In the world of blogging and branding, we often talk about the importance of storytelling. We know that the words and language we use matter. We’re not the only ones who know this.
Labor organizations are becoming more sophisticated, more aggressive and more creative in their approach to organizing and presenting their issues. It’s increasingly common to see protests, short term one day strikes, and even flash mobs being used as tools for organizing. It’s informative to look at some of these movements and actions as part of your organizational labor relations risk assessment.
Here are a few examples of protest and social actions that are taking place on the streets right now.
Morale Monday Movement
According to a story in NEwsweek, tens of thousands of protestors marched in Raleigh North Carolina on February 8, giving the “Moral Monday” progressive protest movement its biggest action ever. This movement is spreading to Georgia and other states as well.
For much of last year, the broad coalition of civil-rights groups, unions, and fed-up North Carolinians gathered each week to protest policies enacted by Gov. Pat McCrory (R) and North Carolina’s GOP legislature.
The N.C. NAACP estimated that between 80,000 and 100,00 convened in Raleigh for the rally. That makes it the largest civil rights gathering in the South since 1965, when activists marched from Selma to Montgomery,
Walmart Black Friday Protests
Largely a social media driven movement, organizers of the 2013 Black Friday protest event reported 1448 protest actions, 84,000 tweets and nearly a million actions on Facebook related to their event on that one day.
Here are links to three of the best flash mob protests actions that have taken place in recent years.
Here at Human Race Horses, we are obsessed with Lady Gaga. In this flash mob protest at the Westin St. Francis hotel in San Francisco, members of the AFL-CIO group Pride at Work perform an adaptation of Lady Gaga’s song “Bad Romance.” The event was organized to draw attention to a boycott called by the workers of the hotel who are involved in an on-going labor dispute. According to the introductions of the video on YouTube, “Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer activists put the song and dance together as a creative way to tell the hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ people from all over the country coming to San Francsico in June for Pride to stay out of the boycotted hotels”.
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Thanks for your attention to this new site policy
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(Reuters) – Wal-Mart Stores Inc is taking its first legal step to stop months of protests and rallies outside Walmart stores, targeting the union that it says is behind such actions.Wal-Mart late on Thursday…
I bought a new car this weekend, a 2012 Nissan Altima. Nice car. Lot of money I didn’t really want to spend.
More on that later. It kind of looks like this one.
Programming people behavior
Is anyone in the HR area using neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) techniques at work? Not sure how valid it is for the workplace, but what I saw on YouTube this weekend makes it quite fascinating and something I would like to know more about from a communications standpoint.
What I watched was some short videos of a guy named Darren Brown. Darren is very skilled at using NLP and hypnosis techniques. He is all over the web, and seems to perform mostly in the United Kingdom doing his schtick. In this video, he uses nothing but his voice and suggestion to convince people to take blank paper from him rather than money to pay for items large and small.
Take a look. It’s really unbelievable. I think I am going to sign up for one the many NLP training class webinars I get.
Hey Jay – Finally got a chance to respond to your last #NoFearHR post!
I don’t know about you, but I have been super busy It’s made it tough to keep our conversation going for the last couple of weeks, but I’m back.
A couple of weeks ago, you asked me about what I thought about discussing social media with the C-suite, and specifically about how the HR practitioner ought to begin the conversation about the value of social media to an executive team that still uses the term “twittering”?
My first reaction is that educating your executive team starts with a general discussion of social media platforms and how they might be a valuable part of an overall corporate communication strategy. for me that conversation would start with a series of one on one meetings with the members of the leadership team. I’d want to get their personal take on social media.
I don’t mean their take on whether Facebook is cooler than Twitter. I’m talking about an open candid discussion with them about social, and what they think of it. The I’d ask some pointed questions.
What’s your biggest concern about our company using social media?
Have you seen any that use social media that you like? If so, what and why?
What’s the worst thing that could happen if we go social?
Has your department dealt with any employee issues related to social media policy matters?
Would you be interested in seeing how our brand looks in the social media world?
This would be a great start. Then you could start sharing relevant information and data that would help illustrate and illuminate specifically how social is already impacting your business. This should help to build the business relationship between the C-suite and HR as it relates to social.
Good morning Jay, I just read your very thoughtful and constructive rant about Lots of Fear in the HR C-Suite. I thought your comments about the reluctance of HR executives to adopt social media as a part of the HR strategy were spot. on, and that kind of pisses me off. Honestly, this is one I just don’t get.
Why HR should use social media is old news
I used to be able to half-way buy the old excuses – no time, no staff, no resources, blah blah blah…ad nauseum, but not so much any more. I’m with you all the way on this, Jay – “…it seems to me HR leaders are missing a huge opportunity to jump into the modern world of social leadership. Sure there’s a downside, but everything has a downside.”
Social media cuts right to the heart of the HR function, Jay.
It embodies what we do every day – reaching out to people, sharing ideas, and working together. It’s all about communication, Jay – and it’s a game-changer if you do it right.
Yet it seems to paralyze the heartbeat of many otherwise courageous executives who can’t, won’t,or more realistically don’t want to embrace this brave not-so-new world of social media.
Jay, does this conversation about why HR should be using social media already sound old? I swear somewhere I hear somebody talking about seats at tables…
Let’s talk about how to put social to work in business
I don’t want to to go there. Let’s not make this conversation about why HR should use social media. That’s old news. Let’s make this conversation about how to put social media to work inside a professional business organization, and how HR can be the leader of these efforts, and the value of why that matters.
Where would you start with social media?
You are doing that in your HR shop right now, Jay. Where would you start if you were starting today?
This post is of a new project called #NoFearHR where Jay Kuhns and I will be conducting a dialogue on the impact of social media on the Human Resource function and business.
In a presentation I gave recently at the Ohio HR Conference, I mentioned some of the ways unions have adopted social media into the labor negotiations process, including the use of Twitter and private groups on Facebook. Turns out, it is progressing faster than I realized.
The New York Times ran a great story yesterday about how the UAW used social media as a part of their communication process with their members during their recent contract negotiations with the Big Three. It is fascinating to read how using social media increased transparency in the negotiations process, brought excluded stakeholders like retirees into the process, and was critical in preventing rumors and disinformation at critical junctures in the negotiations process.
You should definitely go read the entire article, but here are some highlights:
the UAW website crashed due to the high demand for contract details from members after announcing tentative deals
UAW staffers used Twitter and Facebook to give ongoing updates from the negotiations locations
UAW reps were able to respond to questions in minutes in real-time, a vastly different process from the old union hall meetings requiring physical attendance.
the UAW worked with auto makers to create secure websites allowing workers to receive e-mail updates.
The most critical observation of all comes from the UAW person in charge of negotiations with Chrysler:
We may have gotten a lot more done in the past, and things would have gone smoother provided we had tools like this,” said General Holiefield, the U.A.W. vice president in charge of negotiations with Chrysler, who explained his approach to the talks in a four-minute video posted on YouTube and Facebook last week. “I couldn’t see going forward without using these.
If the UAW can do this type of outreach as part of their communication process, why can’t your company?
I’ll be in Chicago the next couple of days attending the 2011 Illinois state SHRM conference. Here are some of the people that will be speaking over the next two days – Ryan Estis, Jennifer McClure, Bryan Wempen, Geoff Webb, and others. Check them out in their own words via video.
Fast Food operators still at risk of union organizing
Here is a look at a how labor oriented web site is reporting on how what they term a “union busting” law firm is reporting on the potential of the continued growth of labor union organizing in the fast food restaurant industry. The fact that unions are still discussing this means theya re paying attention to this effort. This type of campiagn is not going away any time soon.
No matter how many times you hopefully look in your crystal ball, this is here to to stay! Check out this “must read” article from Infoshop:
“Union Busting” analysis
Many restaurant employers, in particular owners of fast-food restaurants, rarely think about the possibility of unionization these days. While the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is using rulemaking and case precedent to make it easier for employees to organize, the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) legislation is basically dead. UNITE HERE, the big player in the restaurant arena, is coming off of a difficult divorce between warring factions, is mired in never-ending hotel negotiations, and seems more focused on organizing larger locations pursuant to neutrality/card check agreements
Union-Buster’s Analysis of IWW
Article about the IWW from union-busting law firm, Seyfarth Shaw LLP which we reproduce for reference.
3. IWW’s Union Organizing Campaign against Jimmy John’s: The End or a Beginning for More Fast Food and Restaurant Organizing?
Many restaurant employers, in particular owners of fast-food restaurants, rarely think about the possibility of unionization these days. While the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is using rulemaking and case precedent to make it easier for employees to organize, the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) legislation is basically dead. UNITE HERE, the big player in the restaurant arena, is coming off of a difficult divorce between warring factions, is mired in never-ending hotel negotiations, and seems more focused on organizing larger locations pursuant to neutrality/card check agreements. The percentage of the workforce that is unionized in the private sector is at an all-time low, and while the number of representation petitions against restaurants has increased in the past few years, the numbers are still extremely low in any given year. That being said, fast food restaurant owners and operators should take heed of the recent organizing campaign in Minneapolis against ten Jimmy John’s locations. The Wobblies are at it again.
The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), also known as the Wobblies, a union you may have read about in history class, has never gone away. In 2004, they started organizing baristas at Starbucks, created the IWW Starbucks Workers Union, and have had run-ins with Starbucks at locations in places such as New York City, Chicago, Minneapolis, Grand Rapids, Maryland, and even Omaha. The Wobblies have filed representation petitions and do represent employees in bargaining units in other industries, but usually claim that, because the election system is flawed, they prefer a solidarity unionism model in order to represent its members.
What is “solidarity unionism?” The IWW defines it as a model of labor organizing in which the workers themselves formulate strategy and take action against the company directly without mediation from government or paid union representatives. That is certainly part of it, but based on the IWW’s writings, their approach is much broader. Most notably, the Wobblies are in favor of actively practicing minority unionism and addressing issues from a broader, more global perspective. They see solidarity as drawing the boundary of the “struggle” of the working class as widely as possible. Moreover, the IWW is not a fan of the National Labor Relations Act, traditional organizing or bargaining. They do not care for traditional collective bargaining agreements because they purportedly cede too much power to employers in the form of no-strike provisions and management rights clauses.
The union does not have problems filing unfair labor practice charges, some of which have led to publicized settlement agreements. The union also has no problem taking credit when it allegedly improves benefits for employees by subjecting employers to its solidarity unionism. Most recently the union has claimed that its three year “campaign” for overtime pay on the Martin Luther King Day holiday is the reason Starbucks baristas recently began to receive overtime on that holiday. The Wobblies have a web page for their Starbucks Workers Union that makes for interesting – albeit one-sided – reading.
Last fall the Wobblies, following a model similar to its Starbucks campaign, moved into fast food. They filed a petition to represent employees at ten Jimmy John’s sandwich stores in the Minneapolis area. They also formed an IWW Jimmy John’s Workers Union, and set up the obligatory web page. This time, however, the Wobblies actually pursued a representation petition to an election, and lost by only two votes, 87-85 (or a tie if the two challenged ballots were counted). The Wobblies filed election objections as well as unfair labor practice charges, 21 of which the NLRB Regional Office found had sufficient merit to issue a complaint. On January 10, 2011, the NLRB approved a settlement agreement between the parties. The election will be set aside, while the employer did not admit to any wrongdoing. In addition to having to post a required notice about the case and employees’ rights to organize, the employer will have to hold mandatory meetings with its employees in which an NLRB representative will read the notice in the presence of the franchise owners, or an owner will himself read the notice. If the union decides to file a new petition within 18 months of the settlement agreement, the employer also has agreed to hold the election within 30 days.
On the one hand, the Wobblies lost the election – an election that would have never happened had the EFCA been passed, as the union reportedly had authorization cards from a majority of employees. On the other hand, they are still around, have claimed a victory, and are now asking the franchise owners subject to the petition to negotiate over a “10 Point Program for Justice at Jimmy John’s,” a program which they assert will bring “dignity, respect and justice” to the fast-food workplace. The 10 point program (with many sub-points) includes such issues as: job security; guaranteed hours; paid sick days; overtime pay for working holidays, late shifts, delivering in hazardous weather; pay increases; improved non-harassment policies; affordable health care; parental leave; etc.
If they follow their Starbucks approach, the Wobblies will be organizing (in their own way) Jimmy John’s locations nationwide for years to come, even if they never file another representation petition.
The Wobblies have declared their campaign to be the first union-organizing campaign against a fast-food chain in U.S. history. It likely will not be the last. A similar campaign could have been started against any fast-food restaurant chain or fast-food operator in the country. All a restaurant needs is one disgruntled employee with internet access or a friend in a union and the Wobblies, UNITE HERE or any one of a number of other unions will be knocking at its front door. Given that these tough economic times have limited upward mobility in the job market, many fast-food employees have worked in the industry for longer than they had anticipated. Consequently, they are primed to take their frustration out on their employers instead of the economy.
Restaurants, just like any other employers, must assume its employees are always subject to union organizing, and take steps to prevent the commission of unfair labor practices by human resources personnel, supervisors or managers who, without proper training, will not know how to respond when confronted with this situation. In that regard, it is crucially important that handbooks and other employment policies be fully compliant with the National Labor Relations Act. Many of the allegations the Wobblies have raised that have resulted in settlement agreements involve such issues as bulletin board usage, employees discussing their pay and benefits, off-duty employee access issues, union buttons, etc. These are all items UNITE HERE has been raising within the hotel industry for years. Violations over such issues can lead to overturned elections, bad press, and give the union the ability to claim victories that could sway employees in an organizing campaign. Supervisors and other management personnel should be trained in understanding what rights employees and unions have under the National Labor Relations Act, and what employers can lawfully do and not do in the event of organizing. Last, and certainly not least, employers, and, importantly, the supervisors who represent them, must practice positive employee relations at all times. Pay and benefits should be as competitive as practical, working conditions safe, harassment policies in place and strictly enforced, and employee views and opinions respected.
While the odds of union organizing in the restaurant industry and, in particular, the fast-food sector may currently be low, the best way of keeping them low and keeping the Wobblies and other unions at bay is to take steps now to insure employees have no reason or desire to organize.