Unions, Picket Lines, and Chickens


Mike Haberman @ HR Observations wrote a blog post about striking carpenters on the picket line. He questions the integrity of the union and the intention of the carpenters because the people on the picket line appear to be homeless.

Mike seems to have several key problems with the strike:

  • The people on the picket line are paid to be there and are not members of the union.
  • The picketers don’t represent the union very well because they look homeless (because they are).
  • The picketers are not disseminating information about the strike itself. They are banging on buckets and yelling.

Mike’s resonse is visceral and clear: he doesn’t have much patience for the union and its tactics on the picket line. As I think about his post, most people either love or hate the concept of a union. There’s not much gray area when it comes to dealing with Teamsters, yo.

So what do I think?

  • Strikes are for suckers.

Strikes represent the worst of FAIL: it’s a ‘state of being’ where business honchos and union honchos are either too short-sighted or too weak to know how to productively negotiate for the best interest of the organization.

My general answer to a strike is simple. Your business deserves to suffer and your workers need to find better jobs and a stronger union if a picket line is formed. I have especially strong disdain for failed unions in the workforce. I don’t pay my dues to strike, buddy; I pay my dues to avoid a strike.

So in response to Mike’s uneasiness about the state of affairs on the carpenters’ picket line, I want to offer a simple thought: the union could hire chickens to walk the picket line and it wouldn’t make a lick of difference. This is especially true as I look at the local American Axle strike. Some workers prepare to return to work while others prepare to be laid off. Great. What did the strike accomplish? Not much, mah friendz. The automotive industry still sucks and suffers from a lack of leadership and innovation.

So I say to Mike: don’t hate on the union carpenters or the homeless people (which I know you weren’t doing). Let’s join together and hate on a business climate that doesn’t foster a thoughtful and practical dialogue between business leaders and workers.

While we’re at it, let’s hate on a government that can’t solve problems related to the basic infrastructure of our country: health care, illegal immigration, and homelessness. When we address some of the bigger social issues in America, we liberate our businesses to focus on their core missions related to products & services.

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