The Buffalo News has an article that shows that unionization is not the rainbows and unicorns that organizers promise. The story involves the Ironworkers organizing of a company call Wendt Corp. Over a year ago, Wendt’s employees voted in favor representation by the Ironworkers. But, Wendt and the union still have yet to agree on a contract. As we often tell employees thinking about organizing, voting in favor of the union and receiving the benefit of what the organizers promises are different things. An affirmative vote means only that the employer must bargain in good faith with the union. It does not mean the employer is forced to sign a collective bargaining agreement containing all of the goodies the union promises employees.
The article also shares some important statistics. According to Cornell University:
reaching a first contract took an average of 378 days. Research showed 40 percent of contracts were settled within a year, 63 percent within two years, 70 percent within three years and 75 percent within four years.
That means a whopping 60% of union elections took over a year to result in a contract. It also means 25% (1 in 4) still had no contract in four years. Why is that important to your employees? Because while negotiations are ongoing, Section 8(a)(5) of the National Labor Relations Act prevents any changes in benefits. That means no wages increases or other raises during that time period. For Wendt’s employees, this means they have not appreciated the benefits of rising wages that other employees in the construction industry have seen. If I told you had a 1 in 4 chance of not getting a raise for four years if you did something, would you do it? Not surprisingly, 20% of Wendt’s employees have left or retired. They no doubt realized that in a tight labor market they could make more money elsewhere while not being beholden to the union’s negotiations.
What the article doesn’t say is if given the chance to do it over again, would Wendt’s employees vote for the union? My suspicion is they would not. And, neither would your employees if they knew that after a vote for a union money does not rain from the sky.