I’ll state it up front, I don’t like unions. They are bad for business, bad for the economy and no longer serve a viable purpose, especially in the baking industry. And the proposed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) is a catalyst to that end.
At some point in the early 20th century, unions were useful, yes. They played a critical part in the revolution from sweatshop ethics to modern-day business practices. They exposed horrendous work environments put in play by greedy, tyrannical business owners. However, even then, most of the headlines were filled with examples from the meat and textile industries, not bakeries.
Over the years, union representation has dropped from a high of 35% among private sector employers in 1950 to a low of 7.4% in 2006, according to Husch Blackwell Sanders LLP, Kansas City, MO. In a recent release, the law firm noted the decline can be attributed in large part to "campaigns" that employers mount in the period between the petition and the election. The campaign enables employers to inform their employees of the consequences of accepting union representation. Companies are allowed to find and disseminate information that unions never tell the employees during the petition drive such as the cost of union dues, examples of companies driven out of business by the union, lost wages during a strike to achieve union demands and, sometimes, instances of corruption within the union.
Declining union representation can also be attributed to employers realizing, acknowledging and treating employees as the prime assets they are. In the 22 years I have worked for and visited bakeries around the country and around the world, the universal mantra of management has been "Employees first," "Employees are our biggest asset" and "Employees are treated like family."
At the core of EFCA is the proposed ability for union organizers to influence employees to sign "Card Check" authorization cards, effectively exposing to everyone an employee’s vote for or against forming a union. How is that in an employee’s best interest?
Regardless of how I personally feel about unions, passage of EFCA to amend the National Labor Relations Act that President Obama and his administration are pressing would be disastrous for the baking industry. It would open the doors to further plant shutdowns, business failures and destruction of management/employee relationships.
This industry knows the value of its bakery employees who interact with the products and the customers on a very personal level throughout the supply chain. Employers know that without employee loyalty and dedication, which has been nurtured and developed over the years, they would be nowhere.
I join ABA, IBA and SFA in their opposition to EFCA passage.
In an economy that is going from bad to worse, the last thing this industry needs is pressure from unions trying to convince employees to organize: For what purpose other than the unions’ own preservation?
This article can also be found in the digital edition of Baking & Snack, March 1, 2009, starting on Page 12. Clickhere to search that archive.