Strategy Alert: Too Few Workers and Union Activity

by Michael Haberman on March 29, 2010 · 0 comments


Here are some strategic tidbits to start your week off. First, I am sure you heard that Craig Becker was given a recess appointment to the National Labor Relations Board. If you are not sure why this is important read my post NLRB Nominees: Loading the Dice in Favor of Labor Unions. If you consider yourself strategic you would have already been planning for this, but in case you haven’t been paying attention here is what you might plan for. With Becker and Pearce both getting appointed you can now expect a much more union friendly environment. There have already been indications that this Democrat (read Union) controlled board will overturn many previous decisions of the board under the Bush administration. One possible ruling may be having the Weingarten Rule reinstated for non-union workers. Weingarten established the right of representation for workers who feel they will be disciplined. Employers who refuse to allow this representation may be charged with an unfair labor practice, even if no union is present, and may be required by the NLRB to reinstate the workers and pay back pay. Having this right may encourage workers to review the other “benefits” of having union representation. (If you would like a history on this back and forth decision see this 2004 article from Law at Work.) 

The second strategic point is farther off in the distance, but you need to plan for it now. The Dukakis Center at Northeastern University just released a report projecting a significant labor shortage by 2018. A couple of highlights from the report include:

  • By 2018, with an expected return to healthy economic growth but no change in current labor force participation rates or immigration rates, there will likely be more jobs than people to fill them.
  • If the baby boom generation retires from the labor force at the same rate and age as current older workers, the baby bust generation that follows will likely be too small to fill many of the projected new jobs.
  • There could be at least 5 million potential job vacancies in the United States, nearly half of them (2.4 million) in social sector jobs in education, health care, government and nonprofit organizations.
  • The loss in total output could limit the growth of needed services and cost the economy as much as $3 trillion over the five-year period beginning in 2018.

The report, called After the Recovery: Help Needed, reports that some of this shortage may be offset by enticing Baby Boomers to stay in what they call “encore” jobs. These are mostly medical, social service and education positions that not only provide income but also provide personal fulfillment to the baby boomers. This frees up younger workers to fill other positions.

Obviously if you are in healthcare right now you need to pay heed to these numbers. 2018 is not that far away. But everyone needs to pay attention to this. Issues include:

  1. What jobs do we have that we may be unable to find workers for?
  2. How will changing technology alter the job picture for us?
  3. What is the composition of our current workforce? What is the expected loss to us?
  4. What possible training will we need to do and what will be the expense?
  5. How will we do this training?
  6. Who or where do we need to team with to insure a future supply of workers?
  7. What effect will this have on our recruitment structure and compensation structure?

These are just some of the issues. So ask yourself am I being strategic?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Penina Sachs March 29, 2010 at 10:35 am

I had a lively twitter discussion with a pro-union lawyer in Cincinnati this weekend about the backdoor, recess, appointments, particularly Becker. He, of course, thought it was a good thing. I do not share his sentiments. I see it as payback or paying ransom for the union vote.

EFCA here we come!!

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Michael D. Haberman, SPHR March 29, 2010 at 11:24 am

I agree with you Penina. However, there are many calling this a great victory for unions. One even said this was going to end the "slavery" in the American workplace.

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