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Council Hears Construction, Job Safety Horrors

Testimony before the Committee on Labor and Civil Service (Philadelphia City Council)

Workplace Health and Safety Dirty Dozen Report

Workplace Safety Is Key Issue In Union Organizing, Poll Finds

Below is an article from the Daily Labor Report on the results of a new survey that indicates that safety and health is the number one reason in a workers decision to join a union.

PHILAPOSH has a very important role to play in the area in assisting local unions on how to use health and safety as an effective issue in their organizing. Philaposh will be holding more workshops on this topic across unions, and will schedule workshops for specific locals if asked. Just email or call us at (215) 386-7000.

No. 174
Friday, September 8, 2006 Page A-3 
ISSN 1522-5968

Workplace Safety Is Key Issue
In Union Organizing, Poll Finds

SAN FRANCISCO--Workplace safety is the leading factor in a worker's
decision to join a union, presaging a possible resurgence in organizing
activity, according to a new poll by the Employment Law Alliance
released Sept. 6.
After safety, which was cited by 64 percent of respondents, the top
reasons for workers seeking union representation were getting better
benefits (cited by 60 percent), obtaining higher wages (57 percent), and
increasing job security (54 percent).

The telephone survey of 1,000 people was conducted the weekend before
Labor Day by Reed Group-Research.

Issues related to management and communication were less important to
survey respondents, with 42 percent reporting improving conflict
resolution as a reason for organizing, followed by lack of respect for
employees (39 percent), poor communication with employees (34 percent),
inconsistent discipline (33 percent), having a union representative
speak to management on your behalf (31 percent), and managers playing
favorites (29 percent).

Changing Perceptions

The America at Work survey results are "about 180 degrees the other
way" from surveys conducted over the last 20 years in which management
and human resource issues led to organizing, according to Stephen
Hirschfeld, Employment Law Alliance chief executive officer and a labor
attorney with Curiale Dellaverson Hirschfeld & Kraemer in San Francisco.

And the reasons for those changes, Hirschfeld told BNA, are as near as
the headlines.

"If you look at what's happened in the last couple of years, there
continues to be a lot of corporate ethics scandals; there's been a lot
in the news about executives' power grabs like stock options,
outsourcing to save benefits, and serious lapses in workplace safety,"
Hirschfeld said Sept. 6.

Workers believe that "the government doesn't seem all that interested
in health and safety issues," and thus are looking to someone else to
help, he added.

The sentiment is coming from both union members and nonunion employees
surveyed. Sixty-one percent of survey respondents never belonged to a
union, 22 percent are former union members, and 17 percent are current

Given the increasing numbers of corporate scandals, outsourcing, safety
concerns, and the fact that 40 percent of responding Americans say
unions have had a substantial impact on improving the working conditions
of the average worker, it is logical to conclude that employees may be
looking to unions, Hirschfeld said.

Increasing Interest in Unions

Hirschfeld warned that employers "really need to wake up and understand
if they don't take these issues seriously and proactively, they are
vulnerable to union activity. I think it's particularly true even in
Silicon Valley," where the conventional wisdom is that the
independent-minded technology workers were not interested in unions.
"I certainly have seen the last few years a dramatic increase in
unions' interest in trying to organize white-collar workers. They're
higher paid. Some of that has to do an issue with job security. There's
a perception among white-collar jobs that if we don't band together our
jobs might" be outsourced, Hirschfeld said.

Hirschfeld credited companies with effectively responding to human
resource issues such as respect, communications, and discipline in part
for the changing reasons why workers would join a union.

Even with the favorable perceptions, more than a third of respondents
strongly agree that unions need to spend more time organizing and less
time on electoral politics, the survey said.

Those living in the West are more likely to agree that organizing
should take precedence over politics (43 percent) than those living in
the South (32 percent). Union members are more likely than former union
members and those who have never belonged to a union to believe that
unions really care about improving working conditions of American
workers, the survey found.

One-third of American workers surveyed strongly agree that high union
wages are at least partly responsible for forcing companies to outsource
jobs overseas, and 28 percent strongly agree that union-initiated work
rules and procedures are at least partly responsible for forcing
companies to outsource jobs overseas.

One quarter of those surveyed said if more American companies were
unionized, wage rates would be higher and this would attract more
Americans to apply for jobs currently held by illegal immigrants, the
survey found. Current union members are more likely than nonmembers to
believe higher unionization rates would mean higher wages for such jobs.

Union membership is significantly higher in the Midwest (21 percent),
the West (20 percent), and Northeast (19 percent), than in the South (10
percent), the survey found. The Midwest and Northwest have higher
percentages of past union membership, at 28 percent each, than in the
South, where 14 percent are former union members, the survey said.

The Employment Law Alliance is a network of 3,000 management lawyers in
50 states and 75 countries.

A summary of survey results is available on the Employment Law Alliance
Web site at

By Joyce E. Cutler

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