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Union Management - Essay Example

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It can be said unionism has been severely impacted adversely due to the deepness of the recession and for its duration which has cut across most employment…
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Union Management 08 November 2009 The US economy officially entered into recession on December 2007 and this affected many Americans in terms of job losses. It can be said unionism has been severely impacted adversely due to the deepness of the recession and for its duration which has cut across most employment sectors. Many private sector employers have no choice but to lay off even some of their best workers in order to stay afloat. We can say that due to the decreased economic activities, most state government coffers were likewise affected by the reduced tax revenues. The latest economic statistical data indicated unemployment had breached the 10% level.
This bad news has serious implications for most unions, putting them in a position of hard choices. On one hand, union leaders need to look after members’ welfare but on the other hand, they have to face some harsh realities. The truth of the matter is that state government coffers are facing a “fiscal emergency” as what Gov. Linda Lingle said and everyone must put their share of carrying the burden equally to keep things afloat. The government of Hawai’i had laid off some 900 to 1,100 government workers earlier in November and more lay-offs might be forthcoming, she had warned. In the end, everybody got what they wanted out of the deal which shows everyone concerned was willing to compromise and sacrifice.
The current recession had highlighted the need for some concessions from the union, in particular work rules concerning compensation. State workers had overwhelmingly approved to take 42 furlough days, to be distributed into 18 days this fiscal year, 12 next year and another 12 for year 2011 (Sample in “Hawaii’s largest…”). Union leaders had to face the reality of the situation and taking furlough is better than private-sector employees who took a pay cut and are working still the same hours for less pay as what Paul Brewbaker said.
In another article on the same issue regarding union acceptance of the new contract, the Honolulu Advertiser mentioned that six of the seven bargaining units of Hawaii’s biggest public-sector union had ratified the new contract. Some 60% to 95% of the members had voted in support of the furlough days, roughly the equivalent to an 8% pay cut. For some of the union members, this concession may represent or symbolize the futility of being members. This is because the union had failed to protect their compensation benefits by eventually agreeing to furloughs although this is also dictated by the harsh reality of budget shortfalls.
The new two-year contract is hoped to stem further job losses and the state estimates it can save $204 million over the two-year period while it is facing a $1 billion shortfall. Union members are making a significant sacrifice in terms of wage cuts considering that they are now also paying 23.4% more in health care insurance premiums because state government has frozen health care spending at last year’s levels (DePledge in “Hawaii State Workers ……”). This news article has some implications with regards to union membership and recruitment.
Job losses brought about by global trends like increased outsourcing and off-shoring of jobs has shifted unionism from fighting for increased benefits to focusing on job preservation. This was what the new two-year contract did, to stem further forced lay-offs of state workers. In other words, the union’s bargaining leverage had been weakened by high unemployment, a weak economy and reduced tax revenues so it was forced to make significant concessions.
In the eyes of some members, they may question the reason for their union’s continued existence if it is unable to protect its worker-members in the long run. The after-effects of the free trade agreements are only being felt now with jobs going to cheaper-labor countries that had resulted in the hollowing out of industrial America. Union density is expected to continue its decline due to structural changes in the labor market, an enlightened management style and the legal and political environment which had changed the conditions in the workplace.
Reference List
DePledge, Derrick (October 20, 2009). “Hawaii State Workers Ratify Furlough Deal.” Honolulu Advertiser.
Sample, Herbert A. (October 20, 2009). “Hawaii’s Largest State Worker Union Ok’s Contract.” The Associate Press. Read More
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