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By David Harder on October, 18, 2017

Are Unions Worthless?

Approximately one in ten American employees belong to a union. Most unions are focused on what they did a hundred years ago – protecting jobs and ensuring the safety of their members.


But, as the needs of workers change, are unions doing their job? Over the last fifty years, labor law has become increasingly more sophisticated and forms a shield of justice that does a much better job of protecting workers against discrimination, safety violations, harassment and systemic abuse. If anyone doubts the impact of flipping on the light of labor law within the modern workplace, witness the departures of Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, co-President Bill Shine at Fox News, and now, Harvey Weinstein. When we look back through the history of labor unions, it is truly difficult to find instances where unions systematically protected their members against, for example, sexual abuse.


The truly gnarly and frightening problem with the majority of today’s unions is that many are more focused on protecting their turf rather than protecting the future of their members. Most are centered on protecting the jobs from the past rather than educating their members in how to remain relevant with the jobs of tomorrow. As technology changes life as we know it, unions do little to help their members reinvent themselves.


For example, the UFCW (United Food and Commercial Worker Union) has 1,271,150 members and last year collected over 281 million in dues. Over 3.4 million of America’s workers are cashiers. Their biggest threat isn’t just technology, it is disengagement. The technology has existed for over ten years that will allow all of us to walk out of a grocery or department store without engaging with a cashier. In our neighborhood, we typically drive three miles to a grocery store with non-union workers because they talk to us and smile.When an item is missing on a shelf, someone runs and looks for it. In the store three hundred yards from our home, unionized cashiers complain about their work, gossip with each other, rarely look customers in the eye and act as if working with a view of the Pacific Ocean is a bitter pill to swallow. I would happily walk my cart through that store without looking at one disengaged worker and take a five dollar discount to bag my own groceries. That reality is coming towards retail like a tidal wave.


In this scenario, unions do more harm than good because they foster the illusion they are taking care of their members. Within the UCFW’s huge budget, I can’t find any training programs around engagement, change management or developing a positive attitude. In the technology field, their “Twenty Four Seven Training Centre” offers one Microsoft 2007 Excel Level 1 worksheet course!


The only unions we can find that are practicing any meaningful and real support in keeping their members relevant are in the entertainment and media industry. Here unions are teaching new technology, presenting emerging professions and providing mentorship with successful members.


Accelerating change is creating challenges in every industry and in virtually every way that we live. For those of us who’ve shifted from survival and predictability to building our security through growth, this is an exciting time to be alive and to work. For the union worker who dutifully follows orders and pays the dues, your union has a moral obligation to do a better job, to provide meaningful training for all members and to help everyone develop the skills they need to remain competitive, valued, and appreciated.


Brought to you by David Harder, President – Inspired Work Services, Inc.

(C) Copyright, 2017, Inspired Work, Inc. – (All Rights Reserved)

If you would like to discuss your workplace or your career with David Harder, schedule fifteen-minutes Here.