Labor unions are facing so much competition in the modern times thus need to have a good look at the different management dimensions in order to perform effectively in their motivation factors, leadership styles and the information relations importance. The labor union’s classical theory is out to address such competition regarding issues related to the competitive market. The present forces in unions facing competitive challenges are not in a position to accommodate the scientific management principles. Unions facing issues such as decline in membership must employ better management labor relations in order to improve their efficiency. They also need to come up with strategies which will ensure the workers, communities and members social needs are fulfilled as well as their financial needs. Such needs have in the recent past been ignored by the scientific management framework.
The classical theory has proved to withstand the test of most of the upheavals taking place in the management of unions. Modern unions both in the public and private sector are facing workforce environment which are not conducive considering their structures. The classical school covering unions pursue and develop the universal principles which cover the operations of unions in all situations. When applied by unions, the theory should equip the unions with mechanical devices which will in the long run help in achieving their goals and objectives. In order to find out how management theories can be applied to unions in an effort to change their structures and operations, an interview was carried in several unions so as to get the true picture of the situation on the ground. The results from the interviews were then based on in the analysis of the relevance of the theories in the management of unions. Some of the most striking issues facing the unions included; the maintenance of the support from the communities, their members and the employees, how do deal with the political factors leading to the decline of the unions, dealing with the influence of generational aspects, and how to address the rest of the external dynamics such as the global work force, which have great impact in the running of the labor unions. The unions have to address the issues above so as to maintain their current ground of being the workers representatives, to have a brighter future by winning the trust of employees, communities and workers and also to regain viable and active in the twenty first century.
Union’s current situation
The unions are facing one of hardest times since their formation. The issues differ from one union to the other but they are those that are collective and cut across most if not all of the unions. One of the major problem facing the unions is the continuous membership decline The membership in United States Labor Union in regard to its workforce has been experiencing a continuous decline in this century. Taking a sample of the survey carried out between the years 2003 and 2004, the percentage went down from 12.9 percent recorded in 2003 to 12.4 percent in 2004. Since then, the trend has continued declining up to date raising concerns among stake holders. Statistics from the Bureau of Labor have it that the tally was at 20.1 percent by the end of 2005 and predicted the situation to worsen in the years to follow (Jennings and Holley, 2008). This declining trend in the union’s membership can be traced back to the late nineties after about a century. In 1999, the work force recorded a 9.5 percentage drop from its peak approximated to be at around 37 percent. A similar low trend in the union membership had been observed in 1902 when the figure was at 9.3 percent (Jennings and Holley, 2008). This is a clear indication that whatever is happening is not new to the unions and that it could be avoided considering the past experience. However, the factors leading to the declining trend today are somehow different from the past calling for the need to look at the causative factors and the possible remedies first before taking the discussion to the future of these labor unions.
Some of the challenges facing unions today include; making the most of their powers in fighting for the safety and health of all the workers; a good example of such a case occurred in 2008 when the United Food and Commercial Workers and the AFL-CIO went ahead to sue some employers for not providing their employees with personal protective equipment (Jennings and Holley, 2008). The result of this move is being experienced even now in hazardous jobs. In such jobs, safety gears are a must and should be provided by the employees. It would be better if the unions took the initiative of advocating for minimum wages increase and pressurize for the ordinances of living wages. The unions should remain instrumental in their efforts to raise the state wages, the federal minimum wages and try to succeed in moving the living wage.
The new laws and strategies enacted by the unions should be in such a way that they will reduce wage inequality. This can be achieved by raising the wages especially for the low and middle waged workers and also workers who haven’t attained college degrees. Unions can also re direct the pension gotten from workers in rebuilding communities. Examples of such programs include; economic and housing programs, Gulf Coast Revitalization program, health facilities, coming up moderate and low income housing, creating mortgage programs that are affordable, many union jobs that are high waged throughout the region and offer job training survives. Such initiatives will get the communities to regain their trust in the unions thus support them (Dray, 2011).
The unions also have to come up with means of addressing the political influence on its membership. Ways in which politics have led to the decline of its members include; the political situation in the country in the recent past has made it very difficult for the unions to hold on to its members. A good example is the weight felt by the organized labor when the Democrats lost the majority Senate seats (Dray, 2011). The lost dashed all the unions’ hopes enacting legislation that would ease the organization rules of the union and left the health care bill that had been backed by the union in question. The unions also faced another setback when the Supreme Court ruled on campaign financing doing away with corporate spending limits (Lichtenstein, 2003). The decision meant that though unions might remain free from certain limits, business and companies groups may as well in future outspend labor. This will in the long run imply that the union’s power over such companies and business would be limited. Experts in the labor market have come out strongly opposing the labor’s political focus as it in most situations, the relation between the two turns out to be at the expense of organization. Instead of involving themselves with politics, the labor movement should focus its strategies on health care and labor-law reforms. The federal government powers have had dramatic effects on labor unions fortunes. The federal government power to have a stake in the running of public labor unions has limited their scope of operation living its members to feel unprotected from the tough government laws on workers. This has resulted to most workers to seek refuge in private unions or leave the unions. Following the above listed challenges, the classical theory seems relevant in trying to address and in help in the implementation of possible changes in the organization.
Relevance of the classical theory of unions
The features and principles associated with classical theory are comprehensive and elaborate thus can be easily applied in unions. The principles mainly serve as guidelines but not direct solutions to the problems facing unions as the issues keep varying and changing as the work force environment changes. Most of the principles are the direct opposite of the main reasons why they have been advocated as the unions continue to grow with complexities. The modern unions are in many ways weighed by the market competition influences leaving their structures unstable. The classical theory principles however have one major setback as they don’t put into consideration the interaction of the unions with the external environment. Despite this, the principles have come out strongly trying to address changes and challenges the unions are facing in twentieth century. Such changes include; privatization, globalization, the structural and nature needs and disinvestment. The principles have gone further to address the government and political influence on the unions. By employing these principles, the unions will be better placed to confront all the commercial aspects of competition that are cut throat, consumerism and enhance their performances thus achieving the set goals and objectives at a minimized cost.
Most of the problems facing unions today are either related to administration, technological and structure of the unions. One of the best ways of dealing with these issues is by using the classical theory principles in designing structures that will accommodate both the traditional and modern strategies in enhancing performance in the changing environment. These principles are power-centered institutionally leaving no room for personal initiatives. A good example of this application is when the steady membership declined attracted the attention of labor leaders like Andy Stem who came out to trying to salvage the situation. Some of the possible remedies to the situation include the total overhaul of the AFL-CIO. Such efforts were also seen when the New Unity Partnership agitated for a complete change in the leadership and the current constitution at the AFL-CIO (Schiavone, 2007). The principles have been able to come up with working solutions such as; helping workers in wages and benefits negotiations as well as giving them the voice for their rights and fight to better the standards for businesses, workers, families, public safety and health and the environment. With such efforts, the unions will revive the trust of employees, communities and employees.
Classical theories in organizations are basically concerned with making such organizations efficient and effective in their operations. When well incorporated, the principles may result to more than making profits but improve other economic and social factors that are closely related to the organization satisfaction of the human needs. Considering the situation in which most unions are in now, employment of the classical theories by the management of the unions serves as a working solution. Looking at unions as they were known in the 20th century, one can confidently regard them to be as good as dead. Some of the efforts to salvage the unions such as the unconstitutional acquisition of cash flow can just keep them running for a while but not for long. The public employees, new labor and the working poor are no better than being without the unions today. This situation can be blamed to many factors including the union leaders’ strategies and policies which follow paths that will in no way lead to recovery. The ruling political classes are also out to exploit employees in the public sector and poor workers as they generate revenue to fund the political parties. The other contributing factors to the current situation facing unions include the generation aspects which determine the strategies employed by the unions and the external dynamics which affect the unions is both positive and negative ways.
For the labor unions to be revived in this globalization era going into the future, they will require new labor movements which will offer effective representation in the economy and at the workplace. This should be done in a way that the unions will also enable workers to represent themselves to the basic questions of society. Workers want to have unions which are able to help them address global and dynamic challenges enabling them to overcome the persistence of poverty and overcome wealth polarization. Unless the unions adapt effective trends such as corporate structures that are disintegrated, capital mobility and staffing strategies that are contingent, they won’t be in a position to bargain and organize the workforce effectively thus will be unable to attract more membership and will fail to get the support of its members, communities and workers.