From the desk of Steve Cabot: One of the few positives coming out of the disastrous economy of the past several years is the reëvaluation of priorities by those on both sides of the management-labor divide. It’s been interesting to watch how struggling to survive encourages compromise and consensus, and how it’s mostly politicians and union leaders who cling to partisan agendas, almost always for their own personal inurement.

The fact is, while the perspectives of employers and their workers will necessarily be somewhat different, they really are – or should be – natural allies. Both will have issues of self-interest, but neither can succeed without the other. This basic truth has been the driver in the strategic advice I have been giving clients for decades.

The foundational feature of any win/win workplace is good communication: listening well and articulating clearly. Running a close second is trust:   keeping one’s word and telling the truth. With those two in place as operating principles, coöperation is a natural outcome, whether in a union or nonunion environment.

Unfortunately, not everyone favors comity over contention. It’s dismaying to see many in positions of leadership choosing to incite division as a way of retaining power – all while claiming to represent the “interest of the people.”

Perhaps the most visible example is the recall election in Wisconsin, where a governor who has kept his campaign promise to bring reform to his state is being pilloried by Democrats and their thuggish union accomplices. The good news, however, is the public – and even the liberal press – seems to be wising up. The polls are encouraging, and we’ll know on June 5th whether Scott Walker will have a mandate to pursue his pro-growth policies.

I certainly hope that’s the outcome, as it will set a powerful example for those trying to do the right things to right this ship of state.

UPDATE (JUNE 6, 2012)

In face of massive push-back by Organized Labor, Wisconsin voters reconfirmed their support of Scott Walker and his performance as governor. It was gratifying to read that about a third of union households voted yesterday to retain him as the state's chief executive, putting jobs and a balanced budget over lockstep obedience to their leadership.

expert labor relations advice


FROM THE DESK OF STEPHEN CABOT: Tax payers, long upset about the extortionate powers of public-sector unions, are giving their whole-hearted support to courageous governors who are determined to curtail the inordinate money grabs made by those public-sector unions.

It started in Wisconsin, where Governor Scott Walker stood his ground against aggressive and often abusive pro-union demonstrators, and it has now spread to Ohio, where Governor John Kasich is proving to be even tougher than his neighbor Governor Walker.

While the Wisconsin law would permit workers to negotiate inflation-adjusted wages based on seniority, the law proposed in Ohio by Governor Kasich would permit workers to negotiate wages based on performance and merit only. In the private sector, workers normally receive salary increases based on performance and merit. The two are naturally tied together. And Governor Kasich would like to public-sector workers to be as responsible as private-sector workers are.

In addition, Ohio, unlike Wisconsin, would restrict negotiations on health insurance, sick leave, and vacations to the same level as those enjoyed by non-union government workers. In other words, there should be one rule for everyone: union workers should not be entitled to greater benefits than their non-union colleagues.

Again, unlike Wisconsin, Ohio would not permit unions to negotiate levels of staffing, teacher-student ratios, disciplinary procedures, and outsourcing. And binding arbitration to settle contract disputes would be eliminated. Finally, the same rules that don’t permit police and fire fighters to strike would apply to all government employees.

States, counties, and cities can no longer afford to spend outrageously large sums of money to meet the demands of avaricious unions. Debts are crippling states, and taxes are over-burdening the middle class. It’s time for public-sector unions to live by the same rules that govern free markets.

expert labor relations advice