Monday, July 16, 2007

To Thine Own Self Be True

When decisions have to be made which affect a group of individuals each person must conclude what he believes is the best course of action for that group. In the final it comes down to a simple question. What is the best course of action for me? That might sound like a selfish viewpoint but in reality it is the same question which each corporate entity must ask each day. What is best for the corporation?

This was in effect the direction of a certain union organizing meeting I recently attended. Can it be said that all corporations are the same. With some difference in manner of leadership it can be reasonably concluded that in the end the bottom line is the thing which will be the determining factor in how things are run.

The corporation has the fiduciary obligation to answer to the stockholders. It would be unreasonable for them to take any other position. But it is important to remember that any company large or small is only as good as the people who work for it. Without the dedication of everyone working as a team the job cannot be done in a high standard.

And it is by a high standard of performance upon which a company is judged. Is it possible for a company to maintain a high standard of performance and at the same time deal with the possibility that some of the employees of that company have formed a union? Clearly many companies have enjoyed a high degree of success while at the same time negotiating with and accepting unions.

So why then would a company such as Quest Diagnostics be so adamant about keeping a small department like logistics at the Teterboro Business Unit from organizing. Is there more to it than simply not wanting that department to go union? Could it be that the thought is that if one department votes to unionize and in turn gets a good contract that others are simply waiting in the wings?

This is the type of thought process which has been planted in the minds of those in attendance. And they are valid points to consider. But at the same time it is important to answer that nagging question, is a union company a bad thing?

Of course the thought occurs to me that when you begin to talk about union activities it is something that could quickly snowball into a system wide action since the company has many locations and something on the order of forty plus thousand employees. That is something which makes the mouths of Teamster Locals salivate like a vampire who has the scent of blood.

It would seem that anyone who wants to stop the formation of a union within this logistics department need to focus on loyalty to company. But as I suggested above loyalty is a very visceral thing. The great William Shakespeare stated it best when he said the words which title this article.

And since there is so much more at stake than meets the eye what would be the result of a successful yes vote? Would management simply roll over and die? Not likely. Since the company has already stated in a letter to those involved that if the union push supported a successful union bid the company would certainly seek the best possible deal for the company or words along that line of thought.

That goes without saying but what exactly does that imply? My first thought was that if the crew went for a union that they would be sorry. They would be punished for such an act of disloyalty. And that might very well be the intended thought.

But on the other hand it might suggest that the company will simply negotiate in good faith the very best deal that it can get which does not necessarily deny that such a negotiation might benefit the department. It is possible that each side can come to some agreement that makes each side happy.

Of course one of the tools which a union might utilize is the possibility of a strike. That is a card which no one including local 97 wants to play. But it is an option and something which any company must concern itself with as it represents a potential interruption of business which could never occur without a union representation.

One of the things a union places on the table is the ability of the “little guy” to have some degree of a voice in what transpires in the day to day operation of the department. Not that much of a base of power exists but it cannot be denied that, for better or worse, an extra layer of bureaucracy comes into play.

This is an important aspect of the current situation within the logistics department. Apparently there are those who desire more of a voice in controlling the way things are done. They want to somehow be able to address certain grievance in a more legally controlled fashion.

Apparently they feel that administration has not fully lived up to their word last time around. So, once again the fight will be fought on both sides. The question is who shall prevail this time. My personal feeling is that things are not as clear cut as last time. Certain passion to stop this thing is lacking.

The scales are not balanced in the same order as last time. The company itself is not in the same financial situation as it was last time. I think that the crew is not as willing as before to prevent it. There is more energy this time on the side of the union. It could go either way at this point and I can’t honestly say that it would be the end of the world if the union wins the fight.

Interestingly Quest Diagnostics actively supports the activity of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender alliance. There are I would imagine many reasons for taking this course of action. But I would add the thought without intending to sound cynical that it represents a good business practice.

After all if you want the money of the people represented by this group to flow into the company then it would be a good idea to support the cause they represent. The same could be said when it comes to members of organized labor. Does Quest Diagnostics want to be supported by members of organized labor?

If so then wouldn’t it make perfectly good business sense to support those within their own company who feel the need for a union representation? And conversely, if they are opposed to such a union and attempt to make the lives of those who organize unpleasant then wouldn’t it behoove the entire organized labor movement to take their business and their stock investment out of the realm of Quest Diagnostics?

This is the sort of leverage represented by Teamsters and the sort of rational suggested at the recent union meeting. And I can’t say that I disagree with the rational. It seems that everyone has a lot of issues to think about.

Freedom of Speech or Death
Snake Oil Sam
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