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Labor Unions Become Business Partners

August 1, 1993
Related Topics: Unions, Labor Relations, Featured Article
Protestants have made friends with the Catholics in Northern Ireland. Palestinians and Israelis are rebuilding the Middle East. Bosnians, Croats and Serbs are reuniting Yugoslavia in peace. Unions and management are working together—as business partners—for the benefit of both groups.

These scenarios might seem pretty far-fetched. It's difficult to imagine any of these traditional adversaries burying the hatchet—other than in each other—and working together for the common good.

Unions and management haven't often tried to kill each other, as is the case with the other adversaries, but they often have been pulling in opposite directions, and there have been some hard feelings. Now some unions and the employers that they represent are learning to work together. In a highly competitive business environment, in which most firms are struggling to stay alive, the adversarial approach is counterproductive. "It isn't what employees want, and it isn't what drives success," explains William K. Ketchum, AT&T's vice president for labor relations.

On June 21, the cooperative joint efforts of General Motors and the United Auto Workers union paid off for both parties. The company announced that it will shift production of some of its automobiles from a plant in Mexico to one in Lansing, Michigan, creating at least 800 new jobs at the U.S. plant. This action resulted from a complete turnaround in union-management relations within the past year, according to UAW Vice President Stephen Yokich.

This isn't an isolated incident, however. For many years, unions have supported—in one way or another—the industries whose employees they serve by providing day care, training and other services. Today, that service is taking on a new dimension. Today, the union is becoming a business partner.

One of the earliest cooperative efforts grew out of the Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA) and the Associated General Contractors in 1969. This effort, called the Laborers-AGC Education and Training Fund, oversees the training that members of the union receive. The fund has provided safety training, workplace literacy and ESL training. It also recently worked with the EPA to combine training in the cleanup of hazardous-waste sites with the actual cleanup of public waste sites, including removing lead-based paint from publicly owned housing units and bridges, according to Arthur A. Coia, general president of LIUNA.

In 1987, the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union (OCAW) and the International Brotherhood of Firemen and Oilers worked with Rohm & Haas Kentucky Inc. in Louisville, Kentucky, to assist with the design of a new plant, by preventing design flaws and expensive retrofitting. The Design Committee grew out of a long-standing attitude of cooperation between the unions and management.

Stamford, Connecticut-based Xerox Corp. was struggling during the early '80s, but has made a significant comeback, thanks in large part to union-management cooperation initiatives. Xerox became the first major U.S. firm to win back market share from the Japanese without government intervention, at the same time as its return on assets increased from 8% to 14.7%, according to Joe Laymon, director of corporate industrial relations in Rochester, New York. Cooperative efforts at Xerox have included an agreement with the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers' Union (ACTWU) that allows the union to bid on any work that Xerox wants to contract out, a leaner-but-friendlier contract-negotiation process and a new, jointly developed factory design, called a focus factory, which allows quick accommodation to changes in product demand.

Not to be outdone, AT&T and its unions—The Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW)—are refocusing the entire organization, using a framework called the Workplace of the Future, to make the unions and the company true partners in every aspect of the business. Company and union officials say that they expect to be able to work together to redesign the work environment and help AT&T meet the demands of the global marketplace, while giving employees a greater voice in decisions affecting their jobs and working conditions.

Coia says that the old us-versus-them dynamics have broken down. For years, the fortunes of union contractors and union workers have receded because of a focused challenge from the nonunion sectors. American companies and American workers have been battered economically by global competitors. The fortunes of both unions and management have taken a nosedive in direct relation to the growing challenge from these competitors. "The most-progressive leaders from labor and management have joined forces to compete against common enemies," Coia explains. "In the minds of these new leaders, the old us meant unions and workers; today it means union labor and management working together. The old them meant management; today it's our non-union competitors and international challengers who would take our jobs and underbid our corporate employers," he says.

Martin R. Smith, president and CEO of Management Sciences International Inc. in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and author of Contrarian Management (Amacom, 1992), agrees. "The way it used to be done, the company would call the labor lawyer in, and the union president would get together with union people and plot and scheme," Smith says. "Then they'd sit across the table from each other and try to get as much as they could. Those days are gone—or the company's gone, and all the jobs with it," he says.

The shift away from top-down management has helped move cooperative efforts forward because the unions often have more credibility with their members than management has. "If you fully integrate the union into these efforts, then you're going to get a lot more cooperation," Smith says.

Coia predicts that we'll see an increased use of joint committees to solve problems on the job. These committees will help break down the old distinctions between union and management thinking. "The use of joint committees will have the effect of breaking down the old ways of viewing each other's spheres of responsibility," he says. For example, he points out that not long ago, the issue of competitiveness was viewed by management as within its exclusive decision-making sphere. "Today, however, our nation's most innovative companies recognize that employees—and unions as their representatives—possess a lot of insight into how a company can compete better," he says.

The tougher economic climate today is influencing similar changes in the ways in which unions and management in Canada operate as well. Gary Johncox, VP of HR for MacMillan Bloedel Limited in Vancouver, says, "Economic crisis seems required, and the more doctrine-rigid the union is, the greater the crisis must be to encourage change."

To make this new partnership work will require all parties to change, according to Robert Reich, U.S. Secretary of Labor. "We must make change our ally and use it to create a just economy and a just society," he says.

Change is difficult to accept.
Getting people to accept change is one of the greatest difficulties that unions and managers face when they begin cooperative efforts. "It's very difficult to go from a pyramid, from a high-volume, static organization, to a dynamic, high-value organization," Reich says. "It's hard because it's so threatening to everybody. It threatened the people on the top, because, remember, they got there because they were the font of all wisdom, daring and insight, and now, suddenly, they have to give up control. They have to acknowledge that they are no longer necessarily the fonts of all wisdom and daring and insight. It's threatening to middle managers because they have to give up being in the control business. They have to be in the business of facilitating groups of people, making sure that they learn together and that they're productive. They're in the control-implementation business. It's threatening for the people on the front line, because it means more responsibility," he adds.

Coia agrees. "Anytime you try something new, there's going to be some resistance to it," he says. "In the labor movement as a whole, real schisms have developed between so-called hard-line unionists-who believe that the movement towards greater cooperation between labor and management isn't good—and others who believe that the challenges of the 1990s are different from those faced in the 1930s and '40s, and require a different approach," he says, adding that most members of the Laborers' include themselves in the latter camp.

Smith also points to change as a major obstacle to union-management cooperation. "Age isn't a factor," he says. "Young people can have closed minds, and 50- to 60-year-olds can be receptive."

Another hurdle for union-management cooperation is the history of mistrust that grows out of the old adversarial relationship. "Trust is a fragile thing," says Walter Trosin, managing consultant specializing in HR at Johnson Smith & Knisely Accord in New York City. "It can be destroyed more easily than it can be built."

Before the new alliance could be formed between the Laborers' International Union and the contractors, both sides had to summon the courage to think differently about each other, according to Coia. "To some extent, both sides had to take a leap of faith of sorts, to get the process rolling," he says, although even he admits to "cautious optimism" during the early stages of any labor-management effort.

Coia says that the leaders of his union and the leaders representing the union contractors always had seen each other only from the opposite side of the table. Coia reports that they're finding ways to work together. "Now we're seated on the same side of the table, working to develop mutual solutions to our mutual problems," he says. "The key to finding solutions to these problems is flexibility and innovation-from both sides, but you'll never reach this point unless the trust element is firmly cemented into the process."

The union can become a part-time business partner.
Every union-management cooperative effort is unique. Some programs address one-time concerns, but grow out of and leave behind a spirit of cooperation that affects other areas. The design committee at Rohm & Haas Kentucky Inc. is one example. Management at the 800-employee firm decided in 1987 to invest in a complex, computer-driven system in its polymer manufacturing unit. The company planned to recruit operators for the new facility largely from its plant already in operation at the same site. Rohm & Haas assembled the design committee, comprising one first-line supervisor, four operators representing one union, a mechanic who represented another union, a night supervisor, a facilitator, an internal consultant and an external consultant. The design committee went to Rohm & Haas headquarters and looked at the blueprints and the model of the new plant, and made changes before the firm broke ground for the new building. "We made tons of changes," says Tom Connelly, training coordinator for Rohm & Haas Kentucky. All the changes involved design flaws or equipment that the committee knew wouldn't work in the field, including everything from moving the stairs or putting in a door where there wasn't one to replacing one pump with another that would work better in Kentucky's climate. Connelly doesn't know how much money the committee saved the company, but he's convinced that the figure is high, when you consider the expense of tearing out walls or the reduced productivity that would have resulted from the flaws.

"The adversarial approach is counterproductive. It isn't what the employees want, and it isn't what drives success."
William K. Ketchum,

There were recruitment benefits for the new operation as well. Because committee members worked among the potential recruits for the new plant, it wasn't difficult to get people to volunteer. They knew that the design of the new plant would address their needs because their co-workers had helped design it. They also were able to talk with committee members about the operation of the new plant, which they did in a series of meetings.

The design committee's 80-page document covering the committee's mission, functions, restructuring methods and cost savings is used as a model for other units at Rohm & Haas. The same committee approach helped during two plant-redesign efforts, although the results weren't as dramatic as in the new-plant design.

Cooperative efforts can turn a business around.
Xerox Corp. turned to its unions for help when the company ran into difficulty in the early '80s. "The competition was selling the product at the same price that it was costing us to make it. That was one reason that we lost market share," Laymon says.

One area of cooperation at Xerox developed as a response to management's realization that it could save money by moving production of the wire harness—the configuration of strands of wires that delivers the current throughout the copier—to the company's plant near Mexico City. This would mean eliminating 182 jobs at its Webster, New York, plant. The company had just signed an agreement with the ACTWU that attempted to prevent layoffs by allowing a buffer of temporary workers of as much as 10% of the permanent work force. The union urged management to give workers a chance to bring costs down at the Webster plant to make it competitive with the Mexico operation. A study team found $2.9 million in potential savings, which management accepted as close enough to the $3 million that it said that it needed to stay in the U.S.

The same situation arose a few years later. This time, the study team was unable to get as close to the figure needed. The team pointed out, however, that it could reduce the quality and attain sufficient cost reductions. Management recognized that the quality of the harnesses produced in Mexico was not as high. In fact, it had moved some operations back to the U.S. because of quality problems in Mexico. In the end, managers decided that the higher quality, along with reduced shipping costs, was enough to make the difference. The jobs stayed in the U.S.—for now.

In 1989, Xerox and the union formed A-Delta-T teams to study the actual performance of each work process, in an attempt to identify the most cost-effective way to perform each job. The study teams are trying to reduce inventories and streamline production for a Japanese-style just-in-time manufacturing process. Managers at Xerox hope to improve the way in which the firm produces the more than 3,000 components that go into 200 types of wire harnesses for Xerox copy machines.

Perhaps the most unusual union-management cooperative effort is the sub-contracting provision that provides that if the work isn't performed competitively in terms of cost, then the organization reserves the right to subcontract or outsource that work, according to Laymon, but only after a joint company-union team has had an opportunity to bring the cost of that business to within acceptable norms. "We provide for experts, finance information, handling and engineering to do the analysis for the team," Laymon explains. If their recommendation doesn't bring the cost down, Xerox reserves the right to ship the work out.

All these efforts are paying off. "We've had quality improvement, market-share gains and cost reductions," Laymon says. "The numbers have been dramatic. We've had a tenfold improvement, measured by defects per 100 machines—from 60/100 to 6/100," he says. "We've turned the corner on the loss of market share. Now we're gaining in market share. The cost of building product X is competitive with what others can build it for, and we think we've built a better one."

AT&T seeks the workplace of the future. Perhaps the most ambitious attempt at bringing unions in as business partners is the Workplace of the Future effort by AT&T, the CWA and the IBEW. The Workplace of the Future (WPOF) was rolled out at two conferences, one on March 8 with the CWA in Randolph, New Jersey, and the other on June 16 in Chicago with the IBEW. Keynote speakers for the two conferences were Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and Bernard E. DeLury, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, respectively. Both men are long-time proponents of union-management cooperation.

The WPOF grew out of the problems resulting from divestiture in 1984, after which AT&T had to transform itself from a domestic monopoly into a global company of communications products and services in highly competitive markets. The resulting climate created a strain on union-management relations. The WPOF resulted from last year's bargaining agreement between AT&T and the two unions, during which all parties realized that the fast-paced and dramatic change in the marketplace, technology and competition required cooperation and collaboration, instead of adversarial labor-management relationships, for AT&T to survive and for workers to have job satisfaction. Window-dressing wouldn't do; the changes had to be sweeping and permeate the entire organization.

Ketchum says that WPOF isn't a program; it's a framework for change. "I've been a line manager for the bulk of my career. We tried to implement self-management teams and found that a management style that supports the concepts has to have enough of a support system to allow it to be systemic, rather than just to rely on leaders," he explains. Management and the unions wanted a framework that wouldn't become too bureaucratic or burdensome, but would be supportive and help drive some of these systems, and, at the same time, turn the relationship into one that was more cooperative, more information-sharing and less adversarial and restrictive in nature, according to Ketchum.

The new framework has four levels, which differ by focus and time frame:

  1. The Workplace Models develop new ways to manage change. They encourage union officers and AT&T managers to identify and develop new approaches to managing change in the local workplace. Their focus will be on quality, customer satisfaction, quality of work life and competitiveness. They may involve self-managed or self-directed teams, continuous quality-improvement efforts, flexible work environments, union involvement in the development of new systems of work organizations and other initiatives.
  2. The Business-unit/Division Planning Councils involve unions in key business-unit decisions, such as the assessment of market conditions, the deployment of new technology and future work-force requirements. They influence decisions that determine production technology, work organization, job content and employment, worker education and so on.
  3. The Constructive Relationship Council (CRC) reviews existing and pilot programs that relate to national contract agreements. The existing Council comprises two management and two union representatives from each of the national bargaining committees. It also oversees the Workplace Models and the Business Councils.
  4. The Human Resources Board reviews AT&T's worldwide HR issues and provides input to the firm's senior management. On the board are three AT&T executives, two union officials and two outside HR experts, agreed to by both the company and the union. The Board's mission is to address a broad range of strategic issues that affect employees. It makes recommendations directly to the executive committee of AT&T in areas that include all aspects of working conditions that impact employees, including education and training, future work force needs and benefits problems, like health care.

"It will be interesting to see how much progress has been made a year from now," Ketchum says. "It's a long-term effort, not something that's the project of 1993. We see it as having a lasting effect on how we operate. I'm sure that how it's going two years from now will impact our bargaining in 1995. It's a crucial component in our ongoing relationship," he says.

Union-management cooperation isn't easy.
There are a lot of problems to overcome during implementation of any union-management cooperative effort. "When you look at improving productivity, there's a sense of insecurity due to the potential loss of jobs or assignments," Laymon points out. "If we improved in the way we needed to improve, there was going to be a need for fewer people, and people would need to be retrained," he says. Laymon remembers that the cooperative approach at first had an unanticipated impact on first- and second-level managers. "We hadn't put together an appropriate response to their needs and concerns," he says.

Something interesting happened at Xerox that gave a new twist to the issue of job security. The efficiency that developed from the cooperative efforts did require fewer people to perform a given job than were needed before, but the expanding markets brought about by the increased market share have created more jobs than would have been given up, according to Laymon.

Choosing the people to become directly involved in the cooperative effort should be undertaken with great care, according to Trosin. "It's important to have the right players—new players who can be positive, who can walk the fine line between representing people in the union and management," he says. Just because there's friction doesn't mean that your cooperative effort isn't working. Trosin explains that you have to recognize that there's going to be friction, but that this friction can be a benefit to both parties if dealt with responsibly. Trosin also recommends bringing in people who aren't encumbered by the history of union-management relationships.

"The cooperative efforts allowed Xerox to do the same job with fewer people, but it increased market share created more jobs."
Joseph W. Laymon,
Xerox Corp.

When choosing people to participate, don't overlook someone who has been branded as a troublemaker, Smith recommends. Sometimes people earn this kind of reputation because they have ideas and press for change. "As long as the person is bright and focused, the old ground rule of 'This person's a troublemaker' doesn't fit today. You may be missing a valuable resource," he says. It's important to work on the relationship with the union. This means looking at the old emotional baggage that collected because of the long-standing adversarial roles. "You have to take on the union as an equal, but in the framework of a cooperative relationship," Smith says. "To get the most out of them that we can doesn't work anymore."

"Unions need to feel that the employer respects them," says Edward Wytkind, executive director of the transportation trades department for the AFL-CIO in Washington, D.C. "Build up the union instead of tearing it down," he says. Recognize that the union is an asset. If the union members flourish, so will the company. This approach will build trust and foster cooperation.

Coia recommends focusing on the areas of common ground that will help the company compete, rather than dwelling on the legitimate, but different, interests. Show the union how the company's interests are also union interests. "Working together to benefit both groups, first and foremost, means recognizing how the old dynamics have changed," Coia says.

You can't develop a good relationship with the unions without keeping them informed. That means that information sharing must be timely. "Don't come to the union at the eleventh hour, just as you're about to go into bankruptcy court," Wytkind says. By then it may be too late for the union to help.

The information sharing that's part of cooperative efforts may require some education of union leaders, especially at first. "If the management group lets the union group become more aware of what the business is, what it's all about and who the customers are, then the union is in a better position to work together with the company," Connelly points out. Connelly's local plant has been exceptional for having this kind of two-way communication.

Don't assume that union leaders don't know much about your business. Find out from them what they don't know; show respect for their abilities. "The union individual is becoming more articulate, better-educated, more reasoning in terms of global competition, and has a better perception of the company as a team," Smith says.

To have a true partnership, according to Laymon, the information sharing with the union leaders must occur on a regular basis, the way you would share information with the board of directors. "Treat them as a business partner. Assist them in the representation of their membership," he says. He recommends giving unions free access to:

  • Research-and-development data
  • Profit data
  • Sales-revenue data
  • Employee-satisfaction data
  • Customer-satisfaction data
  • Sites on which you plan to build products and why.

Don't overlook the informal or unintended messages that the union may be receiving from management. "Remember that actions are communications," Trosin says.

Implementing any kind of change in the way you interact with the union requires education—both of employees on the line and managers. Show how the change benefits them. Managers may need the training more than the line employees, according to Smith.

"Management understands the team concept, but on up the line, it gets away. Problems don't come as much from resistance as from oversight," Connelly says. Managers are accustomed to having the control and the responsibility. "We have to let some of the marbles slip out of our hands," he adds.

Some people will adapt to drastic changes better than others. Connelly says that it's the most difficult for people who have spent the past 20 years working under traditional management styles. "A cooperative effort isn't something you put in on June 1, and by June 2, people are happy with it," he says. He says that most people want to see the results too quickly. "When you're changing the whole philosophy of how you're going to do business, it isn't going to change overnight," he says.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is looking carefully at employee committees. In a ruling in the recent DuPont case, the Chemical Workers Association complained that DuPont's employee teams circumvented the legal bargaining process. AT&T's contract with the union contains safeguards that should help it avoid similar problems (see "AT&T's Agreement with the Unions Sets the Criteria for Cooperation").

The reason that the cooperative efforts at AT&T, Xerox and Rohm & Haas aren't likely to run into trouble with the NLRB is that these companies are involving employees by going through the unions, not around them. The government isn't inherently opposed to union-management cooperation. In fact, Reich indicates that the Clinton administration plans to do what it can to encourage such efforts. "We're entering an era in which economic progress depends to an unprecedented degree on collaboration in our workplaces and consensus in our politics," he says.

Cooperative efforts simplify contract negotiations.
Coia says that the trust built up during union-management cooperation can be a benefit to both groups during contract negotiations. "On the most basic level, the success of both processes (cooperative efforts and contract negotiations) hinges on establishing a relationship based on trust. Once that bedrock has been established, each process can feed off the other," he says.

This cooperative relationship at Rohm & Haas Kentucky has smoothed the way for collective bargaining, according to Connelly. "Because the cooperation has been what it has been in the past, contracts are smoother. The company knows what's important to the union, and the union knows what's important to management," he says, adding that this understanding makes the negative aspects of negotiations much more palatable. "Both sides are honest about saying what their needs are. This approach has evolved over the years, so that the union doesn't think that the company has a hidden agenda, and vice versa."

Many problems that develop during collective bargaining are the result of misinformation. "If you deny me access to the books, and I see you paying shareholders thousands of dollars a year, but then you come to me and say, 'I can't pay you'—uh-uh," Wytkind says. "It's tough for me as a negotiator if you've been giving the shareholders a rosy picture," he says. Once unions become business partners, the understanding of the business needs of the organization can influence collective bargaining and make union members more receptive to the firm's needs.

Ketchum agrees that contract negotiations with a business partner will be easier. "It consumes a lot of energy to work in an adversarial role. The framework for collaboration has to make it easier to deal with times in which we have honest disagreements and conflicts," he says.

A history of positive contract negotiations can have a positive impact on union-management cooperation as well. Coia says that this is the situation that exists between the Laborers' and the contractors' associations. "I believe that the collective-bargaining process has set into place the basic building blocks of trust. With trust comes the ability to work together as a team, and to plan the new strategies and programs necessary to compete and move forward," he says.

Laymon was selected by CEO Paul Allaire and the former CEO, David Kearns, to make changes in labor relations at the organization. His efforts have led to a cooperative approach to negotiations. He trains collective-bargaining participants in negotiating techniques and limits bargaining to needs, not wants. Using this approach, the negotiations were completed in record time, and both sides were pleased with the contract.

Unions can provide a competitive advantage. A union that has a good working relationship with the organization can be an asset. A union can provide the bridge to employees that companies need to remain competitive. "In this day and age, with everybody seeing fewer high-paying jobs, less security and the company failing in the marketplace, I think that the union is better able than management to relate to its members just how important productivity and quality are," Connelly says. Union leaders also are in a better position than rank-and-file members to see what the organization has to deal with in the marketplace. "The union can relate the information on a gut level, that this is what we have to do, and we're all in this together. If union members see how much union management cares about these issues, then they're more likely to care about them, too," Connelly says.

"This plant has always had exceptional cooperation between unions and management, and I'm spoiled," Connelly says. "We don't have a problem talking to the union steward and asking for help. They always bend over backwards to help," Connelly says. He adds that his plant has had fewer than three grievances within the last year. "We talk about our problems. Our productivity has gone up by leaps and bounds; it's higher than ever," he says.

"Trust is a fragile thing—it can be destroyed more easily than it can be built."
Walter Trosin,
Johnson Smith & Knisely Accord

Coia maintains that union facilities are more productive than nonunion facilities. If the union and management become business partners, then that benefit is enhanced. "I believe that the numbers speak for themselves," Coia says. "In the late 1980s, for example, a study of 1,000 manufacturing plants was conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Carnegie-Mellon University. The study found that union facilities that utilized labor-management problem-solving committees in the 1980s were much more efficient than their nonunion counterparts," he says.

Unions and management that already have been working as business partners can see the benefits. "This relationship of trust has created long-term stability for both organizations," Coia says of the LIUNA and the contractors' association. "It has allowed us to grow and expand in ways that, working alone, we might never have achieved. That's something the nonunion side should consider as the union sector continues to make inroads into new markets," he says. The example that Coia gives is the early recognition of the need for ridding the environment of lead-based paint products. The union is ready for the jobs. "In fact, at this time, we have more workers trained in lead abatement than there are jobs. Our relationship with our employers has enabled us to plan far ahead so that our members and our industry can be ready to capture the work when the work begins," Coia says. This provides an obvious benefit to the contractors who expect to see the need increase dramatically, but the surplus of workers who have received this training doesn't create a problem, because these laborers do other jobs for contractors as well.

"We continue to have jobs," Connelly says. "We're the leader in the marketplace and won't maintain that position unless we work together. No amount of the best technical expertise will help if your productivity isn't worth a crap. People down on the floor have to care as much about the product as the people sitting up in the big offices," he says.

Participation in a union-management cooperative effort is a learning experience for the people involved. "It was a tough nine months, but I wouldn't trade it for anything," Connelly says.

Another reason for encouraging cooperative efforts is to ensure that the unions are positive players. Ketchum says, "The alternative is that they'll be negative—not value-added. To get them to be value-added, you have to respect their rights as the representatives of the employees, and give them involvement that isn't hollow."

Effective cooperation shows up in the change in the interaction between unions and management. "I think what labor and management at Xerox have done—and what similarly positioned companies have done—is to divert resources from fighting each other to jointly fighting the competition," Laymon says. "We're nowhere near where we should be, but we're going to struggle to get there," he adds.

What's the future for unions?
Some pundits have forecast the death of labor unions. Most predictions are, however, that the unions will remain on the scene for some time, but that their roles will evolve. Unions that are able to evolve will find survival easier. "The unions' role of influence will change," Laymon says.

The influence of some unions will diminish. "They'll diminish in the private sector as large firms outsource to small firms that are difficult to organize," Johncox says. "The growing service sector is also tough to organize because unions are amazingly clueless about how to appeal to such people. The current role model is public-sector unions, and they're mostly far too noisy, social-issue-centered and in love with the traditional tools of trade unionism to attract service-sector people," he adds.

When unions actively seek a partnership role, it's easier for human resources to foster the cooperative effort. Encouraging such involvement in the absence of any interest may be more challenging and require HR to use all its educational, diplomatic and sales skills. "Unions need to find cooperative roles, and we in management need to help them do so," Johncox says.

Personnel Journal, August 1993, Vol. 72, No. 8, pp. 54-63.

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