In the past, unions performed two important roles: 1) Organize workers in solidarity against poor wages and working conditions; 2) Lobby the government in support of issues important to the union and its members.
Unions have been so effective in their lobbying efforts that there are now significant health and safety laws in place in most developed countries, so lobbying has achieved many of the union’s goals and their work here is nearly complete.
If we can set aside for a moment, the hotly debated issue of preserve jobs in a declining market, then the way I see it, the primary value that a union provides to its members in the modern world is not the same value as when unions began. The higher value is the same value that industry associations provide to their members:
- Personal/professional development
- Business intelligence
- Promotional activities to strengthen the brand
- Repositioning the value of the brand in the eyes of the consumer.
- Identifying trends, new opportunities and growth potential
The Certified Management Accountants (CMA) is one example that unions can learn from. By placing billboard ads and running radio spots depicting a management team huddled around a fortune cookie, they have clearly positioned a certified management accountant as a better alternative when it comes time to make decisions. As a result, the association has broadened the number of opportunities available to its members. Combined with learning opportunities and neworking with peers, this is part of the value of a modern union. I suppose the alternate approach they could have taken is to attempt to mandate that anyone wanting to use a spreadsheet must be certified…
© Wayne McKinnon 2010. All rights reserved.