Jeremy Pollard, CET, has been writing about technology and software issues for many years. Pollard has been involved in control system programming and training for more than 25 years.
So when will unions actually get it? Did that get your attention?
Numbers don't lie, do they? We're in tough times, but I believe that unions hold the key. I know it sounds odd. Consider that since 1955, when the AFL-CIO was born, manufacturing has steadily declined in North America, as has union membership.
Private sector unions are only about 10% of the workforce, down from more than 20% some 30 years ago. The non-union jobs that rely on their union brothers probably can't be accurately counted, but I submit that it is a big number. And make no mistake, public sector unions are part of the problem and solution as well.
The Globe and Mail in Toronto reported on Feb. 24 that South African mining companies are moving toward mechanized mining to "free themselves from crippling strikes and labor unrest."
This is the pivot point in my estimation: the disruption index.
Why would we create more jobs that "require" the attitude of unions to care nothing about anyone other than themselves?
Well, allow me cross over here and say that we should, but with conditions.
Unions are necessary beasts. Management is just as bad, overrun with CEOs with golden parachutes, large salaries and profit margins that bulge, while insisting that the worker bees need to take a pay cut. Every department seems to have bonuses for every level of management based on profitability. For example, if it costs money to be safe, then unsafe conditions are what exist.
Unions have fought for a ton of good issues, but they have to become thoughtful leaders in order to
allow manufacturing and productivity to come home.
Take air travel in Hawaii. Additional charges of $17 per bag both ways on top of an already expensive short-haul flight makes one wonder how that revenue could be spent in other areas of the economy. Did the baggage handlers, ticketing staff, pilots and/or pension reform cause this massive inflationary increase in air travel?
We pay for things we shouldn't have to. How can we foster a renewed manufacturing front that's without an "it's all about the money" attitude?
Then I remembered vacation airline Canada 3000 and Dick Morley.
My bride and I were on holiday when Canada 3000 went bankrupt. Passengers were left stranded and had to pay for return flights from wherever they were. Not sure about the refunds, but the reason given was that the airline wasn't making enough money. Really?
There was a strike not that long before the bankruptcy was announced. Coincidence? I think not.
And then, in a conversation with Dick Morley about the Internet, he made a comment about availability, meaning that the Internet connection he has doesn't always have to work the best, but it always should be available, just like the PLC.
So herein lies the solution to the problem: availability.
Unions and companies need to build an environment of trust and cooperation, but the fulcrum of this needs to be the function of availability and removal of the disruption index.
I am not a labor guru by any stretch, but if I knew that I had the full support of my worker staff and that they would be available, in other words no strikes, then my contingency related to production downtime due to labor disruption would be removed. Also, if I knew my customers would always be available for my service or product, then the small-and-medium-business landscape would look very different. My business plan doesn't have to have that "what if…?" clause in it. I could have a long-term plan just like the Chinese have.
Imagine a workplace based on trust.
China has been the beneficiary of our fall from grace. Lack of regulation might be a big part of it, but it just seems that farming the work out to a third-party makes it easier. It's now become pretty clear that it isn't a wages issue.
Unions need to become that third-party and provide a leadership role in bringing back prosperity to the homeland. We, especially our industry, prosper when we make things. Now that would be innovative!