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Be On Guard – Assessing Your Hotel's
Vulnerability for Unionization

By Joseph M. Gravish
December 16, 2009

The national media is focusing most of its attention on the Congressional debate over healthcare. But businesses need to be on-guard as many predict an anti-business employment legislation tsunami once the current logjam breaks. 

One of the most onerous pieces of pending legislation is the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). You might remember that prior to healthcare the EFCA was at the top of the Congressional agenda. And, while the hot-button portion of the EFCA – the “card check’ provision - was once hotly debated and may have lost some support, some form of pro-labor legislation will be enacted in 2010. Thus, we can expect unionization activity to significantly ramp up as the EFCA appears on the horizon. 

The hospitality industry, among others, is a particularly lucrative target for union organizing. In fact, in businesses wherein no incumbent union was present, unions won more elections in 2009 (792 of 1,185 or 66.8%) than in the prior seven years. The overall trend should be of concern to all business owners and managers.

Stagnant wages, benefit cuts, a lack of job security, and a general sense of employee dissatisfaction create an environment ripe to spawn union growth. Consider also the results from recent employee surveys:

  • Job security, benefits, and compensation were rated the top three most very important aspects of job satisfaction, while less than 44% of those surveyed rated their job satisfaction as very or somewhat satisfied (Society of Human Resources). 
  • Only 26% and 34% respectively reported they were satisfied with their compensation and benefits packages (Spherion)
  • 60% reported they intend to leave their current position as recovery improves in 2010 (Right Management)
  • 80% would consider leaving their job if presented with other opportunities (Opinion Research)
With that in mind, let me offer 10 signs why your business may be vulnerable – why your employees may believe that unions offer a better alternative.
1. The cornerstone of your wage scale is the minimum wage you’re mandated to offer. 

2. You offer little or no benefits, (for example, paid days off, health, etc.).

3. You have no defined program regarding pay increases for service or performance.

4. You refuse to commit to a routine employee performance assessment process.

5. Your managers have an “I’m bullet proof” attitude toward employer-employee relations.

6 Your managers think they know it all and disdain even their own skills improvement training opportunities.

7. Your workforce is a whirlwind of constant rumors and full of clicks (haves (manager favorites) and have-nots).

8. Information flows upward – but not down to the people who need it. Loyalty is expected but rarely given.

9. Attendance at company-sponsored events (picnics, parties, etc.) is sparse, reflecting a what’s-in-it-for-me culture.

10. Your employee work areas are a shambles compared to the customer/guest occupied areas; their resources are of poor quality; management takes a “bondo approach” when it comes to repairs and maintenance. 

Bonus sign #11: You think that union activity won’t happen in your company.

Besides the EFCA there are other legislative proposals still afloat. Among them: the Healthy Families Act proposes to provide up to 56 hours of paid leave per year for full- and part-time employees; the Family Leave Insurance Act which amends the FMLA (The Family & Medical Leave Act) to provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave; and the FMLA Enhancement Act which amends the FMLA to allow employees up to four hours of time off during any 30-day period to meet family care needs.

Obviously, a number of legislators believe that some employers are not adequately taking care of their workforce. And, sadly, some are not – in good and in bad times.

Now is the time to seriously assess your vulnerability for unionization.  According to Dr, John Hogan (Hotel Common Sense, “Now is the time for hospitality business owners and managers to invest in their teams. As we rebuild our focus into an anticipated recovery over the next 8-24 months… those practical industry leaders will recognize that now is the time to pay attention to those professionals in our organizations who are the key components of why guests will stay with our business.” 

Life after healthcare may be very different. Simply “Telling people they should be happy to have a job is not a good talent retention strategy” says John Hollon (Good Riddance 2009, Workforce Management magazine).

Don’t say you weren’t warned. 

Mr. Gravish is a human resources professional with over 25 years leadership experience in numerous customer-service environments. He is an advocate of building profitability and success through, and by, people – first.


Joseph M. Gravish

Also See: The Employee “Forced” Choice Act Finds Increased Opposition; Taking Away the Private Ballot in the Workplace, While Congress Praises its Use in their Own Elections, Is Height of Hypocrisy / March 2009
It’s Time for the Hotel Industry to Heal Itself / Joseph M. Gravish / August 2007

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