Reprinted with permission from American
federatioon of Grain Millers.
What Managers Should Know About…
Union Involvement In New Work Systems.
A STATEMENT OF POLICY
AND GUIDELINES FOR LOCAL UNIONS
American Federation of Grain Millers
4949 Olson Memorial Highway, Minneapolis, Minnesota
55422 / 612-545-0211
AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GRAIN MILLERS
Robert W. Willis, General President
Larry R. Jackson, General Secretary-Treasurer
Howard W. Roe, Executive Vice President
& Assistant to the President
Larry Barber, North Central District
Elmer Farris, Southern District Vice
Shawn Grimm, Eastern District Vice
Harry Guildner, Pacific Coast District
Ray Harness, Great Lakes District
Mike Konesko, Canadian-Michigan District
Ron Schreiber, Central District Vice
Mike Taylor, South Central District
We would like to thank especially
Tom Schneider and the employees of Restructuring Associates,
Inc. in Washington, DC. for their assistance and counsel
in developing this document. The International Union
greatly appreciates their contribution.
Robert W. Willis General President
Larry R. Jackson General Secretary-
All rights reserved.
No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted
in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopying and recording, or by any information
storage or retrieval system, except as may be expressly
permitted by the 1976 Copyright Act or in writing from
the publisher. Requests for permission should be addressed
in writing to the American Federation of Grain Millers,
4949 Olson Memorial Highway, Minneapolis, MN 55422.
|Section 1 –
The World In Which We Work
|Section 2 –
American Federation of Grain Millers’ Response
to a Changing World Economy
|Section 3 –
What is a New Work System?
|Section 4 –
Words of Caution
|Section 5 –
The Union’s Role in New Work Systems
|Section 6 –
Union Involvement in New Work Systems: What Your
Managers Should Know
|Section 7 –
Approaching Management About New Work Systems
Action Plant for Implementing a New Work System
Sample Letter of Agreement on New Work Systems
|Section 8 –
Fighting Union-Busting “Quality” or
|Section 9 –
Union Opponents of Labor-Management Cooperation:
The Grain Millers’ Reply
The following material
is intended to make local union leaders as knowledgeable,
if not more so, as their managers about business strategies
that companies can use to meet current and future competition.
In particular, it describes the concept of labor/management
partnerships to create a “new work system”
(NWS) as the one strategy that combines appreciation
for the abilities and experience of workers, respect
for the importance of the union and a high probability
The contents are designed
to help local unions be a true partner with management
in companies that earn partnership and a solid and successful
opponent to companies that want to weaken or circumvent
In either case, the
material will help educate union members about why the
union has taken a particular stand, and why, when there
is a membership vote, union leadership supports a particular
The contents are based
on these principles:
- Any change
or improvement effort will fail in the long-run without
the real and meaningful empowerment of workers and
the equally real involvement of their union in every
phase of the effort.
- A company
that seeks improvement in its operations needs to
address four areas of interest and concern to workers:
their skills, understanding, opportunities and rewards.
- Unions are
capable of performing as equal partners with management,
sharing responsibility for the design and implementation
of comprehensive and innovative work systems.
- Union leaders
must re-think the traditional role of the union in
its dealings with management if it is to understand
the change in the role of a union and its leaders
in a new work system.
that ignore or avoid the union are a danger to the
union and should be altered to involve the union or
opposed if a partnership is rejected by management.
- Every effort
to improve a company’s effectiveness, whether
in quality or cost of product or productivity is unique
and must reflect the particular needs of the company
and the union. There is no one way to do things.
The analysis begins
with a look at the world in which the members of the
AFGM work and how that world has changed in the last
twenty years. It is followed by the Grain Millers’
position on how labor should respond to these trends,
particularly the challenge of global competition.
It continues with
a lengthy description of all the elements that can comprise
a new work system and what they mean for workers and
unions. In addition to the virtues of a new work system,
some words of caution are offered.
In the next section,
the union’s role in new work systems is examined
Next, there is a plan
for approaching management about NWS, to insure that
managers understand what the union’s role should
be. It includes a sample letter of agreement that can
be used in negotiations.
For those cases in
which a company opposes union involvement, an action
plan for the union is provided.
Another section describes
what labor critics of employee participation have to
say. Their concerns are legitimate and much of their
advice is reflected in the material.
The analysis concludes
with a resource bibliography for further information
on the changing economy, new work systems and the role
IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS
ABOUT HOW TO USE THIS BOOK IN YOUR LOCAL UNION, CONTACT
YOUR REGIONAL VICE PRESIDENT.
IN WHICH WE WORK
Members of the American
Federation of Grain Millers work in a world that has
changed enormously in the last two decades. We live
in a world economy which is fiercely competitive, where
the competition is endless and constant, and from which
we cannot escape.
The changes that have
occurred can be summarized in five “basic trends”:
- Global Competition
- Excess World
Production Capacity and Supply of Basic Goods
People, Values and Demographics
No one can or will
stop these trends, or the restructuring of our world.
But any business that wants to thrive, stay competitive,
or just simply survive in the years ahead must take
note of them, and consider their implications. Any union
that wants steady employment and decent treatment for
its members must deal with them. And any worker who
wants to understand the forces that shape his or her
working life must understand them.
Foreign imports and
foreign ownership are the most obvious indicators of
how competition against the U.S. markets has gone global
in the past two decades.
- Steel. Foreign
imports account for over 20% of the steel consumed
in the U.S. today, compared to 13.5% in 1975. In the
mid 1980s, before government Import restrictions went
into effect, foreign competition had a 26.4% share
of the U.S. market for steel. That translated into
the loss of nearly 450,000 jobs.
- Autos. Japanese
auto makers took 34% of U.S. car sales in August,
1990, a record that for the first time exceeded GM’s
market share. The Japanese share of the U.S. market
over the first 8 months of 1990 year averaged 30%,
up from 25% for the same period in 1989.
During the 1980s, imports of yarns, fabrics, and clothing
rose 184%. Foreign competitors have taken 40% of the
market share in the U.S., at a cost of 800 closed
textile mills and 1 59,000 jobs.
electronics. All American consumers know that few,
if any, consumer electronics such as VCRs, stereos,
etc. are made by American companies.
The list of industries
which lost significant market share to foreign competitors
could fill up several pages and still not mention the
foreign competitors who no longer export their goods
to the U.S., but make them right here.
- Tires. Firestone,
Armstrong, Uniroyal/Goodrich and General Tire have
all been purchased recently by foreign companies.
40% of all tires made in the U.S. are made by foreign-controlled
Nearly all the TV sets sold in the U.S. are made in
the U.S., but by foreign-owned companies. RCA and
Magnavox are both owned by French and Dutch companies,
German, Italian, French and Japanese companies purchased
U.S. chemical manufacturers in the 1980s. Forty- five
percent of U.S. chemical workers are now employed
by foreign-owned firms.
- Food Processors.
Even the food processing industry saw foreign-owned
takeovers: Grand Metropolitan of Great Britain bought
Pillsbury, and Nestle of Switzerland bought Carnation.
At the same time.
U.S. companies are expanding overseas. General Motors
and Ford earn the largest share of their profits from
overseas sales. ConAgra. Philip-Morris and Pepsi-Co
all purchased foreign food operations during the 1980s.
General Mills entered into a joint agreement with Nestle
in Europe, and has jointly purchased a British cereal
company with Nestle.
Events overseas are
likely to make the global competition even more intense.
- When they
integrate their markets in 1992, European countries
will lower the trade barriers and other restrictions
which make them uncompetitive.
Europe is beginning to modernize and will eventually
increase trade with the West.
- GAIT and
other world-wide trade agreements are trying to make
the flow of goods and commodities between countries
- Mexico is
entering into free-trade talks with the U.S. and Canada
which could ease trade barriers in both directions.
The bottom line is
that competition from foreign sources, whether imports
or products made right here in the U.S., will continue
The continual change
and instability in the business environment can be attributed
in great measure to the breathtaking pace of technological
advance. Technologies used in products and processes
change in months and years rather than decades. Personal
computers are out of date almost as soon as they are
marketed. Digital recorders (optical disks) will probably
replace CDs which replaced cassettes which replaced
processes reduced the manhours to produce and ship a
ton of steel by 50% over 1982. Advances in computerized
control systems are making it easier to move a product
from the drafting board to the production floor. Westinghouse
uses such “expert systems” to automatically
generate the instructions for production. This chopped
the lag from design to production down to 1 day from
technology continues to improve. As it improves, it
puts new pressures on manufacturers. Grocery stores
are using checkout scanners to see how well a brand
of cereal is.
Breakthroughs in biotechnology
and molecular engineering may have significant impact
on the food processing industry. A bioengineered cheese
enzyme may replace rennet and speed up the cheese making
process. A synthetic fat has been developed which is
already appearing in cold foods, like ice cream. Another
company is trying to come up with a synthetic, no-calorie
fat which can be used in baked products. These technologies
could give a food processor an incredible edge over
Developments in food
packaging, like in biotech, will give those companies
that create them a competitive advantage. MAP, or modified
atmosphere packaging, allows fresh foods to last longer
under refrigeration. Sous-vide methods allow someone
without much culinary skill to prepare complicated dishes
or meals that have already been partially cooked and
sealed in a vacuum. Aseptic packing allows foods that
are not shelf stable to last longer in the grocery store.
In the food industry,
technological changes boil down to shorter product life
cycles and an explosion of new products. In 1989, over
9,820 new food products were introduced, a 20% increase
over 1988 and a 25% increase over 1987, even though
shelf space is not growing, and people are not eating
The trend toward deregulation,
both at home and abroad, has also increased the sheer
numbers of competitors in the marketplace. Financial,
transportation and communications industries were all
deregulated during the 1980s.
While there have been
some benefits from deregulation, the unwillingness of
government to properly oversee entire industries has
created pain and hardship for millions of Americans
and Canadians, especially workers at companies such
as Air Canada, Eastern Airlines and Pan Am. Workers
in the construction industry, which depends on the good
health of our financial institutions, have also been
hit hard by deregulation.
When the transportation
industry was deregulated, shipping by railroad became
much less attractive, and shipping by truck much more
so. At the beginning of the 1980s, General Mills, for
instance, shipped 95% of its product by rail. Today,
it ships 95% of its product by truck.
The deregulation of
the communications industry spawned many competitors
for AT&T -- MCI, Sprint, etc.
When the federal government
deregulated the financial industry, saving & loan
companies benefitted because they were able to offer
much higher rates of return on investments than previously
allowed. Unfortunately for all of us, that not only
meant more competition for the banks, but the collapse
of real estate markets and many S&Ls as well.
Deregulation of financial
markets world wide – a likely result of the integration
of the European countries in 1992 – will probably
lead to another kind of global competition in the 1990s
– for investment capital. It may cost a company
more to modernize plants, do product research and development,
or build a new facility than ever before because U.S.
companies are competing in a global capital market.
Investors will put their money where the greatest rates
of return are, and they are likely to be in the European
Community, Eastern Europe, or the Far East, not in Ontario,
California, Minnesota or Illinois.
Production Capacity and Supply of Basic Goods
Another of the new
economic realities of the last two decades of the 20th
century is the persistence of excess industrial production
capacity and supply of basic goods. The reasons are
many, including improving technologies, deregulation,
and the entrance of many Third World nations into the
ranks of industrialized societies.
capacity usually results in a company, or a nation,
exporting products or goods it cannot sell at home.
The increased competition that results in the global
marketplace often lowers prices, profits, and wages.
Excess capacity problems were part of the steel industry’s
woes in the early 1980s. Over the decade, U.S. steel-making
capacity declined 25%. But overall world production
capacity rose 10%.
Auto-makers are also
plagued by excess production capacity. Ford Motor Co.
estimates 20% excess auto-making capacity world-wide.
U.S. automakers have idled 3% of their capacity over
the past decade. Even so, the Japanese are building
new assembly arid manufacturing plants in the U.S. and
High tech industries,
too, have suffered from excess capacity, particularly
the semiconductor industry. National Semiconductor shut
down several plants overseas and laid off 4,000 employees
There is also an excess
supply of food stuffs, such as wheat and rice. Thanks
to mechanization, pesticides, fertilizers and improved
practices, the wheat harvest in Kansas hit an all time
high in 1990. But farmers’ export markets have
shrunk: the USSR is nearly self-sufficient and Iraq
has been cut off from world markets. When bumper wheat
crops from other countries are added to the supply,
lower wheat prices are the result.
The last trend is
demographics. “Demographics” is the study
of social and cultural patterns in the population. It
includes such things as levels of education in different
economic brackets or different regions; changes in how
or where people choose to live; and population growth
or decline for various ethnic groups or age groups.
Changes in demographics
have a significant impact on the consumption of goods.
Companies make decisions about where to expand their
facilities or build new ones based in part on these
factors. They also make decisions about closing plants.
There are several
demographic trends which bear watching.
- The population
growth in the U.S. is slowing. In the 1950’s,
it gained 1.85% yearly. In the 1980’s, it gained
only 1.00% yearly, and it will grow even less in the
As a result, the workforce is growing more slowly.
The number of people out there buying products is
also growing more slowly.
- The population
of the U.S. is aging. The median age in 1980 was 30.0.
The projected age in the year 2000 is 36.3.
As a result, both the average person in the workforce
and the average consumer are becoming more middle-aged.
- More women
are entering the workforce. What growth there is in
the workforce will come mostly from women. 63% of
all new entrants into workforce in the year 2000 will
- The West
Coast, Arizona, Texas, and Florida will have the greatest
population growth between now and the year 2000 (due
mostly to immigration). North Central and Northeast
will have population declines (or at best, stable
- And finally,
people’s consumption patterns are changing --
because of time pressures, health consciousness environmental
consciousness, and the sum of the demographic trends
- Fewer people
skip breakfast -- only about 7% as compared to 12%
5 years ago.
- The 6-55
age group (or their parents) are more conscious of
health. Consequently they like high-fiber and bran
cereals, but use less sugar.
patterns change as the numbers of two-worker families
grow. The typical family today eats together only
19% of the time.
An illustration of
the amount of demographic change in the future comes
from the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor
- In 1975,
the average person would change careers between one
to two times in lifetime and jobs between four to
- By year
2010, will change careers between four to five times
and jobs approximately ten times!
have implications for both the marketplace and the workplace.
In the workplace, the demographic shifts mean:
- a shrinking
labor pool,? higher labor costs in the form of higher
wages, benefits and pensions
competition at the top of the organization for advancement
and higher level jobs
- a greater
emphasis on flex-time and part-time work and quality
In the food marketplace,
which most affects AFGM members, the changes add up
- fewer people
- more disposable
income with which to buy
demand for convenience products
emphasis on healthy, nutritional, and environmentally
conscious products and packaging
The overall implication
of these five trends is that change is inevitable. Flexibility
and responsiveness to the market are necessary in order
The approach to business
embodied in new systems of work will enable companies
to thrive in a constantly changing, heavily competitive
business environment as workers maintain decent standards
of wages and benefits while doing meaningful and rewarding
OF GRAIN MILLERS’ RESPONSE TO A CHANGING WORLD
The American Federation
of Grain Millers, through its dealings with dozens of
employers and through its research on economic and social
changes, has come to believe that global economic competition,
new technology and other trends are not only increasing
pressures on U.S.- and Canadian-based business, they
are transforming business.
The concept of a domestic
business has given way to the multinational corporation.
The definition of a multinational corporation may once
have referred strictly to a company’s ability
to export goods produced in the U.S. Now, it means that
manufacturing, financing, marketing and all other aspects
of a business are global in nature.
Social and governmental
constraints on corporations are limited and scattered.
Nations, provinces, states and cities find themselves
competing to entice corporations to do business within
their boundaries. Whether a company is owned by U.S.
or foreign interests, it has, literally, a world of
options to choose from in how it operates and they will
generally choose those that offer the most flexibility.
Not only is business
changing. People are changing, too. The traditional
goal of the American labor movement is to create social
justice by winning for all workers a foundation of decent
pay, good benefits, and safe and healthy working conditions.
This is accomplished through organizing and traditional
forms of collective bargaining. Union members and potential
members still share those goals. But they have added
aspirations for interesting and meaningful work, personal
growth and development, and a place in the decision-making
process. Traditional labor relations are not geared
to meet these new aspirations. So workers are no longer
certain of the connection between labor’s traditional
activities and their own well- being.
Rapid economic, technological
and social change holds many dangers for companies and
unions. The changing aspirations of people has its risks
as well. The AFGM holds that unions, even at the local
level, must understand and respond to this new environment.
Years of reliance
on one basic business strategy or production process
may well leave a company ill-prepared for rapid changes
in markets and technology. Years of effort by the union
to gain hard-won wage and benefit scales and job security
may be lost almost overnight when a company insists
that the only effective response to competition is to
slash its labor costs with concessions or layoffs.
But this is only one
strategy of several available to companies and unions.
And it usually hurts a company by depriving it of the
experienced workers who are let go and destroying the
morale and initiative of the workers who remain.
In fact, there are
several competitive strategies for survival, each with
its own impact on unions:
- Find the
lowest-cost labor through wage cuts, layoffs or “runaway”
- Use technology
as a substitute for people.
customers with quality and service to add value to
a product, thus justifying premium prices.
- Make the
most of human capital through the organization of
work, thus justifying high wages.
Clearly, unions must
fight against the first option, both in the plant through
tough negotiations and in the political arena through
legislation. Unions must also monitor carefully the
second option to make sure that automation replaces
only dangerous, dirty or mindless work while enhancing
the efforts of people whose jobs require skill, dedication
The AFGM also rejects
approaches grown more common in the last fifteen years:
employee involvement, quality circles, and total quality
systems. Some of these approaches try solely to change
people, exhorting or persuading them that they must
be problem-solvers or work smarter. Others may provide
an increased level of information about the company
and new analytical tools such as the techniques of statistical
process control, but none of them alter, or even examine,
the traditional forms of work.
While more and more
companies proclaim their understanding that technology,
people and organizations are interdependent, only a
fraction of those companies act on that understanding.
And still fewer companies balance their effort and expenditure
by treating people, like technology, as a long- term
investment or capital expense. Most managers want large
gains in productivity from their workers with an absolute
minimum of pain or effort for themselves.
The AFGM believes
that the last of the four options – looking at
the organization of work as a competitive strategy –
holds the greatest promise for unions and their members.
It is a strategy that develops and supports a high level
of skills in a workforce, making it possible to provide
high wages while protecting competitiveness and profitability.
Many of America’s most respected educators, government
officials and business leaders support this approach
as the best way to accomplish the third option, insuring
quality and value for customers while protecting pay
The AFGM recognizes
that this strategy has its costs and its perils. For
our nation, there is the cost of upgrading our entire
educational system to properly prepare our children
for the demands of the workplace. For labor, there is
the peril of taking on additional roles and responsibilities
while protecting what is useful and important about
our traditional role.
Thus, the effort to
understand and respond to its environment is the most
important task a union faces. A union that understands
its environment can make informed choices about its
response. It can work overtly with or against a company
that is trying to transform itself, using clearly thought
out strategies and tactics. It can prod a company with
limited vision or understanding to act in ways that
Or, it can sit on
the sidelines, leaving all decision-making to management.
Sitting on the sidelines, however, is dangerous for
a union, robbing it of control over its fate.
If a union determines
that it must respond to changes in the company by taking
on a new role, it then begins by exploring that role,
marshalling the resources it needs.
Many unions have the
necessary skills but have used them in other arenas
such as politics and legislation. The difficult part
about expanding the use of these skills to new areas
is the expense and time, and most unions are already
The effort, however,
makes for a stronger union. The lessons learned can
be used to improve stewards’ training or bargaining
skills. It may alter the relationship of the union to
its members. Unions can work with members at times when
they are not angry, scared, or disappointed. It may
provide new opportunities to demonstrate the value and
importance of a union to the membership.
Once the union decides
on a specific course of action, it should be carried
out in a skilled, competent fashion. Whether a partner
or an impediment, the union must be well informed and
good at communicating its knowledge to management and
That is what this
material is all about. It provides the basics of new
work systems, details their benefits and their problems,
and suggests additional resources and assistance. By
broadening your vision and sharpening your analytical
abilities, you can help make the future less fearsome
for AFGM members
WHAT IS A
NEW WORK SYSTEM?
The term “new
work system” or NWS describes a way in which the
workforce, the workplace, and work itself is organized.
Because every company and facility is different, there
is no one kind of new work system. But all are designed
and structured to be cooperative workplaces where people
are viewed as the key to competitiveness. People get
the most out of the technology; they provide quality,
good service and continual improvement.
The major difference
between new work systems and traditional organizations
is in the role of the human resources in the organization.
New work systems seek
to build commitment among employees by changing the
way businesses are managed and how labor and management
relate to each other.
New work systems are
built around three basic elements critical to produce
the commitment necessary for an organization to compete
in the changing world economy:
- The recognition
and treatment of people as a company’s most
valuable and enduring asset
- The recognition
and treatment of all employees as partners in the
- The involvement
of all employees in the management of the business
When people are recognized
to be a business’s most valuable and enduring
asset they are given caring and careful treatment including:
- good wages
- a safe and
at adequate levels so that
- long hours
arid highly stressful assignments are not routine
of employees’ personal commitments at home and
in the community
and continual training
for their chosen labor union affiliation
Employees are used
wisely, with every effort made to enhance their abilities.
In return, an employee in a new work system takes on
a new responsibility for helping the organization reach
its goals. Without developing this kind of responsibility
in its employees, a business will suffer long-term competitive
In return for asking
so much from its employees, a company with a new work
system must offer fair value and treatment. There is
no other way to create a concern in employees for a
company’s competitive Position.
Fair value means wages
and benefits commensurate with the high level skills,
knowledge and responsibility’ required by a new
work system. It means that employment security is a
priority. It means a safe and healthy workplace. And
it means that other forms of rewards and recognitions
are available to provide constant reminders that the
company does not take its employees for granted.
Fair treatment means
an opportunity to learn, and to contribute. It means
that workers and their unions are treated with respect
and dignity. It means that management takes care to
staff the organization at adequate levels so that long
hours and highly stressful assignments are not routine.
It means that the company accepts its social responsibility
by recognizing that it does not have sole and complete
call on time, energy and loyalty of its employees because
families and communities also depend upon skilled, committed
and competent men and women for their success and well-being.
Treating people as
partners and involving them in all aspects of the business
are management behaviors very different from those in
most companies. They spring from a set of values that
are understood and held by everyone in the organization.
New work systems values
- trust and
for the dignity of individuals
of effort and achievement
- growth and
safety and security
to the continuous improvement of every aspect of the
These values are basically
the same in all new work systems, cutting across company
and industry lines, regardless of the technology or
the complexity of the work process. These values are
not just spoken, they are acted upon. In a traditional
organization “quality” may be said to be
a value, but the reality is that “quality”
takes a back seat to getting product out the door.
The values of a new
work system stem from a fundamental belief:
The people who perform
the work can and should understand the business well
enough to figure out whet to do with a minimal amount
To that belief is
linked a second:
People will be motivated
to figure out what to do and then will do U only if
they are committed to the success of the business.
A new work system
is further guided by the additional beliefs that:
- jobs should
should share the benefits of success
should have the freedom to contribute his or her talents
to the success of the enterprise
- the organization
must be productive and competitive
- shared decision-making
and problem-solving is more effective than that of
A new work system
backs up these beliefs by structuring the organization
so that workers:
- manage their
own work performance
their own work performance
- make proactive
changes in the workplace
- help fellow
employees and be helped in return
- make decisions
based on an understanding of the business and other
parts of the system
high levels of customer satisfaction
In sum, a worker must
be able to do the right thing, rather than the prescribed
New work systems have
an organizational structure which encourages employees
to take on these responsibilities. This type of structure
- fewer levels
and responsibility distributed throughout the organization
- Open communications
- pay for
- bonus or
A flattened hierarchy
means there are very few levels between the top and
the bottom of the organization. Decisions are made at
the action level by the employees who have to carry
In order to be decision-makers,
people at all levels in the organization must have management
skills, greater autonomy and responsibility. This may
mean that there are fewer job classifications and work
rules, a break with traditional union safeguards accepted
by the union only when the all of the elements of a
new work system are accepted by management. It also
means that employees must be trained to manage themselves.
the organization are open. Information about the business
is shared freely with all employees, who are given the
training they need to understand it and use it to improve
their work process. In return, workers are expected
to share their knowledge of the process and help improve
them. High trust levels make this kind of communication
Teamwork means that
groups of employees are given the means to accomplish
certain operations or tasks. The team responsibilities
- work operations
- work scheduling
in the production or service process
In an NWS, workers
are multi-skilled and are paid accordingly. They are
not restricted to one dull, monotonous job. A pay-for-skills
compensation system is based on the number and type
of skills acquired by the individual employee. The more
skills learned, the greater the employee’s pay.
is available in the form of a profit and productivity
bonus system. Such a system recognizes the fact that
workers know more about their production process and
can participate in suggestions and solutions for improving
that process. The financial benefits that result should
be shared with the people who created them.
Management ranks may
be lean in a new work system because the workers have
no need for supervisors to continually monitor their
performance. Managers will have the time to put their
skills to work on long-range planning, providing resources
for work teams, and coaching, training and developing
individual employees. For many managers this will require
extensive changes in attitude and behavior, which can
be obtained only by technical, administrative and people
In a successful new
work system labor and management will work together
as a matter of course, particularly in designing and
implementing the new work system. Each side will value
the other’s viewpoint and traditions. Cooperation
will not be based on a myth that union and company are
alike, but on the mutual understanding that strength
is bred of diversity, tolerance and the resolution of
Each side will understand
the importance of due process for individuals who have
a complaint or who are charged with a serious violation
of organizational policies or standards. Thus, disciplinary
matters that cannot be resolved through informal agreements
will be handled by a structured grievance procedure.
Individuals in a new
work system are treated with respect and are appreciated
for their uniqueness. Minority viewpoints are encouraged.
Many new work system
organizations involve their customers and their suppliers
in their business, too. Input from customers and suppliers
is used in designing new products, in laying out facilities,
in developing equipment, and continuously improving
products and services. This effort is not limited to
engineers and marketing people, but includes the people
who make the product or provide the service.
Successful new work
systems use information effectively to help people make
quality decisions. They impart knowledge through training
and education to create a knowledgeable, multi-skilled
Finally, new work
systems are dynamic. They are really to adapt to change
and, in fact, welcome change as a chance to get the
jump on new markets and opportunities.
WORDS OF CAUTION
The American Federation
of Grain Millers encourages its local unions and their
members to become partners with their employers in meeting
competition and safeguarding employment and pay through
a new work system. But the union recognizes that the
creation of a new work system is a long, complex process.
It is even more difficult when a company is transforming
itself from a traditional organization. That is one
reason workers need a union as much as ever, even though
good employers may now “value” their workers
highly and wish to treat them accordingly.
While union representation
is obviously not a requirement for a company creating
a new work system, it can provide a definite advantage.
The union provides a valuable perspective in problem-solving
and decision-making. It acts as the conscience of the
organization when there is less reliance on highly detailed
workrules and procedures to provide the “answers”
to problems or concerns.
Even the most well-meaning
employer and vigilant union may find themselves straying
from the new beliefs they profess. The result can be
the misuse of the process and the abuse of workers.
Abuse can come from
the constant encouragement to workers to “do whatever
it takes” to “get the job done.” There
are limits to human ability and energy and there are
ethical lines that should not be crossed. Furthermore,
the union must make certain that the company recognizes
that some employees must live with constant non-work
responsibilities such as child and parent care.
One way that new work
systems are often said to be different from traditional
companies is that they are organized for the ninety-five
percent of employees who want themselves and their company
to do well, and not for the five percent who are “shirkers”
or “troublemakers.’ New work systems will
not magically transform every one of that five percent
into model employees and it may create the temptation
to “let the workers take care of them.”
Misuse of a new work
system can come from the expectation that workers will
take on responsibility for traditional management tasks
such as discipline. Union members can and should develop
a basic set of mutual expectations about job performance
and responsibility – and they should talk to each
other when those expectations are not met. Yet the authority
to discipline remains with management and the responsibility
to provide members with due process in the form of grievances
and arbitration remains with the union.
But poor performance
or violation of rules and policies is not the only issue.
New work systems can create tremendous pressures for
conformity. A new work system should not be designed
to be a continual weeding out mechanism of the least
productive or innovative workers. In fact, an NWS should
encourage constructive conflict and creativity. One
way to do this is by encouraging and protecting minority
So while it is not
fair that some workers must “carry” others
who refuse to do work at a mutually acceptable level
of skill and performance, it is equally unfair for workers
to be expected to punish their peers. And while dealing
with cynics, “naysayers” and whiners can
be frustrating, honest dissent should be respected.
In sum, a unionized
company relying on a new work system requires a strong,
smart union that listens to its members (who are sure
to let the union’s leadership know if it is straying
from their expectations about its proper role). And
it requires union leaders who can represent the interests
of the members in all aspects and at all levels of the
new work system.
That is when a new
work system will perform “as advertised.”
ROLE IN NEW WORK SYSTEMS
“jointness,” or whatever term is used to
describe the relationship in a new work system requires
a union to be proactive, an equal partner in decision-making
and problem-solving based on a continuing effort at
defining mutual interests as well as an appreciation
of their separate interests. For the union, this means
accepting some new and expanded responsibilities.
New work systems require
labor-management cooperation on more Issues than in
traditional labor-management relations, including:
- work operations
- pay systems
(beyond rates & scales)
Specific areas of
interest or responsibility that come under these headings
might include “being a member of a steering committee,”
“designing skill blocks,” or “facilitating
The issues to open
joint problem-solving are much greater. They are based
on a knowledge of the mutual interest of both parties.
Both sides are seen as competent with something of value
to bring to the party.
These issues emphasize
the needs of the 95% of union members who do not have
the kinds of problems or complaints that are the usual
basis for grievances or whose needs are specifically
spotlighted only during bargaining.
Thus, new work systems
have important implications for the way in which unions
function and in their relations with their members and
All working relationships
require an element of trust. The difference between
traditional labor-management relationships and those
in new work system is that the traditional ones are
based on a series of “backstops” that are
created for those times and situations in which the
relationship breaks down, or things fall through the
In fully developed
new work systems, there is less reliance on written
procedures, the “answers” contained in the
contract. Detailed contracts are evidence of efforts
to cover every conceivable situation or problem with
an answer or procedure. They reflect a lack of trust.
Replacing a traditional
contract with a briefer document that emphasizes trust
does not mean that the relationship is simpler or easier.
There are new skills needed and new demands of time
In new work systems,
both sides treat each other professionally. For the
union in particular this results in increasing demands
on the union as an organization. It cannot simply react.
Proactive efforts require research, preparation, and
knowledge of subject matter. Both sides need to be good
at being adversaries and good at being cooperative.
There is a continuing effort at defining mutual interests
as well as an appreciation of their separate interests.
If the organization
has to be flexible to be successful, so does the labor-management
relationship. Values should be generally consistent
but the structured systems flexible. Contracts become
guides and not the means of stonewalling change.
What kinds of organizational
skills and resources does a union need?
relationships are problem-solving relationships rather
than judicial or bargaining processes. Of course, traditional
labor-management has some problem-solving aspects to
it, and it often sets up problem-solving processes,
for example, Health & Safety Committees. A NWS elaborates
on that model.
As a partner with
management, the union may be asked or expected to take
on tasks and responsibilities usually reserved for management,
such as planning and organization development.
As with management,
the type and amount of communications needed in a successful
new work system is greater than in a traditional environment.
Unions also need to understand group process since so
much of the communications in the organization takes
place between groups.
The union may share
responsibility for training, including designing the
curriculum and conducting classes. At AFGM Local 59
in Lodi, California, AFGM members have learned and are
paid extra for using the skills and techniques of professional
trainers. They have used those skills to train managers
as well as union members. Meeting management is a skill
important not only to work teams, but to the union in
making its own meetings more effective.
Many unions involved
in new work systems have responded to the changes brought
about by altering their usual ways of representing the
Methods of dispute
resolution, such as grievances, become back-ups, or
secondary means of solving problems. First steps are
informal and based on the governance system for the
NWS, which is usually team-based.
Grievances are still
available. You do not dispense with due process, after
all. But there is an effort to avoid third party decision-making
arbitration in favor of third party facilitation or
Another key element
of new work systems that may require a change in the
union’s role is a reliance on flexible work rules.
This may invite more abuse because it is less clear
cut. Union stewards will not be able to rely on contracts
or rigid job descriptions for answers. Instead, they
must engage in informal problem-solving and decision-
making with management.
among peers is the first step in dealing with performance
problems and violation of norms or standards of behavior
in NWS. Many unions have recognized that peers often
find it difficult to give effective feedback and there
is a legitimate concern about union solidarity and loyalty.
So, in most unionized NWS there is a system of progressive
discipline as a back-up to performance feedback. Discipline
is designed to change behavior, not to punish or gain
Negotiations may also
be conducted in a different manner. With a stated goal
of problem-solving, negotiations become “interest-based.”
The union’s legitimate interests include fair
income for members, employment security, career mobility,
safety on the job, and fair treatment. But, these interests
and others are approached as problems to be solved rather
than “postures.” Management, too, has its
Thus, in NWS, contracts
are not rigid. The more general nature of the contract
language in a new work system means that the contract
is “written” as practices develop, decisions
are made and problems are solved.
Pay, vacations, and
benefit grievances are spelled out in detail, not in
general. What does all this mean for the union as an
A union should be
skilled, competent. proactive, an equal partner in decision-making
and problem-solving. In NWS, many unions struggle with
their roles, trying to marshal adequate resources in
the form of money and staff or leadership.
The good part is that
all this makes for a stronger union--the expertise gained
is transferable, for example, to better stewards’
training and bargaining schools.
NWS may alter the
relationship of the union to its members. It may provide
new opportunities to demonstrate the value and importance
of union to the membership through means such as role
modeling new skills and behaviors. The union will do
more than catch flack all the time through its stewards.
Unions can work with members at times when they are
not angry, scared, or disappointed.
The union also serves
as the conscience of organization. The reliance of a
new work system on a strong overt value system leaves
plenty of opportunity for lapses, inadvertent or not.
In the absence of a traditional contract, the union
is the conscience that helps point out and protect employees
in these situations. It also protects against burnout
and abuse stemming from high level of commitment to
Finally, the union
acts as a defender of minorities and a balance to the
majority. Jointness often leads to a belief in “sameness”:
we are all alike here. The fact is that power is still
unevenly distributed and those without it (a definition
of minority) still need an institutional backstop.
IN NEW WORK SYSTEMS: WHAT YOUR MANAGERS SHOULD KNOW
Managers in unionized
companies considering or that have already started efforts
to convert their traditional organization into a high
performance, high involvement work system should understand
that the AFGM believes that a union’s role in
such an effort must be either that of a full partner
or a committed opponent.
Any position in between
these extremes will, in the long run, harm the union.
It does not matter whether the transition is a success
or a failure from management’s point of view.
Neutrality, or lukewarm or selective support will win
the union no credit for success (and a growing perception
of irrelevance) and if the effort fails, the union will
no doubt receive at least some blame.
At the same time,
a company that proceeds in the face of a passive or
rudging union is operating without all of its available
resources, and in fact, may be forced to spend much
time dealing with concerns raised by the union.
|Thus, managers have
a vested interest in getting the union involved.
Yet managers must understand the costs and benefits
of full union participation:
are the rewards of working with the union?
opportunity for success through the increased energy,
commitment and ideas that union involvement brings.
|What are the
the time to discover mutual needs and interests
and work through potential conflict.
Unions, like management,
generally have a well-defined role to play in traditional
organizations with represented employees. While due
process representation such as grievances and arbitration
and bargaining are the two main services of the union,
they are not usually the only ones. Companies should
also remember the other services that the union provides
its members when assessing the union’s organizational
But management must
not lose sight of the obvious: unions generally have
less resources of all kinds than their employers and
unions are democratic organizations that must respond
to the will of the membership. A union may wind up investing
a higher percentage of its resources into an effort
than the company.
Managers should not
assume that the union is less willing to change than
top management. Several locals of the American Federation
of Grain Millers have asked their employers to begin
or speed up the implementation of new work systems in
plants that had instituted total quality efforts or
pilot high performance systems.
It is necessary to
remind even the most enlightened managers that joint
efforts should begin as soon as possible, even to the
point of learning together about the transition to a
new work system. This joint study process is important
so that a joint decision can be made to go forward or
maintain the existing system and relationship.
If there is agreement
on the need for change, there should be an effort to
examine current values and explicitly adopt a set of
new values that will guide the transformed organization
and its labor-management relationship.
welcome union representation on every structure that
is a part of the transition process. This means informal
design groups as well as high visibility steering committees.
The company as well
as the union should be interested in maintaining the
union’s visibility and independence. Thus, key
positions such as trainers and facilitators should be
filled with both a union and management representative.
Where the union lacks skills in organization development
or training design, the company can take on a mentoring
role. The union should receive recognition for its particular
strengths and competencies, for example, its ability
to take the “pulse” of the employees.
If your union is successful
in marshalling resources and uses them wisely, many
managers will have to take on a new mindset, one that
is clear about the union’s contribution to a successful,
productive and humane work system, and is pleased with
the competence and strength of the union.
MANAGEMENT ABOUT NEW WORK SYSTEMS
Thousands of North
American companies, some represented by the AFGM, are
trying to ready themselves for the future. They are
thinking about, or meeting, increased competition by
improving quality, service, and productivity. Their
efforts may be large- scale and decisive. Or they may
be small and tentative. But in either case, AFGM members
are affected and the union needs to act, especially
since most companies do not appreciate or understand
the need for union involvement.
If you, as a union
leader, and your members are not satisfied with your
company’s efforts in a quality program, productivity
push, or problem-solving process, you can safely assume
that the company’s methods do not truly reflect
the basic values of “total” quality and
A company that disregards
union concerns, issues and ideas, whether intentionally,
through oversight, or ignorance of the importance of
union involvement, is likely to fail to reach the goals
it says it wants. But it is likely to succeed in harming
the respect members have for their union and undermining
the protections of the contract.
The AFGM believes
that local unions should respond to these types of half-baked
efforts by offering an alternative process. An offer
to move to the next generation of workplace innovation
by implementing a “new work system” may
well shock management. But you can argue that the union’s
proposal (see page 28) is more likely to result in long-term
company success because it is based on true employee
empowerment and a real labor/management partnership.
The company may not
like your premise: What you have done so far is bound
to fail. Let us start over and do it right. But they
cannot argue that the union is short-sighted or an obstacle
they cannot say that you do not understand what it takes
to succeed in the marketplace or to help change a large
In fact, the union
can be the catalyst for success at:
a quality product or service at a fair price
your company for the 21st century
jobs and making them more interesting and rewarding
current wage rates an(l increasing future levels of
opportunities for personal and career development
Management needs to
listen, to appreciate your seriousness, and to understand
your knowledge of people, the economy and work.
You can get their
that your union knows as much, if not more, than the
company about competition and how to respond to it.
a solid analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of
the company’s efforts (or showing why the company
needs to begin an effort).
how a partnership with the union will enhance the
chances for success.
them that union opposition is certain to lead to failure.
a letter of agreement (see page 28 for a sample) and
an action plan (see page 27) that will lead to a new
work system operated by a true labor/management partnership.
At the same time you
are telling all this to senior management, you should
be giving the same information to the membership, building
support for a partnership, or to fight any process that
excludes the union.
FOR IMPLEMENTING A NEW WORK SYSTEM
The Action Plan for
new work systems will vary for each company and union,
but almost every plan should include these steps:
1. Leadership Education.
A systematic course of study for the key leaders of
the Union and the Company including an examination of
the restructuring of the world economic order, the current
transformation of the industry, the status and role
of unionized labor, and new systems of work.
2. Employee Communication.
Meetings with group of employees (covering the entire
organization) intended to build an understanding of
the nature of competition and options for meeting that
3. Management and
Union Steward Skills Training.
First-line manager and union steward training about
new work systems. The training would introduce them
to new work systems, analyze the role of management
and the union in these systems, and address their concerns
and anxieties about converting to a high involvement
4. New Work System
Design and Implementation.
A joint design process leading to a restructuring of
the existing company organization and labor agreement.
The new work system should be based on tabor-management
cooperation with responsibility and decision-making
pushed down to the individuals and groups that perform
the work. It may also include elements such as a team-based
work structure, a multi-skilled work force, and compensation
that recognizes knowledge and performance.
5. Employee Training.
Such training should center on: (1) job and technical
skills development; (2) skills training such as decision-making,
problem-solving, management and budgeting; (3) new work
system orientation; and (4) work relationships such
as trust, perceptions, communications, group process,
conflict resolution and labor-management relations.
of All Processes.
The standardization of work and business processes and
the use of statistical process controls are widely recognized
as critical elements in producing consistent high quality
products and services. Execution requires a well-trained
workforce, employee acceptance, and a serious commitment
of time and resources to realize the substantial financial
benefits that are possible. Employees should he trained
to analyze their operations and develop standardized
processes that reflect their job knowledge and experience
about the best, safest and fairest ways to perform work.
They should fully participate with management in implementing
7. Redesign of Management
Management systems such as evaluation and promotion
practices, scheduling systems, compensation systems,
information systems, and maintenance parts purchasing
must be examined to determine if they should he redesigned
to fit with a new system of operating so that they are
compatible with and helpful to a new work system.
OF AGREEMENT ON NEW WORK SYSTEMS
This letter will serve
as an agreement in principle between Local ____ of the
American Federation of Grain Millers and ____________
on the objectives, rationale and character of effort
for a process of workplace innovation to be known as
the “new work system” (NWS).
The Union and the
Company believe that short-term and long-term competitive
challenges cannot be solved through technology only.
Organizational an(l people improvements are equally,
if not more, important. They, too, should be treated
as a long-term investment or capital expense, one that
increases skills, understanding, opportunities and rewards
for employees while improving the Company’s effectiveness
and chances for success.
Both parties acknowledge
that the transformation of the present organization
to a new work system requires new skills, roles, responsibilities,
relationships, rules and systems. Both agree to make
a good faith effort to reach our mutually agreed upon
goals while recognizing the complexities of such a major
Therefore, the Union
and the Company agree to undertake a course of action
1. Leadership Education,
2. Employee Communication,
3. Management and
Union Steward Skills Training,
New Work System Design
5. Employee Training,
of All Processes, and
7. Redesign of Management
So that these steps
may be accomplished, the Union and the Company agree
to create a full structural partnership with equal or
equivalent representation for:
b. Plant or Department-level
c. Design Teams,
f. Team leaders,
g. Selection of consultants,
h. Authorship of notices
i. Design and delivery
of training, and
j. Any other group,
team or individual roles or responsibilities deemed
necessary for the success of a new work system
The Union will be
allowed to select its own representatives to serve in
these capacities or conduct the necessary work to carry
out these functions.
The Union and the
Company will jointly monitor and evaluate the process
to assure that the values, purposes and goals of the
new work system are nurtured and maintained.
As a result of this
partnership and implementation of a new work system,
no employee will lose his or her employment or be laid
off, or have a reduction in compensation. The Master
Agreement will control layoffs, employment security
and compensation when economic, market place or technological
Both parties recognize
that the emphasis on organizational effectiveness, especially
employee involvement in quality assurance and dedication
to internal and external customer service, inherent
in the concept of a new work system, contains the potential
for high levels of employee stress. Therefore, both
parties will strive to design and implement a new work
system that is adequately staffed so that employees
may meet legitimate obligations to their families and
Nothing in this agreement
shall prevent the Union from carrying out its traditional
and contractual obligations to represent its members
in matters of collective bargaining and on-the-job discipline.
“QUALITY” OR “INVOLVEMENT” EFFORTS
What if your company
rejects the union’s request to be a full partner
in a new work system? What if it willfully and repeatedly
violates agreements and understandings about a joint
process? The result, even if the company denies it,
will be the undermining of membership support for the
union. This situation calls for a union strategy intended
to convince the company that a labor/management partnership
is a prerequisite for a true quality or involvement
process and is crucial for long-term success.
Union leaders should:
and distribute a Statement of Union Objectives and
Direction, i.e., what the union is trying to accomplish
with its strategy.
- Hold membership
meetings to educate the members about right and wrong
approaches to quality and employee involvement. Circulate
articles and analyze good and bad examples, including
your company’s efforts.
- Train key
union people in skills to effectively:
quality, legally sound documentation to demonstrate:
team meetings and other "quality" activities
examples of the misuse of quality and violations
of labor law
and unfair labor practices based on the documentation.
publicity for the union’s positions and actions
(for example, a counter-total quality newsletter).
ongoing training for union members on alternative
ways of operating.
a credible union official to oversee the campaign.
of "Total Quality" or "involvement" efforts (by
managers playing favorites or rigging team recommendations
to win support or funding for projects they favor)
of management regarding traditional and new values
of management actions
of the collective bargaining agreement
changing in the terms of conditions of work (mandatory
subjects of bargaining)
IF ADDITIONAL ASSISTANCE
IS NECESSARY, CONSULT YOUR INTERNATIONAL UNION. THERE
MAY BE ADDITIONAL PRESSURE OR LEGAL ACTIONS THAT CAN
CONVINCE THE COMPANY OR SHORTCIRCUIT THE EFFORT.
OF LABOR-MANAGEMENT COOPERATION: THE GRAIN MILLERS’
A small, but vocal
minority of union leaders and activists strenuously
oppose in principle the idea of “jointness”
between labor and management and ask union members to
fight its manifestations such as quality circles, team-based
work design and new work systems. Others agree that
the idea is a admirable ideal, but say that it is invariably
exploited or misused by management.
It is hard to argue
with people who feel that unions and companies must
be adversaries in all situations. They seem to believe
in class distinctions between labor and management that
most Americans instinctively reject. Their conviction
is strong, but so is that of the AFGM: in the 1990’s
union leaders must be good at being adversarial, good
at cooperation, and smart enough to know when union
members benefit most from one or the other. AFGM leaders
should be prepared to answer critics of labor-management
cooperation while acknowledging that some of their criticism
is justified, too often because union leaders do not
do a good job of preventing employer abuses.
Here is what some
opponents have to say:
Competition is not
a concern of unions
The first priority
for the labor movement today is to end its confusion
about goals and coin/flit itself to this basic proposition:
The job of unions is to defend and improve the conditions
of workers even if it costs management in ore money,
even if it reduces productivity, and even if in the
short run it hurts ‘competitive position’.
. . . The labor movement needs to champion the idea
that workers have created plenty of resources--we live
in an economy of abundance, not scarcity--and that those
resources can be used to improve their working conditions
and lives.. .If the labor movement only echoes the corporate
line about “competitiveness," what good is
– Mike Parker
and Jane Slaughter, labor activists and authors
AFGM believes that
is possible to defend all the legitimate rights and
needs of workers and still help improve competitiveness.
A “high skills, high wage” strategy employed
through the values and structure of a new work system
in which the union is a true partner makes it possible.
union members want their companies to succeed and want
satisfaction from their work, the opportunity to grow
and learn, and the dignity and respect due to them because
of their knowledge and experience. These ideas do not
contradict each other. In fact, they complement each
Cooperation is nothing
new and has never worked
Our view is that this
“new” era of cooperation is, in fact, not
new at all. Rather, it is a false hope that has been
seized from time to time in the past but has never panned
out. It has not worked in this country, largely because
it is not part of the American industrial experience.
It does not represent what workers want and need or
even what managers should expect in the way of responsible
– Lance Compa
and Barbara Reisman, former staff members of the United
Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America
For better or worse,
the “American industrial experience’ has
been globalized (see Section 2, “The World In
Which We Work”). The past is no longer a prediction
for the future, or even the present. Cooperation is
not bound to fail, although failure is possible if unions
are not able to play their proper role. Responsible
unionism now calls for the ability to be a good partner
when mutual or non-competing interests are at stake
and a good adversary when appropriate.
Cooperation is just
another form of concessions
What passes today
for workplace democracy today boils down in practice
to employee buyouts of aging, non-competitive firms
on the periphery of the economy, quality circles and
quality-of- work- life charades; labor-management productivity
committees, profit-sharing and stock-ownership plans,
symbolic seats on boards of directors, a look at the
company’s books with a right to ‘review’
and ‘advise’ and like measures to promote
the appearance of enlightened managers and empowered
workers. All the while, real control stays firmly in
management hands. The big corporations are tightening
their grip on the economy and proceeding apace with
job-slashing, mergers, robotization, runaway shops,
strikebreaking, wage- cutting and other steps to destroy
the bargaining power of organized labor.”
– Lance Compa
and Paul J. Biacich, former staff member of the United
Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America and
an IAM shop steward
Unions can fight concessions
by offering to help companies create a new system of
work based on a competitive strategy that makes human
resources the centerpiece of the company. Economic gains
can be protected when a company improves its effectiveness.
While the union may give up some of its traditional
powers, such as tightly constructed work rules, it will
win for workers a different type of power based on individual
and group autonomy over work.
Cooperation and teamwork
turn worker against worker
. . . The team concept
is more than a mere gimmick; it is an attempt by management
to control not only the worker’s behavior on the
job, but also the worker’s feelings and thoughts.
The employer plays upon the worker’s desire to
use his or her creativity and intellect. The team concept
promises the worker that lie or she will be something
more than a mere factory hand, calls upon him to think
and asks him to cooperate with management.
But cooperation with
management ever so subtly turns into competition with
one’s fellow workers. In the struggle for productivity
and even quality, department is pitted against department,
and worker is pitted against worker. What began by appealing
to the worker’s idealism turns some workers into
informers and weakens union solidarity. Often when workers
are reluctant to approve the team approach, they are
threatened by management with plant closings.
– Victor Reuther,
founder and former official of the United Auto Workers
Unions can end competition
between departments and plants by helping to convert
all unionized facilities to new work systems. When the
employer and employees know that the entire plant will
be converted, there’s no reason for departments
It is true, however,
that companies will continue to point to non-union plants
as competitors. The union’s response should be
that an organized plant has advantages over its unorganized
competitors. A union can:
- offer institutionalized,
constructive criticism that improves the process by
helping it to respond to the legitimate concerns of
the workers (who might not otherwise speak up)
an independent and trustworthy system of due process
for handling problems through the grievance procedure
- serve as
a forum to balance the short-term interests of the
worker with the long-term interests of the company.
As for competition
between individual workers, the union can educate the
company and its membership on the type of behavior that
benefits the company, the union and employees.
On the Changing Economy:
B. and Packer, Arnold E. Workforce 2000, Work and Workers
for the Twenty-first Century. Hudson Institute, Indianapolis,
Marshall, Ray. Unheard
Voices, Labor and Economic Policy in a Competitive World.
Basic Books, Inc., Publishers, New York, 1987.
Articles and Pamphlets:
Mandel, Michael. “1991
Won’t Be a Pretty Year”, Business Week,
January 14, 1991, 61-65.
Pennar, Karen. “The
Global Economy, Can You Compete?”, Business Week.
December 17, 1990, 61-63.
Port, Otis. “The
Global Race”, Business Week. June 15, 1990, 33-39.
Therrier, Lois. “Food
Makers Will Taste Humble Pie”, Business Week.
January 8, 1990, 80.
On New Work Systems:
Hauck, Warren C.,
Ph.D. Achieving High Commitment Work Systems, A Practitioner’s
Guide to Sociotechnical System Implementation. Industrial
Engineering and Management Press, 1990.
Lawler, Edward E..
III. High-Involvement Management. Jossey-Bass Publisher,
San Francisco, 1986.
Articles and Pamphlets:
U. S. Dept. of Labor,
Bureau of Labor-Management Relations and Cooperative
Programs. Organized Labor and New Systems of Work, State
of the Art Symposium: 1989. BLMR 1989.
Burton, Cynthia and
Cohen-Rosenthal, Edward. “Collective Bargaining
for the Future”, The Futurist. March-April 1987,
On the Changing Role
and Burton, Cynthia E. Mutual Gains, A Guide to Union
- Management Cooperation. Praeger, New York, 1987.
C. The New Unionism, Employee Involvement in the Changing
Corporation. Basic Books, Inc., New York, New York,
>Simmons, John and
Mares, William. Working Together. Alfred A. Knopf, New
Articles and Pamphlets:
Tollison, Peggy and
Burghard, Paul, et al. “Union Leadership: Skills
for the 1990’s”, Journal/or Quality and
Participation. December 1989, 48-51.
U. S. Dept. of Labor,
Bureau of Labor-Management Relations and Cooperative
Programs. The Changing Role of Union Leaders. Prepared
by Joel Cutcher- Gershenfeld, Robert B. McKersie and
Kirsten R. Weaver. BLMR 127, 1988.
U.S. Dept. of Labor,
Bureau of Labor-Management Relations and Cooperative
Programs. Labor-Management Cooperation.’ 1989
State-of-the-Art Symposium. BLMR 124, 1989.
By Critics of Labor/Management
Cooperation and New Work Systems:
Labor Research Review.
Participating in Management, Union Organizing on a New
Terrain. Midwest Center for Labor Research, Fall, 1989.
Parker, Mike. Inside
the Circle, A Union Guide to QWL. South End Press, Boston,
Parker, Mike and Slaughter,
Jane. Choosing Sides, Unions and the Team Concept. South
End Press, Boston, 1988.
Articles and Pamphlets:
>Compa, Lance and
Reisman, Barbara. “The Case for Adversarial Unions”,
Harvard Business Review. May-June 1 9&5.