July 31st, 2013
Unions taking care of their own members: An obvious solution to workplace bullying
I just returned from an invigorating, stimulating and inspirational meeting in San Francisco staged by the Stop Workplace Bullying Group. [Every meeting I attend is about workplace bullying, nothing else.] And in the ILWU Local 34 union hall on Sat. July 27, community leaders and unionists gathered to share tales of whistleblowing and bullying and to plan future action.
Three major union-related themes emerged
1. Unions fail when leaders are themselves bullies and turn a deaf ear to the plight of abused members who turn to the union for help. Sadly, this is often the case. Why? One explanation is that in order to be popular enough within membership, one has to show toughness to fight for contract provisions (see what the largest union of California state employees was able to negotiate in 2013 for its members), and in daily encounters with management. Thus, the profile of an ideal local president fits closely with the characteristics of a bully. There may be a selection factor.
An alternative explanation is that many contemporary union leaders want to get along with management, to “partner,” to make concessions to appear cooperative. This tactic compromises the function of the union — to speak a collective voice to balance management’s desire to own all aspects the production process. Members see this type of leader as a sellout.
The SF meeting attendees declared that, regardless of the reason for union leaders not supporting members, leaders who stand in the way of eradicating workplace bullying should be removed from office!
2. Unions can use workplace bullying as an organizing tool. Unions MUST make workplace bullying a priority because of its impact on injured members. Members want relief. Union leaders should not be frozen into doing nothing in cases of member-on-member bullying. In fact, those cases present opportunities for unions to be sympathetic to both the target and the bully. Bullies can be threatened with sanctions and ostracism if help is not sought and changes made. Unions have more control over bullies when they are members than when they are managers. And no one can provide the emotional support for bullied targets better than unions.
The SF group recognized that in order to provide the support, unions need training on workplace bullying. Otherwise they may hurt more than they help.
3. Attendees also saw the natural fit between unions, as the only advocates for employees, and union advocacy for the WBI anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill. In several of the 25 states, unions have been thoroughly engaged and supportive. For instance, in Massachusetts, NAGE has led the charge backed by 4,000 citizen lobbyists organized by the Mass. Healthy Workplace Advocates. In New York, the NY Healthy Workplace Advocates have been supported by several unions over the years.
The push for support from California unions will be especially important because California was the first state to introduce the HWB back in 2003 and it hasn’t been re-introduced since then.
If your only exposure to news about unions comes from TV network programs, you would be very distrusting of, and cynical about, unions in America. You would be convinced they are dead. The mainstream spin on the city of Detroit bankruptcy fixes blame on unions and the pensions earned by veteran workers.
Unions, however, were not responsible for the Great Recession of 2008. That was the work of the financial sector — banks, investment houses, compromised rating agencies — not workers or unions.
When you hear real people like at the SF meeting, you realize the passion and dedication they bring to their jobs. The injustices suffered by conscientious workers still amaze me. Governments are growing bolder in their bullying of workers. Clearly, without laws, the pattern will continue unabated. Employers have no self-control.
Any Californian interested in helping with legislation should contact the California Healthy Workplace Advocates. Union members in NorCal wanting to help launch the Union workplace bullying movement should call (415) 282-1908.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 31st, 2013 at 10:41 am and is filed under Tutorials About Bullying, Unions, WBI Education. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.