Union Images - Part I

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  • Hello Students and welcome to a lesson plan in Building Strong Unions. In this lesson plan we will examine the images of unions and the impacts these images have on the attitude of union and non-union members. I trust that you have read or will read Chapter 8 in the textbook. This lesson will be presented in two parts. This lecture is Part. Lets start by looking at some key points about union images.
  • The key points that the author of our textbook, Paul Clark from Penn State University makes are the following: The labor movement has an image problem. This image is problem directly influences the attitudes of members and non-member toward unions. The image problem, in part, stems from myths and misconceptions about unions. In the next slide we’ll look at a few other key points.
  • Other points made by Clark include that many of the myths and misconceptions concerning unions involve strikes, violence, corruption, and greed. Therefore, if unions are to grow and to be effective it is important that labor actively challenge these myths and misconceptions in order to improve labor’s image. These image-building efforts should focus on labor’s own members, the community, the news media, and the schools.
  • We must continue to remind our members, our friends, our communities, our children, and our families about the significant economic, social and political contributions that labor movement has made.
  • As we discuss image on this lesson let’s take a quick look of the definition of “image”. It is a mental picture, a conception, or impression. These images may be positive or negative. You may just say the word “union” and the person you are talking may conjure an image of strikers committing violent acts, or a union officer embezzling funds. Or instead their image is positive leading to reminders of all the good outcomes of union efforts to secure economic and social justice. These images may come from movies, headlines or their own experiences. These and other types images of the union are an integral part of a a member’s and non-member’s developed attitude. The union seeks to build the union by including its membership but the members who picture the union on less positive terms are unlikely to participate in union activities. Let’s look at a chart that I created from information in Table 8.1 and the. latest Gallup poll.
  • This chart shows the confidence levels that the public holds for various organizations in the United States. This is the latest poll taken by Gallup in 2008. As you can see the Military holds the highest level of confidence among Americans with nearly 71% support while labor has 20%. This represents a decline of 8% confidence among Americans since 2003. According to Table 8.1 the highest level of confidence for unions was in1975 which stood at 38%. For your information the 2008 Gallup Poll is shown in the next slide.
  • This is a chart listing the percentage of Americans that are confident in U.S. organizations. Note confidence levels for unions rose slightly over the 2007 poll levels.
  • Significant image problems are derived from myths, misconceptions and secondhand information. Second hand information may come from the media, such a television, radio, newspapers, and magazines. Family and friends may also contribute to the image problems of unions. Only 12% of the workforce is organized therefore there is far more second hand information. Most individuals do not receive first hand information because they and the people associate with are not part of organized labor. Therefore these individuals receive most of their information from the media. In the 1950s 34% of space devoted to unions in Time and Newsweek magazine was unfavorable. In the 1970s the percentage of labor stories that were negative were 50%. The media’s main focus is on strikes. Movies and television continue to vastly promote unions in a negative way and largely ignore the vast amount of social and economic contributions that unions make to society. Each of these will be discussed further as this presentation moves along.
  • If the labor movement is to improve its image it must come at the local level. The local must create strategic plans that will challenge and correct the myths and misconceptions about labor unions. This will require the local to be equipped with accurate and convincing information when formulating a message intended to correct inaccurate information that lead to poor images of the union.
  • The most popular myths among the general public deal with union strikes, greed, corruption and violence. Let’s examine these more closely.
  • The perception by the public are that labor strikes often and that strikes are disruptive in the workplace and to society. The public also perceives that a strike is common part of every union member’s experience and when strikes occur they will be long and dramatic and associated with intimidation and violence. The public believes that strikes are a negative phenomenon and should be limited by government.
  • Actually here are some key facts that a union activist should know and share as part of education its members and the public about strike perceptions. The common cold causes more absence each year not strikes as many misconceive.. Absences due to strikes in American account for less than 1% of work time lost in the U.S. In 1989 only 59 strikes involved 1000 or more workers. In 1997 only 29 strikes occurred. In fact the likelihood is that most union members will never experience a strike. In 2008 only 14 strikes, affecting 1000 or more workers per strike, occurred according to the Bureau of National Affairs (BNA), this was drop of 95% over the previous year and the lowest strike tally since the BNA began collecting data in the 1940’s
  • Often there are calls for banning strikes. Unions should point out that striking is fundamental human right. Striking is no less important than the freedom of speech or the freedom of the press. Striking is a vital and necessary part of the collective bargaining process. It based on the principle that workers should participate in determining wages and working conditions.
  • The statement in this slide is quite impressive and speaks to the heart of why strikes need to remain a viable option in the tool kit for collective bargaining.
  • Greed is another negative perception held by the public. The public perceives that union are responsible for high wages levels and that wage levels for union workers are gained at the expense of non-union workers. The public perceives that high wages then cause inflation. The news media often distorts these levels by combining wages and benefits as an hourly wage. Be sure to watch the news commentary about this perception. Fortunately this reports it favorably and accurately. Finally the public perceives that union workers do not deserve higher pay and that union proposals to improve wages are inflated and greedy.
  • During the last 25 years wage increase generated by unions have not kept pace with inflation. On average unionized workers are significantly more productive than non union workers. Unions and its members should argue that unionized workers have earned the right to move up the economic ladder due to higher productivity. Higher union pay attracts better qualified individuals and there is strong evidence that suggest that wage gains through collective bargaining are not a significant cause of inflation.
  • Union corruption is front page news and stories linger and are reinforced with each new allegation. Sensational events tied to organized crime leave indelible impressions that last for years. These impressions are kept alive by Hollywood. Some the most popular movies like On the Waterfront, Hoffa, Fist, and the Godfather reinforce these perceptions. In fact On the Waterfront and The Godfather are listed by the American Film Institute among the top and best movies of all times. Each tie organized crime to labor unions.
  • What can union leaders do to counter the perception of corruption? Remind and educate the public that only a small fraction engage in these reprehensible acts of corruptions. Let them know that only that the former U.S. Attorney General concluded that less than one-half of 1% of all local unions experienced corruption. In fact corruption and greed is a much bigger problem among corporations.
  • Union leaders should know and share that very few institutions in American Society are as closely watched and regulated as labor unions. Inform the public that the LMRDA is the federal law that governs the administration of union. Reinforce that this law lays down stringent financial and administration guidelines for unions to operate. Let the public know that financial reports of labor unions are available to the public.
  • The public also perceive that unions often engage in violence to achieve their objective. This as stated earlier is reinforced by television, headlines and movies.
  • These are some of the images that the public thinks of when they think of unions. What do you see?
  • Modern unions do not employ physical force or violence as a strategy to obtain objectives. Any such acts are isolated and acts committed by irresponsible individuals. These are individuals that should held accountable for their actions not the union. Often these acts are provoked by the employer or their agents. A key fact that unions should share is that according to the FBI violent incidents at union demonstrations or strikes are not statistically monitored because incidents of violence is insignificant. This ends Part I of this lecture. Part II will discuss strategies for improving images.
  • Union Images - Part I

    1. 1. Building Strong Unions Union Image Building Part I
    2. 2. Key Points: Image-Building <ul><li>The Labor Movement has an image problem </li></ul><ul><li>This image problem directly influences attitudes of members and nonmembers towards unions </li></ul><ul><li>This image problem, in part, stems from myths and misconceptions about unions </li></ul>Improving the Union Image
    3. 3. More Key Points <ul><li>Many of the myths and misconceptions concerning unions involve strikes, violence, corruption, and greed. </li></ul><ul><li>All levels of the Labor Movement must actively challenge these myths and misconceptions in order to improve labor’s image. </li></ul><ul><li>Image-building efforts should focus on labor’s own members, the community, the news media, and the schools </li></ul>Improving the Union Image
    4. 4. Labor Movement <ul><li>Significant Contributions </li></ul><ul><li>Economic </li></ul><ul><li>Social </li></ul><ul><li>Political </li></ul><ul><li>Remember and Remind </li></ul>Improving the Union Image
    5. 5. Image Defined <ul><li>Mental picture, conception, impression </li></ul><ul><li>The image of the union is an integral part of the member’s or nonmembers developed attitude </li></ul><ul><li>Union members who picture the labor union in less than positive terms are unlikely to participate in union activities </li></ul>Improving the Union Image
    6. 6. Confidence in Institutions Improving the Union Image
    7. 7. 2008 Gallup Poll - Confidence Improving the Union Image
    8. 8. Significant Image Problem <ul><li>Negative Images Derived From: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Myths </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Misconceptions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Secondhand information </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Media (television, radio, newspapers, magazines, internet) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Family and Friends </li></ul></ul></ul>Improving the Union Image
    9. 9. Union Activists: Local Action <ul><li>Challenge and correct myths and misconceptions </li></ul><ul><li>Must be equipped with accurate and convincing information when formulating a message </li></ul>Improving the Union Image
    10. 10. Examine: Popular Myths <ul><li>Strikes </li></ul><ul><li>Greed </li></ul><ul><li>Corruption </li></ul><ul><li>Violence </li></ul>Improving the Union Image
    11. 11. Strikes: Public Perception <ul><li>Impressions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>labor unions strike often </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>strikes are disruptive in the workplace and society </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>common part of every union member’s experience </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>strikes are long and dramatic </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>negative phenomenon </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>should be limited by government </li></ul></ul>Improving the Union Image
    12. 12. Strike: Activist Reply <ul><li>The common cold causes more absences each year </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Absences average < 1% of work time lost in U.S. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1989 only 51 strikes involving 1000 workers or more </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1997 figure fell to 29 strikes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Most members never experience a strike during their working years </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2008 – 14 strikes/ lowest number since 1940s </li></ul></ul>Improving the Union Image
    13. 13. Ban Strikes <ul><li>Fundamental human right </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>No less important than the freedom of speech or freedom of the press </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Vital and necessary part of the collective bargaining process </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Based on the principle that workers should participate in determining working conditions </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Reply </li></ul>Improving the Union Image
    14. 14. Impressive Statement <ul><ul><li>Free collective bargaining is the only instrument that workers have to protect and promote their interests in the economic system. Without the ultimate right to withdraw their labor, they would have no strength to bargain, and would have to accept whatever wages, and working conditions their employer decided to impose on them. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The only thing workers have to bargain with is their skill and labor. Denied the right to withhold it as a last resort, they become powerless. The strike is therefore not a breakdown of collective bargaining—it is the indispensible cornerstone of that process. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> (Canadian Labor Confederation, 1979) </li></ul></ul>Improving the Union Image
    15. 15. Greed: Public Perception <ul><li>Unions are responsible for high wage levels </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Won at the expense of non-union workers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>High wages cause high prices and inflation </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>News media distorts these levels by combining wages and benefits as an hourly rate </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Union workers do not earn this higher pay </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Union proposals are inflated and greedy </li></ul></ul></ul>Improving the Union Image
    16. 16. Greed: Activist Reply <ul><li>Last 25 years wage increases generated by unions have not kept pace with inflation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>On average unionized workers are significantly more productive than non-unionized </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Unionized have earned the right to move up economic ladder due to higher productivity </li></ul><ul><li>Higher union pay attracts better qualified individuals to a given job </li></ul><ul><li>Strong evidence to suggest wage gains are not a significant cause of inflation </li></ul>Improving the Union Image
    17. 17. Corruption: Public Image <ul><li>Union corruption is front page news </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Stories linger and reinforced with each new allegation </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Sensational events tied to organized crime leave indelible impression, last for years </li></ul><ul><li>Kept alive by Hollywood </li></ul>Improving the Union Image
    18. 18. Corruption: Activist Reply <ul><li>Corruption is extremely isolated with only a minute fraction of union leaders engaging in reprehensible acts of corruption. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A former U.S. Attorney General concluded that less than ½ of 1% of all local unions experienced corruption (UAW “The Naked Truth about Unions.” UAW AMMO 24(1) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Actually, corruption and greed is a much bigger problem among corporations </li></ul>Improving the Union Image
    19. 19. LMRDA: Activist Reply <ul><li>Very few institutions in American Society are as closely watched and regulated </li></ul><ul><ul><li>LMRDA – federal law that governs administration of unions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lays down stringent financial and administrative guidelines for unions to operate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Financial reports available to the public </li></ul></ul>Improving the Union Image
    20. 20. Violence: Public Perception <ul><li>Unions often engage in violence to achieve their objectives </li></ul><ul><li>Reinforced by </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Television </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Headlines </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Movies </li></ul></ul>Improving the Union Image
    21. 21. Improving the Union Image
    22. 22. Violence: Activist Reply <ul><li>Modern unions do not employ physical force or violence as a strategy to obtain objectives </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Isolated acts of irresponsible behavior by individuals may occur but it is they are responsible and are held accountable for their actions, not the union </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Often these acts are provoked by the employers or their agents </li></ul></ul><ul><li>According to the FBI acts of violence are not statistically categorized because incidents of violence among unions is insignificant. </li></ul>Improving the Union Image

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