Union-Free Millennials

Union-Free Millennials

There are hundreds of articles and blogs spread across the internet that claim millennials will be the saviors of labor unions. Is this true? There is no definitive proof yet that union-free millennials will help unions recover membership losses and grow in large numbers, but it’s important to recognize the simple fact they could decide that unionization is a good decision. Some factors that millennials consider when job hunting or deciding to stay with a company include the connectedness the company has with communities, the feelings of connectedness with co-workers and the connectedness to the value of their type of work.

Union-Free Millennials In One Word

Notice the key word is “connectedness” which refers to a feeling of belonging. This one word serves as your guide to staying union free. When millennials don’t feel connected to their work or workplace, or believe their employer doesn’t care about their communities of operation, millennials are more likely to embrace unions as a source of empowerment.

A lot of proverbial hand-wringing is going on among employers. They want to connect with millennials, but many remain unsure of the best way to do so. Companies must make profits to stay in business, and baby boomers generally accepted things like environmental damage as collateral damage due to operations; high salaries and stock options paid to CEOs; and the command-and-control management style. To state it as simply as possible – millennials don’t accept these things. They need to believe their work is meaningful, and the employer cares about more than just profits. Union free millennials want to work for companies that do more than just claim they are socially responsible and believe deeply in the importance of collaborative work and managers.

They want to feel CONNECTED, so you must develop a culture of connectedness in your business to stay union free. Telling people your business exercises Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or announcing big donations to non-profits is not enough. In a culture of connectedness, employees participate in company activities that support local communities, with many companies offering paid time to do so. Work involves collaborative activities which can be participation on project teams or problem-solving conversations with co-workers in person or via enterprise social media systems.

Employees are encouraged to develop internal and external networks that support work performance and productivity. Managers have well-developed collaborative leadership styles and understand the nuances of employee engagement, like active listening and regular training and development opportunities. Employees have a good understanding of the meaningfulness of their work to customers and communities and see value in their efforts.

Union-Free Millennial Voice

Offer Stability

PEW Research Center also found that union-free millennials need stability, and that is what unions are offering – job security, a brother and sisterhood of supportive union members and an offer to take on the greedy employer to keep the playing field level. Millennials are often described as the most pro-union generation since the original formation of unions. Yet, unions don’t make it clear that younger employees are the first to be laid off or last to be promoted because union-free seniority rules.

All of this information provides a clear path to staying union free. You must focus on strengthening union free millennial feelings of connectedness and regularly and transparently communicate the ways your company offers stability to its workers with things like family leave time, good healthcare plans and competitive wages. It is important to regularly share information about the good your business does in local and global communities, like employing people in underserved communities or selling products that improve the quality of life for consumers. Communication and training are crucial to staying union free. Your employees should not have to wait for the annual report to learn all the good things you are doing for people in and outside the business.

Employees also need to understand there is a real cost to unionization that will impact the company’s ability to offer what millennials want, like community projects. Newly organized companies experience a minimum 25 percent increase in payroll and benefits costs. That reduces profits, some of which would have flowed into underserved and under-developed communities in support of CSR. It’s the cause-and-effect principle at work. Do your employees understand the real cost of unionization – tangible and intangible? Probably not.

Offer What Unions Offer

As the labor force continues its shifts from being blue-collar to white-collar, it is wise to keep in mind that people aged 35 years old or young and in professional and technical occupations are currently viewed as a major force in keeping unions treading water. In 2017, professionals in unions reached 6.15 million people. One of the characteristics of current union activity is that unions are entering workplaces that have not traditionally been approached in the past. In April 2018, the first formally recognized fast-food union was recognized – Burgerville Workers Union – which has a membership in the Industrial Workers of the World union. Every employer and every workplace is subject to potential unionization.

Sure, your company must make a profit, but it’s how that profit is earned that is important to the younger generations. Union-free millennials want to feel empowered, appreciated and valued. If you think about it, that is precisely what unions offer employees – power over their wages, working conditions, type of work and financial security. If you give your employees the same feelings of connectedness and empowerment, they will not turn to unions because unions will have nothing to offer beyond what your employees already have. Employers should not preach anti-union beliefs. Preaching only makes people believe you are self-serving and the company is only interested in profits and not people. Instead, act pro-employee by creating a culture of connectedness.

About the author

Jennifer Orechwa

In over 25 years of helping companies connect with their employees, Jennifer has gained a unique perspective on what it takes to build a UnionProof culture. By blending a deep understanding of labor and employee relations with powerful digital marketing knowledge, Jennifer has helped thousands of companies achieve behavioral change at a cultural level.