas, executives had better wake up and fast. If management doesn't get its act together, you will see an increase in unionization.
We can sure hope so. Anyone over at the AFL-CIO listening?

The poll also found that more than 40% of those polled believe that unions have had a substantial impact on improving the working conditions of average American workers. Thirty percent believe that unions really care about improving working conditions for American workers.

I'm not sure what to make of the following result:
35% of Americans believe that unions need to focus more on organizing new members and less on electoral politics. This finding is significant in light of last year's rift within the AFL-CIO which saw key unions including the Teamsters and SEIU reportedly breaking away out of frustration that the AFL-CIO was not spending sufficient money and attention on aggressively recruiting new members.
This is spun to indicate that Americans are unhappy about the fact that unions spend so much money on politics. But I'm not sure. Where are the other 65%? If 35% think unions need to focus more on organizing than politics, does that mean that 65% think that they need to focus more on politics?

And even if there are a lot of Americans who think that unions spend too much time on politics, that may be more a reflection of the fact that most Americans don't think that politics has any effect on their working lives. A basic theme of Confined Space since the beginning has been that
Politics matters, voting matters -- in national and local elections. It matters in big ways and small way, but it also matters in how safe their workplaces are going to be. It matters whether their children are going to grow up with unhealthy injured parents, or no parents at all. People need to understand that everything is connected. Tax cuts, growing deficits, appropriations, executive orders, regulatory "reform" -- it all affects our safety every day.
The report also finds that issues like lack of respect for employees, poor communication by employer to its employees, inconsistent discipline, having a union representative to speak to management on your behalf, and managers playing favorites fall much further down the list.

The poll was divided up between current union members, former union members and workers who never belonged to a union. Most of the pro-union attitudes were stronger among current union members, although all three groups were roughly similar on most questions. The only question where union members were significantly stronger than former members or those who had never belonged to unions was "Having union rep to speak to management on your behalf." Whereas 27% of former union members and 25% of those who had never been members thought this was important, 60% of current members considered this right to be important.