State of the Union
April 1998

Query: Are unions on the rise now, especially in the aftermath of the successful UPS strike?

     In my experience in the private sector during the past 20 months, I have not seen anything to indicate that unions are on the rise. What I have seen are office workers who bend over backwards to be as obsequious as possible. I have seen workers who regularly work more than 40 hours a week and deliberately choose not to report that time on their time cards. I have seen office staff who choose not to take a lunch hour most of the time just to keep up with meeting deadlines. I saw a pregnant woman being hounded by Management to quit her job because they felt her personal appearance was unprofessional for a receptionist.

I formerly worked at a state university which had union representation for practically every occupation there. It was terrific knowing that when Management misbehaved, we workers could turn to the union for assistance. Things were pretty good for workers until Management got really dirty and began driving staff out of the university in droves, as if we were just cattle. The unions did nothing to stop this as about 2,000 workers lost their jobs. What became clear was that either the unions were impotent or else we were not a priority for them. I still am unsure what the real truth is.

As far as how to deal with Management, workers need to be very wary of *anything* that Management says. We definitely need to organize and form unions at our workplaces. But, we also need to get politicians involved in creating or strenthening laws to promote the welfare of workers. All these suggestions, of course, will take time to implement. So, until the forces influencing the workplace are brought into balance, we all better be wearing a shining, happy face at work - even being a sadsack may be injurious to one's career health these days!



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