The Great Cemex Hysteria
September 18, 2023
Earlier this month the NLRB in its shamelessly biased assistance to unions once again tried to act without statutory authority and establish a new protocol for union representation matters. Drawing from a recent NLRB case and decision involving Cemex, the Board unilaterally and without public input established a procedure that would fast track the organizing of employees in the private sector.
The protocol is as follows:
- A union presents an employer with a demand for recognition of its employees with a purported majority of union cards signed as evidence that the employees want to be represented.
- If the employer refuses to voluntarily recognize the union, the employer is obligated to “promptly” file a petition, presumably an RM type, to resolve the question of representation.
- If the employer during the ensuing period before the election commits even a minor unfair labor practice, the NLRB will issue a bargaining order obviating the election and certifying that the union represents the employees.
This is dead on arrival when it gets before an appeals court reviewing why an employer refused to play the NLRB’s game. The NLRB has no authority to depart from 87 years of established practice related to the way employees will become represented. Employers are statutorily entitled to learn the wishes of their employees regarding union representation through an election, except in the rare case where a union has majority support and the employer commits a “hallmark” violation of the Act, thus making the conduct of an election an unreasonable resolution of the question of representation.
That said, this will motivate unions and perhaps even inspire them to embark upon a more active effort to organize employees. Under this new NLRB policy, it will no doubt be easier, particularly if an employer has no knowledge of organizing before it’s presented with a demand for recognition. It is unclear how the Board will handle the normal pre-election decisions regarding the appropriateness of the unit and other election details. But, suffice it to say, we are probably in for a very active patch of organizing; at least until some employer has the cajones to say, “We ain’t playing your silly game NLRB.” Until then, employers will spend a lot of money and experience a lot of frustration and agony going through a process that might ultimately be reversed.
From an advice standpoint, the best prevention tool at this point is the Alienation Index (see below) a proven predictor of inclination of employees toward unions.
William R. Adams, Ph.D.
Adams, Nash, Haskell & Sheridan
Understanding organization problems as a function of worker alienation
Robert Taylor, Ph.D.
An integral part of most attitude/opinion surveys conducted by Robert Taylor Associates is the Alienation Index (AI) computed from thirteen survey items. The AI is a valuable management tool as it has been shown to be a straightforward measure of the psychological distance perceived by a work group from their employer organization. As such, it forms the basis from which we construct the likelihood of union related activity for a work group. Additionally, the index permits direct work group comparison and cross referencing with normative values for similar organizations. Fundamental to all of this is the research program through which the index was developed and is regularly updated.
The Alienation Index was constructed through a rare opportunity to examine work group attitudes toward their organization prior to any history of union related activity. Subsequently, a number of these firms experienced union drives and a model for predicting this response was developed and tested using the previously collected data. (Particulars regarding this research may be found in Hamner and Smith, “Work Attitudes as Predictors of Unionization Activity,” Journal of Applied Psychology, 1978, Vol, 63, No. 4, 415-421.) Research findings from the initial study supported the theory that a relatively small number of survey items (13) accounted for a significant amount of the variance in workers’ inclination to seek union representation. We routinely re-test these findings, and continue to provide support for the basic model using 13 common survey items. We have, however, elaborated upon the original prediction equation.
As introduced previously, the AI is a measure of work group alienation and therefore useful for understanding and predicting behavior. Work units scoring above 55 represent potential problems for management and those above 60 are most likely already engaged in dysfunctional behavior and activities: excessive absenteeism, tardiness, sloppy or indifferent work habits, poor quality, etc. That is not to say, however, that they are in all cases ready to engage in, or respond to, union related initiatives. It is this relationship which was the focus of our subsequent research.
As we used the AI model and survey data, it became apparent after some time that the index was a better predictor for some groups than it was for others. Basically, what emerged was a pattern in which it came obvious that similarly alienated groups did not respond similarly to union related activities. There was a variable, or variables moderating relationship and organized labor. Again we were able to capitalize on a rare opportunity for analysis.
In most health organizations, a union organization drive is only one of management’s concerns. Generally we find other issues such as turnover, supervision, quality of work environment and quality of the work itself also highly important. The AI is comprised of attitudes about these areas, and therefore is a broader measure more useful for comparison. Additionally, it is not scaled, and hence is free from bias.
Recently, we have begun work on an extension of the study of normative data. Briefly, we are constructing factor scores for the attitudinal areas underlying the AI and developing norms for the individual factors. This, in turn, permits us to consider issues such as employee retention and favorable work ethics as a function of alienation and the components from which the index is derived. Used in this context, we can then develop predictions concerning work group programs in addition to unionization.
In summary, we obtain a measure of worker alienation through survey responses. Based upon our research, we use the measure to predict union attractiveness. Additionally, we prepare factor scores which comprise the AI for comparative analysis and prediction of other organizational issues.