Do You Need A Union?

We live in a job market that is changing so rapidly nobody knows how to handle it. Production can be highly automated in many factories and offfices. Employers can have much higher output with many fewer people.  And employers increasingly find workers across the globe who are eager to work for a fraction of standard pay in the United States.

At first, it was manufacturing technology that replaced workers and manufacturing that relocated production to nations with low pay scales (and lower worker protections). We are now seeing white collar jobs join these trends.

White collar work being sent to lower-wage countries by large U. S. employers includes accounting, claims processing, software development, R&D, airline reservations, customer support, loan processing and back-office work. Tens of thousands with these skills work from India, the Phillipines, and China for Delta, Intel, Microsoft, Proctor and Gamble, Conseco, Accenture and more.

These trends continue to grow. What can the American worker do?  Technology is only part of this picture that has so many unemployed and struggling. There is also greed. Many of the ultra-rich want more. Allegiance is not to country or employee but to the fattest possible profit.

Not only is the corporate trend toward hiring in lower wage countries, but there is a corresponding trend toward selling in foreign markets. Both ways, the American worker is left behind.

In 1955, with the merger of the AFL and CIO to create the largest union in the world, Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower made a radio address praising the accomplishments of worker unions. Due to many factors, the word “union” has become a negative term for many today. And many are no longer aware that worker benefits now taken for granted (eight hour day, paid leave, safety regulations, worker rights to organize, and more) were the hard-fought victories of unions. Some died in that fight.

Without organized representation in the face of sweeping global workforce changes, the American worker appears vulnerable. Like other major institutions, labor unions have a mixed record. However, as a life/work coach watching workforce trends, I think Americans will be smart to find out what protections and benefits have come from the organized efforts of unions.