News reports indicate UAW membership dues are down immensely. This has caused the big 3 automakers to become very nervous. What happens if a rival more militant union moves in? This could spell trouble for Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. Since the crash in 2008, management and the union have worked closely to save the industry. The loss by the UAW at VW in Tennessee was a painful defeat. They desperately need to gain a foothold into the assembly plants in the southern US.
In order to attract members there needs to be a shift in how people perceive unions. Most if not all the assembly plants that have closed were unionized.
I was at a conference last year and the presenter flashed a photo of a person carrying a sign on a picket line. He then presented a photo of an occupy movement rally along with an image of a masked anonymous social activist. What was interesting was the question the presenter asked next. How many of your children would join a social justice rally and how many would join a picket line? By a wide margin most in the group felt their children would be more likely to be involved in a social justice protest.
This is a very scary prospect if you’re in management. What would happen if activists in the social justice movement became aligned with unions? I was involved in a project where the workers were on strike and the occupy movement supported them. Within minutes of their arrival they had cameras set up streaming live video of the picket line on the web. Blogs were set up on social media within a couple of days. Two weeks later, a rally was organized where 1000 people attended.
I’m sure the union was in awe of how they mobilized. With any group there are hard-core elements. At one point this group attempted to topple the fence and gain access to the factory. Fortunately the union members stopped them. This caused a split in the ranks between the union and outside activists and they decided to no longer take part. The union realized that although it was sexy, they still needed a place to work once the strike was resolved. What might have occurred if cooler heads did not prevail? Will we see the creation of a new super union in the not too distant future?
I was in Argentina last year completing a threat risk assessment at a mining operation as they prepared contingency plans for upcoming contract talks. I found out that one union dominates almost every mine in the entire country. If they feel an employer is not being fair they can shut down an entire sector of the economy.
In Canada, it has been reported there will be one million youth unable to find work in the coming years because they do not have the skills to match job openings. There will also be close to one million jobs that will require foreign workers, increasing immigration to fill these jobs. Imagine one million angry young men and women who can’t find work protesting. Venezuela and Ukraine protests have occurred and a large number of the folks leading the charge are unemployed youth. The damage to the economy of both countries is enormous.
As unions decline what new threat might lie ahead for companies and will these new threats be even more dangerous? That’s why it may be better the devil you know, then the one you don’t.