Saturday, February 06, 2010

Any Employer Who Ends Up With A Union Gets It Because They Deserve It

I learned that adage from Sam Lang, a mentor from many years ago, and one of the finest labor lawyers of all time.

Employers paying minimum wage and near minimum wage, who don't provide any health insurance and who scrimp on even the most basic displays of appreciation are going to get organized by a union, sooner or later.

I recall one client of whom I was very fond. I got a call from a manager who told me the HR Director had cut out the employee bulletin board (on which funny employee photos were posted) and that his employees were not happy about it. I called the HR Director and asked him why.

"I've been told to cut my budget. The photos for the board were costing about $20 a month."

I was staggered by his nonchalance and told him, "If you don't put the photos back into your budget I'm calling your boss. One of us won't make it through the day. My guess is that will be you."

He reinstituted this low-cost "benefit" which employees valued and appreciated. It was the only 15 minutes of fame most of them would ever know.

Now, from Ft. Worth, Texas, an article about a Starbucks' organizing effort.

It was exactly one week before Christmas, which is Starbucks' busiest time of year. More importantly, the store manager, Lindsay Karsh, had declared it Partner (Employee) Appreciation Day. In past years, Partner Appreciation Day was when the manager would use company money to purchase pizza for all the workers as a sort of holiday gift right before Christmas. This year, on top of cutting hours, delaying raises, forcing baristas to work with H1N1 (“swine flu”), and disrespecting workers, the store manager decided to save the store money and made the day a potluck. Workers—who are struggling to survive and are making just above minimum wage—were forced to buy their own food in order to participate. The entire store was furious and not a single worker participated in the potluck.

The article concludes: On Dec. 18, 2009, four brave women baristas of the 8th & Rosedale Starbucks in Ft. Worth, Texas, declared their membership with the IWW Starbucks Workers Union (SWU).

Now, I'm not sure if any of that is true, but if it is true then this Starbucks deserves exactly what they're going to get - a union.

Empathy is more than good humanity. It is good business.


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