Swimming with the Sharks – Strike in the Workplace



Helpful advice is always . . . well, helpful. Often those who have had success are quick to give advice and little “tips” they have learned along the way. Sometimes these pieces of knowledge are helpful, but often I have personally found them to be personal pats on the backs without much personal substance. The reading by Harvey MacKay ‘Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive‘ was entertaining and I was able to relate many of my experiences and attitudes to those within the reading.

Stand-Up Strike

In recent times, it appears that America is often being compared to Japan in regards to efficiency and other matters in the workplace. More often than not, we are seeing something that Japan does that attributes to their continual climb in the marketplace. So it came as no surprise to me that there would be at least one such mention in the reading. What was surprising was the way in which workers in Japan strike.

My interests have long since been those in the Human Resource arena and I was fortunate enough that upon graduation from BSU, I found a job working within my chosen field. The company I currently work for is composed of mostly hourly employees, most of which (all but 12 out of 1,200) belong in a union. Not a day goes by that we are without some complaint from the union. These daily complaints pale in comparison to the pressures and stress revolving around negotiations.

The union feels they are entitled to a multitude of benefits are reluctant to even discuss a few of them during negotiations. Once such benefit is the medical. (A brief history, our full-time hourly employees receive free, yes FREE, medical insurance for themselves and their entire family).

Last negotiations, the company wanted to bring to the table the matter of medical premiums and the union is well aware of the fact. On day one of the negotiations the union president said “we are not going to discuss anything to do with the medical plan. If you have issues regarding medical you would like to discuss, let us know now so we can leave and begin our strike”.

Because the negotiations are at a pivotal time of year, the union is well aware that the company is better off in the short term to come to an agreement and continue on with business. The reason we keep postponing the inevitable is because we cannot afford to have our employees not working during the most critical time of year. By having a strike, production is not met and profits are lost. So in the long run, a strike would hurt the employees as well as the employer.

Communication is a more effective tool then hard ball, yet the American workforce still operates under the mantra of who holds the most cards wins. From what the book said about stand up strikes, the individual employees can still make a statement by “wearing black armbands” (Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive) and work with their employer to come to a mutual understanding; a better sense of win-win negotiations.


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