Category:  Clients

When Collective Bargaining Works

Collective bargaining is under attack across the country from politicians as well as anti-union corporations. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has declared war with his state employees by threatening to terminate their collective bargaining rights, leading the parade of state leaders who are using the nation’s economic mess as cover to take away worker rights.

The value of collective bargaining is clear to anyone who has participated in the process. And, how can sitting down and talking with each other be a bad thing?

Over the years, no industry has been more adamant in fighting representation and collective bargaining than the coal industry, where violent union busting and bloody strikes have been the order of the day since the dawn of the industrial revolution.

So it was heartening for us as we traveled this week to mines and meetings in West Virginia and Pennsylvania to see a growing cooperative relationship between mine managers and union representatives. We witnessed meetings where the two sides sat across from one another discussing crucial issues like safety, training and productivity with the shared empathy of a college sports team. Even without dramatic conflict, it was riveting video.

Our client, the BCOA-UMWA Labor Management Positive Change Process (LMPCP), held training sessions and working meetings with participants from several Consol Energy mines. We interviewed miners, union representatives and management supervisors who were participating in the training together. That’s right, management and labor together in the same room working cohesively to improve safety, better communication and increase productivity.

The LMPCP was created as part of a round of collective bargaining between the United Mine Workers of America and the Bituminous Coal Operators Association in the early ‘90s, and both sides agree their progress has been substantial. The presentations and interviews we videotaped articulated stories of real cooperation and better working relations between management and labor, as well as improved safety and productivity.

We’ll be videotaping other mines and meetings in the next few weeks, as well as interviewing company and union officials, and we expect to see more of how this joint project lives up to its name: Labor Management Positive Change Process. That’s a mouthful that more companies – and government officials – should say out loud.

The first step: Come to the table.

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