Unions Looking to Make Retailers Pay
The U.S. labor movement is tired of being on the losing end. Years of futility trying to organize non-union retailers along with wage and benefit concessions made to companies with unions helped bring about the recently formed alliance of labor organizations known as the “Change to Win” coalition.
According to a report in Chain Store Age, the coalition of seven labor unions with a combined membership of six million is ramping up organizing and public relations activities as part of its “Make Work Pay” campaign.
Julius Steiner, chairman of the labor relations and employment law department at Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel, said, “Retailers that are non-union – the large ones – are going to find themselves the target of intense and well-organized union campaigns. There is no question that what has been seen on the surface as directed toward Wal-Mart is going to be felt by the other large chains as well.”
Mr. Steiner said Whole Foods is among the larger chains that can expect increased attention on the organizing front.
“The United Food and Commercial Workers [UFCW] is spending a lot of money and expending a lot of energy on infiltrating the work force of Whole Foods for the purpose of organizing from within,” he told Chain Store Age. “I can guarantee you that they [the UFCW] are training people – and these are paid, professional organizers – to apply for jobs at Whole Foods.”
Stephen Cabot, chairman of The Cabot Institute for Labor Relations, said companies have it within their power to fend off unions.
“When a union successfully organizes, it is usually because the employees have lost faith in the employer, or at least believe that the union is more credible than the boss,” he said. “But when the process of listening, caring and then responding reaches a satisfactory-plus level, employees begin to feel that they don’t need a labor union.”
The need for an increased focus on employees is clear, said Mr. Cabot.
“Companies are quick to hire consultants to work with them to become more efficient in operations,” he said, “but in terms of developing employer-employee communications strategies, training strategies, supervisory interaction strategies? It doesn’t happen.”
Moderator’s Comment: Do you expect the UFCW and others representing workers in the retailing field to be more successful in organizing companies without
a unionized workforce? If yes, will the retailing landscape be altered as a result?