By Lance Haun
I got an e-mail a few weeks ago asking me for advice on an issue. They said:
I have been looking at job posts for my Dream Job and some list “Masters preferred.” Is this one of those preferred but really required? My end sight is to obtain a job here in Los Angeles in a specific area such as Labor Relations (union) or Compensation.
Now if you’ve read me long enough, you know that my views on job posts are that it depends on the company entirely. Some say Masters preferred because they actually mean it. Others don’t. It’s kind of silly. But that’s not what got my attention.
If you think labor relations is going to be about unions in a decade, you can think again.
The changing workforce
I know union leaders are pushing (and business leaders are freaking out about) the EFCA, but let’s face the fact that even if Employee Free Choice Act does eventually pass, it’s simply a desperate grab for more nails on the union’s coffin. It doesn’t represent a change in the union’s value proposition, how unions can actually impact positive change, or how it makes a union more attractive to workers. It just allows them to do more of the same with greater ease without changing anything.
Unions have been bleeding members because industry has been shifting for three decades in the U.S. Sure, grocery unions will whine about WalMart’s anti-union work, or the auto unions will cry about non-union, foreign-based U.S. auto plants sprouting up in the Midwest and Southeast, but picking up some of those employees for the union would simply mean a stop to the bleeding, not a strategy going forward.
Who sees that trend reversing because of the EFCA or any similar law on the books?
The real future
If unions survive, it will be because they change, not because of some pity legislation that they drove through (literally) by buying political capital. I’m not a union hater, but I hate the way unions have transformed the same way I hate how many businesses have transformed into “money first, at any cost” organizations. There’s a real disconnect between leaders and members that seems ironic given the language unions use to describe the relationship between employers and employees.
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I’m not betting on unions to change though. I think they will continue to ignore that they have a value proposition for desk jockeys and service workers alike that is going to be different than the role they played in manufacturing. But don’t tell them that.
The real future is going to play out in terms of technology, the “how” of work and globalization. And I know it is almost cliche to talk about globalization too, but when many universities are offering labor relations classes that focus exclusively on unions, and international business classes that focus on proper business etiquette rather than the real business decisions that will play out if you choose to take any part of your business global, it’s still an issue.
Labor relations 2020
Focusing on union-driven labor relations seems a lot like focusing on marketing horse-drawn carriages. At some point, that book has been written. The unions that exist now may still exist or slowly die but how you deal with them is no surprise anymore.
I think looking a decade out, you’re going to be asking:
- Is a virtual workplace sustainable?
- If most of our customers are in China, shouldn’t we be there?
- Our marketing team is in Germany, our production is in the U.S. and our logistics are in India. How are we tying it all together? How do people share a common vision among even smaller businesses globalizing?
What’s your take? Who is talking about these issues in a serious (and applicable) manner?