I am sorry I have not written much lately. Part of the reason is I have been trying to decide how to tackle the union issue that I promised to talk about. Yes, I am finally delivering on it, at least in part.
Here is the deal, I have delayed posting on unions because I want to figure out the right way to go about it. I also have delayed because I think that I am a little afraid of the possible results of unionization. First off, I have never seen myself as a union worker; much less someone that is trying to convince others it might be a good idea. Second, predicting changes in how an employer views its employees after unionization is difficult at best. At worst the employer could go decide to find different workers (searching in a different city, different area of the country, or even off-shoring). However, more and more I have become convinced that what the legal contracting industry needs is a union. There are other ideas and other options out there, but in my opinion, while some of them have been pursued they have not been and will not be effective. In truth unionization might not be either.
In any case, because I have spent a lot of my spare time looking at union issues, I have neglected posting on other issues. SO, what I am going to do is post today on why contract attorneys should unionize, and I will continue to talk about unions through the coming weeks interspersing some of the posting ideas that I have neglected. I hope to have this union issue parsed out by the end of February, and I will continue on regular postings thereafter.
Unions generally provide their members with:
- Better Wages
- Better Hours
- Better Benefits
- Better Work Environments
- Advancement Opportunities
- More Job Security
- More Paid Time Off
- A greater say (or at least knowledge) about how the work proceeds
- Grievance Procedures
These are some of the common issues that I frequently have heard people in the legal contract industry complain about. When complaints on any particular job become loud enough and common enough, they are finally listened to and addressed. This usually comes just in time to dump more work and stress on the contractor.
I personally have had complaints in all of the areas listed above at one point or another as a contractor, and I still do. Why you may ask have I not always raised these issues with my employer? I have been afraid that I might lose my job. I have been afraid that I would be labeled a troublemaker. I have been afraid that my one little voice would be drowned out by the silence of all the other contractors.
Why have I not tried to unionize a jobsite under my real name? There are several reasons. One of which is that I did not know my rights or the extent of them. A second is that I was afraid that I would lose my job (not because of my unionizing, but for some other perfunctory reason that the employer comes up with). Another is that I still believe that not enough other people really want a union, even with all of the benefit that it could bring to them. Also, I think other contractors largely believe that it is impossible. I wish that I could prove conclusively that it is possible, but that will not happen until a union develops. I can only show you here that technically forming a union is possible.
For those of you who thought like I did that professionals don’t unionize, you may be interested in these facts from the AFL-CIO, Department for Professional employees:
- The union movement is now 51 percent white collar.
- In the professional and related occupations, 17.7 percent of workers are union members, a higher proportion than the workforce in general.
- Employment in the professional and related occupations is growing faster and adding more workers than any other major occupational category. While total
employment is projected to grow 13 percent between 2004 and 2014, the growth for professional and technical workers is projected to be 21.2 percent, or 6 million jobs. U.S.
- Three-tenths of the growth in professional and related occupations is expected to take place in the health care and social assistance section, one-fifth in government, and one-seventh in professional, scientific, and technical services.
- Some 24 percent of all jobs in 2004 required a bachelor's degree or higher. Over the projected period of 2004-2014, 36 percent of the 18.9 million new jobs are expected to be filled by those with a bachelor's degree or higher.
Source: Analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) figures by the AFL-CIO Department for Professional Employees; BLS, January 2007.
Clearly, contract attorneys would not be leading professionals in unionizing, and it is not that uncommon. We should start talking about this idea seriously. Whether you wish that you were making a few more bucks an hour, that you get a couple more paid days off per year, that your office bathroom didn’t feel like a sewage plant, that you want to someday work your way up the “corporate ladder,” that you want medical coverage for yourself or your family or that you want all of the above; a union might be the solution to your issues.
In the coming weeks, look for posts on how to form a union, my own assessment of the chances of forming a union, an assessment of the benefits and responses from the industry. The next post goes out to those people working on the McCarter English project and other