Archives for May 2013

In their Own Words: Why Unions Say They are Needed

By Joel Anderson | 05/23/2013 | 7:49 PM

Why does union participation in the private workforce, as measured by the U.S. Bureau of Labor
Statistics, continue to decline? This decrease in participation comes despite massive injection of funds in union organizing and politics.

The unions claim the reason is aggressive “union-busting tactics” by employers. With that in mind, I decided to conduct my own research on the value proposition presented by unions to employees. Here is what a leading union had to say on its website about why employees unionize:

“When employees of a company form a union, a much better system for communicating with management is formed. Companies that have unions have a legal partnership between their employees and their managers. A lot of managers say that they have an open-door policy, but in reality the communication is only from the top, down. Many companies with contracts have formal labor-management committees that meet regularly to find solutions to make the company and its employees stronger. “

The essence of this value proposition is the benefit of a communication conduit guaranteed by a collective bargaining agreement. However, compare this value proposition to what you will find in today’s employee handbooks. Most handbooks now include a strong communication policy. As IWLA labor attorneys will tell us, an employee handbook is also a commitment from the company to employees.

So, if you have and practice strong, open and direct communication at your place of business, you have eliminated one of the key “benefits” unions say they give to a workforce. This behavior is not “union-busting.” It is just good personnel practices and good business practices.

I believe the reason for the union decline is simply this: Employers have improved on the value-add benefits unions used to claim. Labor law has become so comprehensive with respect to the duties of an employer to an employee that little space remains for a union to occupy. And employees, being smart people, see a lack of fair exchange in the cost of union dues versus value received.

To me, this last statement is the reason for the steep decline in union participation. Employers have improved. In doing so they have removed the economic, safety and social justification for employees
to feel they need a union to protect their self-interests.

I offer this as a coda: The one place unionization has grown is in government. This result speaks volumes about the government as an employer who communicates with its workforce. Disempower the employee (as the government does), you get a union. Empower the employee and you don’t.

Useful Government Affairs Practices for Businesses:

By Joel Anderson | 05/02/2013 | 9:51 AM

In my lifetime representing business interests, I have observed three approaches to government relations and advocacy:

1. Stonewall all new government programs and processes;

2. Cooperate to the point that you cede the subject-matter expertise and content knowledge to the government, or 

3. Or, tell the regulators what you can do to enable them to discharge their public responsibility. The International Warehouse Logistics Association generally takes tack No. 3.

However, we will move our approach to option No. 1 when we are faced with an either/or action from a hostile agency, such as the U.S. National Labor Relations Board.

But how exactly does approach No. 3 create the opportunity for warehouse-based 3PL leaders who are IWLA members to wear the white hats and build respect with government regulators?

One story starts when Congress charged the U.S. Food & Drug Administration with the task of creating and implementing the regulations that come from the Food Safety Modernization Act. IWLA quickly reached out to FDA staff to let them know that we want to be part of the process and that we will bring subject-matter expertise to help draft proposed regulations for an extremely safe food products supply chain. We also had a strong second goal: to be seen by the FDA as an organization that puts public health and product safety as a priority in the distribution of food products.

In mid-April, Pat O’Connor, IWLA’s Washington, D.C. representative, led a delegation of IWLA-member subject-matter experts to meet and confer with FDA staff members. The meeting’s purpose was to show, tell and answer questions from FDA regulatory staff about the practices of food-grade warehouses in handling, storage and distribution of food-grade products.

The result, as told by Pat and our membership delegation, was an “Aha!” moment by the FDA regulatory staff. They asked questions, received candid answers and better understood how warehouses are not sites of high-risk contamination. This awareness is foundational as the FDA moves into the actual drafting of regulations.

Successful public affairs operations, like IWLA’s, start with a strong engagement with the regulators. The regulators can see we bring immense subject-matter expertise. We create encounters where we can educate and inform so that unintended consequences don’t happen. Oftentimes we are able to achieve significant improvements because we build the groundwork based on trust.

And, should we not be shown the same courtesy and respect we give others, option No. 1 remains in our toolkit.

The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

About Joel Anderson

Joel Anderson

Joel D. Anderson is president and CEO of the International Warehouse Logistics Association (IWLA). Based in Des Plaines, Ill., IWLA is the 120-year-old association of the warehouse-based third-party logistics industry, with 500 members in the U.S. and Canada. Before joining IWLA, Anderson spent 28 years at the California Trucking Association, the last 13 as executive vice president and CEO. An economist by training and profession, Anderson was also a past board member of Cascade Sierra Solutions. He is a frequent speaker before supply chain industry groups.


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