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|Forward-Thinking Employers Redefine Labor Relations in Global Economy by Collaborating with Unions|
WASHINGTON, DC— In the 21st century workplace, adversarial relationships pitting employers against unions increasingly are being replaced with cooperative labor relations models. In observance of Labor Day, American Rights at Work profiles successful partnerships between employers and their employees’ unions in the second annual edition of the Labor Day List: Partnerships that Work.
“Too many employers still embrace old-fashioned, hostile practices such as massive layoffs, slashing pay and benefits, or preventing workers from forming unions as the only way to remain profitable in today’s economy,” says David Bonior, Chair of American Rights at Work. “Labor Day List employers have found ways to remain competitive while treating their workers fairly.”
This year’s list includes a cross-section of national and regional employers of varying sizes in a range of high-growth industries like retail, construction, and health care. All featured employers have negotiated good contracts with their employees’ unions. Many have embraced higher labor standards than those mandated by current U.S. labor law.
Many of the list’s CEOs see unions as an asset, not an obstacle, and lead their companies to respect workers’ rights. The leadership of Iowa-based construction firm, McAninch Corporation, recognizes the value unions add to its $200 million-a-year business. “A highly skilled labor force is vital to our success,” claims CEO Dwayne McAninch. “To recruit and retain the best people, we gladly pay higher than non-union wages.” The construction company, now 100 percent union, has a workers’ compensation insurance rating 21 percent below the industry norm, and a lost workday rate due to injury or illness 75 percent below industry average.
Other Labor Day List employers have adopted neutral positions on union formation, ensuring that their workers have a free and fair choice to form unions without interference. When a majority of nurses indicated their intention to join the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees in the learly 1990s, North Philadelphia Health System (NPHS) voluntarily recognized their union. Workers employed at Cingular Wireless, the nation’s top wireless carrier profiled in the 2005 Labor Day List, are continuing to join unions as a result of a neutrality agreement it extended with the Communications Workers of America to cover former AT&T employees after the firms’ 2004 merger. Nearly 17,000 workers chose union representation in the first year of the agreement. Today, 39,000 Cingular technicians, customer service representatives, and retail sales workers in 35 states are union members.
Featured labor-management partnerships have also made a difference for the broader community. New Orleans-based contractor Boh Bros. Construction Company’s vision after Hurricane Katrina was to get workers back on their feet and back to work. The firm, awarded over a half billion dollars in post-Katrina reconstruction contracts, voluntarily raised wages three months in advance of union contract negotiations and provided food and shelter for employees to encourage them to return to work. Employees of Jackson & Perkins, the nation’s largest specialty rose producer, enjoy benefits that far exceed those of non-union farm workers, a routinely exploited workforce.
The practices of Labor Day List employers are especially noteworthy when balanced against the prevailing behavior of U.S. employers. Each year, more than 23,000 U.S. workers are illegally fired or penalized simply for supporting a union. A recent University of Illinois at Chicago study found that 51 percent of employers facing union organizing drives coerce employees into opposing unions with bribes or special favors, and 30 percent illegally fire pro-union employees. The study also found that 82 percent of employers hire unionbusting consultants to fight union organizing drives.”
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American Rights at Work is a leading labor policy and advocacy organization dedicated to educating the American public about the barriers that workers face when they attempt to exercise their rights to freely and fairly form unions and engage in collective bargaining.