Views of Unions

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Let’s take a look at the differing views of public sector unions. Most public employees and managers have definite opinions about unions—some favorable, some unfavorable. On the positive side, employees dissatisfied with their jobs or working conditions might see union membership as a way to salve their smoldering discontent, offering an avenue for championing workplace reforms. Unions might protect vulnerable workers and enable them to seek redress against arbitrary or capricious actions by employers.

Workers may also think union membership can amplify their voices in the workplace and increase their influence with management. Vigilant unions can help keep management honest and ensure fair dealings with personnel.

Collective action, especially in the labor-intensive public sector, sometimes yields results unattainable through concerted individual efforts. Workers who have negative views of unions might focus on such aspects as dues, unresponsive labor leaders, unflattering stereotypes associated with unions, and questionable benefits.

Administrators have negative or positive attitudes toward unions as well. Some see unions as spiking up costs, pushing down productivity, impeding organizational change, and concentrating more on advancing employee interests than on serving citizen interests. Managers may view unions as introducing conflict, distraction, and disruption into the workplace, thus inhibiting cooperative working relationships.

Some managers, especially those in right-to-work states (where mandatory union membership is outlawed), believe that current organizational policies and procedures are fair to employees. Such managers may believe that there is no need for meet-and-confer rights (i.e., laws requiring agency heads to discuss, but not to settle, grievances) or bargaining rights that force them to work with unions on employment matters.

It is not surprising, then, that employees and managers react differently to unions. Working in a unionized environment prods both parties to consider how their jobs are affected by the presence of organized labor. Not only do employees and managers have different views of unions, so too do elected officials of different ideological stripes. Unions clearly raise contentious issues among key stakeholders.

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