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So, I have a whole bunch of thoughts about unions in a food service business. Should I share them? I'm not even sure I could organize them all. But here it goes. /1
For background, I have been in bars, restaurants hotels and consulting for many many years. (I don't want to date myself hehe). I have been employee, manager, employer, so I have seen all side of the coin. I have also been part of a union, and worked for non-union companies. /2
I am a firm believer that there is a need for unions. Otherwise, we'd all still be working for $2 per hour with no benefits, etc. /3
But here's the thing: companies that treat their employees well (and there are actually a lot of them out there) shouldn't be afraid that their employees would unionize. Or so you'd think. /4
Most of the time, this is a case. But not always. I have seen very aggressive union reps who will try everything under the sun to get employees to unionize. This also includes makes promises that are unlikely or virtually impossible. /5
Ie "Bring the union in and we will get you double time for all overtime" or "we can promise everyone 4 weeks of vacation" or "we can get you all 30% increases" etc etc. You see where this is going. /6
All of those things would be lovely of course, but they are also not practical or sustainable foe the average food service business. This industry really does generally make 10% profit margins at the end of the day. /7
Now you might say that's a systemic problem with the industry, and I don't disagree, but that's an argument for another day. /8
I have also witnessed a collective bargaining session when the union reps honestly did not care what the company stripped away from the agreement, as long as the benefits premiums did not increase. They actually said "I don't care what you do, but don't increase the premiums" /9
The union gave up half their annual raises, and a daily staff lunch program so their health premiums didn't go up $5 per month. I'm sure you can guess that what was stripped was worth a lot more money than $5 per month. No idea why they cared about the premiums so much./10
I've also worked in an environment that was unionized so strictly, that a server wasn't allowed to clear her own tables because "we have us persons that need work" . It meant that the business had two pay for two employees for ever single operating hour, even thru downtime. /11
It also meant when busy, the server looked incompetent because she kept walking past dirty tables empty handed. Try explaining to every guest that you are not allowed to take their dirty plate away from the table.🙄 /12
This caused another problem, because eventually this culture permeated thru the employees. The attitude of "not KY job" prevailed, and team work went completely out the window. As a whole, it had a very negative effect on the service provided, and the teammate culture. /13
Now, there are also employers out there who treat their employees poorly, or pay them unfairly. These are, of course the reasons why unions exist in the first place. Lots of people don't always have the ability to up and quit or find a new job if their current one sucks. /14
Being able to unionize provides people with a voice that is needed, certainly. Everyone deserves the right to fair pay and treatment. And I'm a firm believer that if your business financially requires you to under pay or take advantage of labour, it's not a viable business. /15
But it can make it difficult for good employers who's employees unionize to compete with someone who is not unionized. Sometimes higher wages do not a good employer make. /16
Sometimes a good employer might pay less, but offer paid personal time, being able to work from home, staff functions, quarterly Awards, the list goes on and on /17.
I understand that while certain provincial laws can make it hard to unionize, it can be just as hard to de-certify a union. This is part of the problem. /18
Again, I strongly believe unions can serve a good purpose. But it's important to remember that unions have become so big, they are ALSO a business, and may not actually have the workers rights as their foremost interest. /19
My point is, rather than blindly being for, or against unions, I think we'd all be better off to push provincial labour agencies to modernize and improve their standards to ensure we have liveable minimum wages and good benefits, and proper standards of treatment. /20
Another thing that could be in everyone's benefit is to make it easier to allow employees to form a union, but ALSO allow employees to de-certify if they want. This should also help ensure the union really is working to the benefit of their employees. /21
This would create an incentive for BOTH employers and unions to do best by their employees. Thanks for letting me rant!! 😀😀😀 /end
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