In last Quarter’s article, I spoke to the many of the challenges to Labor organizing posed by today’s non-traditional workplace. Like everything else in today’s value-driven marketplace, Labor Unions must be increasingly aware of and invest in the value we bring to our membership. Everything we do must be about the education, safety, health and financial well-being of the rank and file members. By our own argument, their money is hard fought, and we must be the best possible stewards of how we manage it, invest it and bring value to those that provide it.
One of the most, if not the most, important influencing factor in organizing is worker safety. While worker safety has been a core value throughout our history, over recent years Labor Unions have become increasingly expert in workplace health and safety. More recently, we have become the dominant voice on the matter and the principal champions of worker safety. Our efforts to get the new silica standards in place are a good example of how we are working to ensure our members safety.
In recent years, we have increasingly invested in health and safety education and technical expertise. As a BAC member you have access to state of the art training through the International Masonry Institute and we offer classes at the local level held at one of the Regional Training Centers. We recognize that fighting for worker safety, health and well-being is beneficial to Labor’s safety, health and well-being. Safety is a real concern of unions.
As union membership has declined over the past thirty-years, it has been increasingly more difficult to make substantial gains in wage and benefits, but health and safety measures have been a genuine area of offset. And the facts are undeniable. Labor’s increased vigilance and attentiveness to worker safety have resulted in a much higher incidence of positive collaboration with employers that have reduces worker injuries, lowering costs for the employers and positively impacting profit through gains in productivity.
When there is an open dialogue, and close cooperation between a company and its’ workers, who can argue that it’s anything but a good thing for everyone. Worker satisfaction is improved, workplace injuries are decreased along with expensive down-time, productivity is increased, and profitability is positively impacted. That money goes directly to the bottom line. Can you say Win, Win?
Thanks to the diligence and activism of Labor, it is now not at all unusual to see job site managers and owners ramping up safety standards to well beyond those required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Labor and Management has even created a new paradigm in which Unions and Management collaborate to be more competitive and win contracts with their track-record of good safety practices being the differentiator.
It’s no secret that we making a significant investment in significant health, safety and environmental protections, because the challenges on many of today’s highly advanced and very technical work sites pose significant challenges and risk to the worker. This noteworthy investment is to make sure that (1) workers’ safety, health and well-being remains priority one and (2) workers’ safety is a winning position for Labor as they fight the organizing battle along new fronts.
The hope for improving safety on jobs is that management and the workers are aware of the importance their roles in this new paradigm where labor-management cooperation benefits everyone. Employers obtain better workers by providing a safer, more attractive work environment… Workers are more satisfied and more productive due to the satisfaction a safe and healthy work-place brings… Labor is empowered by the cooperation between management and worker… and Productivity and profitability are positively impacted by reduced downtime.
Whenever the workforce, the business owners and Labor are pulling together on issues such as worker safety, there are going to get better outcomes. Thanks in no small part to Labor putting its money where its mouth is and investing heavily in education, training and awareness programs, Safety is now a principal tenet of any good organizing effort. Owners of large construction projects are increasingly inclined to use contractors with a strong safety record and history of injury losses below the national average. They are also increasingly inclined to require contractors to show they have a favorable insurance rating.
Increasingly, owners, foreman and project managers believe that a safe working environment is important. It is only by the diligence and steadfast advocacy of the BAC and other Labor Organizations that these trends are forming. However, this fight is far from over. Worker Safety remains a paramount issue to us and is but one area we can use when looking at a holistic organizing strategy. If Labor is not first and foremost the principal advocate for workers’ safety, health and well-being, then what are we?
As a union member, I am asking you, what is the message that you are sharing? Below is a response to a Facebook post about Kentucky Senator Rand Paul introducing a National Right to Work Bill. Mitch Kittinger a Local 55 Apprentice expressed his thoughts so well that I thought I should share them with you.
“ As a union apprentice… I’m more than happy to be where I am at. Due to my skill level I have been fortunate to travel and see parts of the world I otherwise may not have been able to. I have worked non-stop since I started in 2015 with no debt and regardless of where I go I will be paid a livable wage with benefits. If my company runs out of work, I have the option of working for another contractor instead of sitting on the couch. If I’m not happy with what is going on… my dues pays to make sure there is somebody with some pull to handle it. My dues keep me working. My dues pay to make sure we maintain jobs in our workforce. Even if some aspects of our situations don’t meet expectations those dues ensure that I can and will always be able to find a way to not only survive, but to thrive as long as people don’t selfishly find a way to abolish it. Unions pave the way for higher wages and safety expectations. If that is what paying my dues enables me to have, I will be more than happy to pay them! “