One reason I'm not a fan of Unions

I am in management at a company that has a large union labor force. Overall, we have an excellent relationship with the union. We’ve never had a work stoppage or even really come close to one. I have never been a real proponent of unions. I feel like they have greatly overstepped their original missions of fair pay and safe work conditions. They seem to only work for the bottom 5% of the work force - the ones who really should be fired but cannot be.

The first 10 years at this company I was an Individual Contributor, so it never really impacted me. For the past 4 years, I have been in leadership with about 45-50 physical and clerical union employees under my umbrella. I haven’t had any significant issues and I have found that the vast majority of those employees are hard working and care about their work. The ratio of bad apples in management are about the same or more that those in the union.

Their is an issue that has got my goat right now. We have had a significant amount of turnover in the past year - retirements, promotions, training. The replacement and training cycle takes a lot of time and the new people are not as efficient as their predecessors. As a result, resources are strained. We use contractors to get the work done, but they are much more expensive.

An employee recently left the company for another company in a similar industry. He was told a story that they paid much better and at was a good place to work. In the middle of his training, his entire class was let go - told there was no work. I don’t know him well, but I’ve met him. Good kid, hard worker, young family he is trying to support. I don’t blame him for trying to take advantage of an opportunity.

He called his old supervisor to see if he could get his job back. My leadership and I was supportive of this. He was a good worker, knowledgeable and we have a need. We figured there would be a penalty, he might lose his seniority and have to stay in the position longer.

Nope. The union says he has to start from scratch in the lowest position (not in my department). This is just penny-ante shit. It will take us probably 6 months to get this position filled and trained. I can think off the top of my head at least 5 management employees who left and came back. As long as they left on good terms, are qualified for the position and it benefits the company, why wouldn’t you do it? I think the real reason is for the union to flex their muscle with their members - you better be loyal, or else!

Not like this is the biggest deal in the world, it’s impact on me is minimal. I feel bad for the kid.

And I know - the real villain is the other POS company that gave him a song and dance and then fired him. That was a dick move.

Is this provision (that a departure means you lose all of your seniority) in the bargaining unit contract? And if so, who negotiated for it, the union or your senior management? Because I can more see discouraging job defection to another company/industry as being a management position rather than a union one. What’s the union losing if someone changes jobs? Nothing, really…yeah, the person’s dues, but they’re also no longer having to represent that person, so it’s a wash.

Point out to the shop steward that one day it might be she who asks to come back.

This indicates to me that you might have a fundamental lack of understanding of how trade unions operate and why they exist. I know of exactly zero unions that would feel that losing a member was okay because it was “washed out” by the fact that no resources would ever have to be spent on that member’s behalf.

Yeah, check the contract. If it’s in there, that is something the opposite of what a union would bargain/protect for. They want to retain labor and preserve benefits for returning workforce members in the case of periodic boom/bust layoff cycles.

A restriction like that was driven to be put there by the company management, not the union, so your blame is 100% misplaced. Your company management is entirely to blame for this woe (and partially you since, being management, you may have had some ability to vote or input on the matter).

For moving to another job? Why would the union care? Now management might have a reason for discouraging people to quit. And some companies have no poaching agreements with their competitors to lock their employees in. That’s why it seems plausible that this rule was put in by management - people who learn how this employee is getting screwed will think twice about leaving. That this person was paid better in the new job says it all.

You realize that this turnover should have been anticipated? Turnover from people leaving might not be, but if you pay significantly less than your competition you had better expect it. Training and promotions are initiated by management. You know the ages of your employees, right? Why not hire replacements before the person is moved?
Perhaps the problem is not the union but incompetent management?

It really is a tragedy that people getting better employment is cutting into corporate profits so drastically. Maybe we should work on stopping it somehow?

Okay, so there’s two posters that don’t really understand unions.

Again: no union that I know of is okay with losing members, not even for the reason that “it all evens out since we don’t have to represent them” (which is foolish all by itself, since no union that I know of resents representing it’s members, etc.).

This may be true, but why would a union want to punish people for coming back?

To repeat yet again, this most certainly NOT a position the union worked for. Rather it was something management fought to include to deter workers from looking for better opportunities.

Emphasis mine.

“Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”

― Eric Hoffer, The Temper of Our Time

At least one person disagrees with this assessment, and I was asking him.

What is your qualification for this knowledge? Are you a union rep? Are you represented by a union? Is this something you heard over the lunchroom table or something? It would be nice to see some sort of evidence that you know what you’re talking about here other than your assertion that you know what you’re talking about. It just doesn’t make logical sense.

This wasn’t a case of reduction in force. The union gets to represent (and collect dues from) whoever was hired to replace the employee who quit.

I work Union and usually seniority is bridged. I left for 15 months and just lost that from my service. It’s kind of vague in the OP whether this person was previously a member of the union and was returning because the next sentence was, " I can think off the top of my head at least 5 management employees who left and came back." This leads me to believe the person was management and was joining the union fresh, in which case he probably *would *start at the bottom. In our company, someone who was previously union but then became management and then after a period returned to the union would have his service bridged.

Unions are not okay with losing members in the sense that workers are allowed to quit the union but keep the benefits that the union gives them. Are you saying that unions want to lock people into their work to keep them from moving on and quitting the union? Are you saying that the union doesn’t want any member to be promoted into management?
Care to give some examples?

Yes, it’s true that no union wants to lose members. They don’t want to see people in one title or another breaking off and being represented by another union, they don’t want to see one of the titles they represent re-classified into a non-represented position and so on.

However, in terms of membership numbers, the union doesn’t care who is filling a particular job. Let’s say Joe (foreman) leaves for a better, higher paying job at another company. And Jim (worker) gets promoted into Joe’s old position and moves up on the seniority list, etc. Now Joe loses or decides to leave his new job and wants to return. In terms of membership numbers, it doesn’t matter whether Joe returns to his old job with his previous seniority date intact or whether he returns to Jim’s old position with a new seniority date. Either way, the union is representing the same number of people in the same breakdown of jobs.

The union might in fact care about which job someone can return to and what seniority date will be used for other reasons- but in my experience with three unions, the union’s position has always been “they return to the highest non-management position they held, and the seniority date is the original one, even if they are returning after a 20 year absence.”

Quartz, it seems no one else noticed this, but in your one man fight against sexism against men, you might want to move away from making women the devil of the piece and use the neutral term ‘they’.

This person was union. I was just pointing out that it is not an issue for management employees. The only thing he would get is that his years of service would be counted for vacation. For promotions, he would go back to the bottom of the list. My guess is he will end up going to one of our contractors. It pays well, but they get laid off over the winter when it isn’t busy.