What steps would you take as a school administrator to resolve this issue and avoid unionization of the operating staffers? – Essaylink

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This is a case about unions. This case involves one of the divisions of the workforce of a state university near you. The personnel of that university are structured like many others around the country, with four distinct divisions of labor. Administrators include the president, a number of vice presidents, and many other executive-level administrative assistants positioned throughout the various departments. Faculty make up the second tier, and include assistant, associate, and full professors. Professional associates are the “white-collar” support staff; most of these individuals have a college education and work as middle managers, day-to-day operations administrators, technical support staff, and so on. Operating staffers are the “blue-collar” workers; they include administrative assistants, clerical workers, physical plant and grounds maintenance people, and custodians. Operating staffers represent the largest and lowest-paid division of the workforce. Most of those individuals have no education or formal training beyond high school. Their pay scale ranges from minimum wage to $12–$15 per hour. Their benefit package includes some provisions for health and life insurance and retirement. It is far less comprehensive than the other three divisions and is considered to be somewhat comparable to employees in similar positions in the surrounding area. The operating staffers have always maintained a central committee made up of a cross-representation of the various departments around campus. The committee was originally established to serve as a liaison between labor and management for communication purposes. In reality, it has functioned almost exclusively as a fundraising and community service arm for that group. The operating staffers have always been the most generous division on campus when it comes to community outreach volunteers and for the annual fundraising drives of the traditional nonprofit community service organizations. For the first time ever, the central committee finds itself talking about unions. Operating staffers have begun to show up for the meetings in growing numbers to voice their displeasure about changes in working conditions and to encourage the com-mittee to go ahead and take a serious look at unionizing. During the past few years, administrative assistants, grounds-keepers, maintenance workers, and custodians have not been replaced as positions become vacant. Supervisors have simply asked existing workers to “pick up the slack” because “the school cannot afford to fill those vacant positions.” In addition, operating staffers have been required to contribute more of their paychecks each year to cover an increasing percentage of their health care costs, while the extent of their health care coverage has diminished. Administrators claim that “times are tough, outside funding is down, and we must all share in the burden of maintaining our school.” In the meantime, wages and benefits of administrators and faculty continue to increase, as do student enrollments. The increase in student enrollments also means more work for operating staffers. The situation is beginning to “heat up” on both sides. Operating staffers have held public rallies on campus that include speeches by disgruntled workers and posters and banners depicting wages, working conditions, and prounion slogans. The central committee was able to organize a “bitch session” with the president as the result of an aggressive and relentless push for that meeting. The president listened quietly to the concerns and demands of the group and finally thanked them for their dedication to the school. Supervisors and administrators have “informally encouraged” workers to give up the idea of unionizing. Many conversations are taking place off the record. Those conversations warn workers about the very real possibility of losing their jobs to outside vendors who are eager for the opportunity to provide their ser-vices to the school.

1. What steps would you take as a school administrator to resolve this issue and avoid unionization of the operating staffers?

2. If unionization appears imminent, what position and actions would you take to work through the process in the most collaborative and least disruptive manner?

3. Consider the labor force/supply in your area. Would subcontracting and/or outside recruiting be a means to quell this union movement?

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