HR directors have a lot to think about these days. Budget cuts, layoffs, employee morale—and that doesn’t even account for the looming labor reform on the not-too-distant horizon.
It’s no secret that President Barack Obama supports some type of labor reform. Whether or not it looks exactly like the Employee Free Choice Act that’s now in Congress is anyone’s guess, but change is coming.
What role unions will play in that change was a hot topic of debate at the 3rd Annual HR in Hospitality Conference, which I attended last week in Orlando. There was much speculation during panels and on the expo floor as to how much influence they’ll have, regardless of the passage of EFCA.
Perhaps the most insightful commentary came from David Sherwyn of The Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. Among other things, he said that Obama wants to talk to one union voice—not the incoherent rambling of a number of competing sects. At the time, Sherwyn said that UNITE HERE’s in-squabbling certainly wasn’t helping their cause.
That comment came to mind as I read this headline from BusinessWeek: “Nation's fastest growing union gets bigger.” The site is reporting that about 150,000 breakaway members from the troubled UNITE HERE have now formed a new organization, which they say will affiliate with the Service Employees International Union.
This influx of textile, restaurant and hotel employees will push the SEIU’s membership to nearly 2.2 million workers. At the time, UNITE HERE had about 400,000 members.
Could this represent the “one voice” that Obama is looking for? If so, it will be interesting, if not downright nerve-wracking, to watch how this suddenly amplified voice will affect the hotel industry.
If nothing else, it’s just one more thing about which HR directors need worry.