Monday, January 8, 2024

Pro-employee vs. Pro-union

"You can't be pro-employee and anti-union."
"If you're pro-employee you should also be pro-union."

Each of these two themes ran through the more than 1,000 comments posted to last week's viral LinkedIn post on Costco's union organizing.

Let me be as clear as I can be. There is absolutely nothing inconsistent about an employer being both pro-employee AND anti-union.

1. The best and most effective way for a business to remain non-union is to be pro-employee.

If you pay a fair wage, offer a solid benefit package, prioritize providing a safe workplace, treat employees with decency and respect, don't discriminate, and listen to your employees' concerns, you will eliminate the main talking points that union organizers use to make inroads into your employees and your workplace. Being pro-employee means that you are prioritizing your most important asset — your employees — while at same time taking the proactive steps necessary to remain union free.

Employers often get the union they deserve. Employers who fail to adopt a pro-employee philosophy of workplace management are not only ripe to be unionized, but also sometimes need to be unionized for their own good and for the good of their employees.

2. There are many reasons why an employer that treats its employee well wants to be union free.

Let me count the ways why an employer would want to be union free.
  • Unions prohibit employers from dealing directly with employees on workplace issues, and instead require that all such issues be discussed or negotiated with the union.
  • Unions make it difficult if not impossible to discipline or termination poor employees.
  • Unions promote longevity over performance.
  • Unions create and foster an "us vs. them" attitude in the workplace.
  • Unions are a business, and employees who vote to be represented by them are merely replacing one business with another at a greater cost to the employees.
  • Unions too often look out for their own interest to the detriment of their members.

Please don't tell me that it's impossible to be pro-employee and anti-union. These two ideals are not antithetical. I can consistently be pro-employee, and espouse pro-employee workplace practices, and at the same time wholeheartedly believe that labor unions are not the correct vessel in most cases to achieve those goals.

The difference here isn't whether an employer is pro-employee or anti-employee; the difference rests in the philosophy an employer adopts to protect and promote its most important asset, its employees.