Collective Bargaining 2: Behavioral Factors Influencing Union Bargaining Power
When individuals are brought together in any social setting, they may collectively evolve into one of several forms of social organization. If those individuals share a common set of values, traditions, beliefs and other characteristics and conditions, there is a strong likelihood that they will function as a very cohesive group. At the other extreme, if those particular individuals have little in common and are thrown together accidentally, it is much more likely that they will function as a mob. Most unions and other voluntary organizations are neither mobs nor cohesive groups. Members of a local union will share many common characteristics but they will also reflect many diverse cultural traditions and value sets.
The goal of local leadership is to understand the forces that bring people together within the local union and to build on those common concerns, while at the same time recognizing their divergent interests and traditions. Diversity should be approached as a source of power not as a source of potential divisiveness. In preparation for bargaining, and in other aspects of local leadership, the union can build strategies that move the local away from mob-like tendencies to greater levels of group cohesion.
Preparation for collective bargaining is a process particularly suited to the goal of building greater cohesion within a local union. Workers are brought together in a single labor union by accidental forces. They share the same craft or were hired by the same employer. Once together, however, those workers begin to experience much greater commonality of interests and concerns. They work under similar conditions and are paid similar wages. They spend hours each day in close proximity with each other and are subjected to many common physical and economic risks.
Even though they have much in common, members of a local do not sacrifice their unique differences when coming to work in a common setting. They bring to the body of the union many different social, ethnic, racial, political, cultural, age and gender perspectives. They may identify more closely with identifiable subgroups within the labor organization than with the union as a body. If the leadership of an organization is able to recognize the differences among the members and recognize the range of interests represented in the membership, the collective power of the organization can be directed toward the areas of common concern. The bargaining process provides an opportunity to address a wide range of concerns within a strategy of common interest. If the voices of all subgroups of the organization are heard, the collective voice of the membership is more powerful.