Saturday, June 21, 2008

Unions Part 2: Good for the Firms

Hey All,

Happy Start of Summer. I know I have not been posting very often lately (not for a month). There are multiple reasons for this break, but the one I like best is that the weather has been too good. I am still interested in posting some of your thoughts, but I have not received any of note.

As far as the market, I have heard of a few smaller jobs starting recently at places like Montgomery McCracken and Reed Smith as well as a few at smaller firms

I know that you won't believe me, that the Law Firms wouldn't admit this, but unions can be good for them too. The Contract Agencies would probably hate the idea of unions; after all, they would serve as competition for job hunting.

Some academic studies (mostly taken from the AFL-CIO website at note that unions are responsible for creating benefits to employers and the economy such as:

  • Productivity
  • Quality Service
  • Training
  • Turnover
  • Workplace health and safety

According to a recent survey of 73 independent studies on unions and productivity: “The available evidence points to a positive and statistically significant association between unions and productivity in the U.S. manufacturing and education sectors, of around 10 and 7 percent, respectively.”

If we as contractors get the terms that we want, then the hours that we work, we will be much more efficient.
Quality Services

A study looking at the relationship between unionization and product quality in the auto industry. According to a summary of this study prepared by American Rights at Work:

“The author examines the system of co-management created through the General Motors-United Auto Workers partnership at the Saturn Corporation…The author credits the union with building a dense communications network throughout Saturn's management system. Compared to non-represented advisors, union advisors showed greater levels of lateral communication and coordination, which had a significant positive impact on quality performance.”

Just like the auto workers producing a better car, a unionized shop will code better and reduce fines from the court due to the experience, knowledge and dedication that we bring to the job.


Several studies have found a positive association between unionization and the amount and quality of workforce training. There are a number of reasons for this: less turnover among union workers, making the employer more likely to offer training; collective bargaining agreements that require employers to provide training; and finally, unions often conduct their own training.

Look let's face it we have all sat through the five minute training sessions that we get on whatever Document review program we will be working in, but it is enough? I have had to help many people on the job to find their way around in a computer program where there was insufficient training. I have seen numerous man hours blown waiting for a tech support person to address an issue that a coder has with the software. This is not good for the client of the law firm, and thus not good for the law firm, and thus not good for the contractor. Of course problems like this do not make individual contractors suffer, rather it is all of us that feels the pain if we are not trained properly.

Freeman and Medoff found that “about one fifth of the union productivity effect stemmed from lower worker turnover. Unions improve communication channels giving workers the ability to improve their conditions short of ‘exiting.’”

The only way I see. And judging by the blog traffic, the only way most people see of getting change on a project is by leaving. In fact, if I remember correctly, major changes came down at vioxx when they started to see many people leaving after a few months into the project. one of those of course was pizza fridays (big woop
Workplace Health and Safety

Employers should be concerned about workplace health and safety as a matter of enlightened self-interest, after all they could be sued by you each individually. According to an American Rights at Work summary of a study by John E. Baugher and J. Timmons Roberts:

“Only one factor effectively moves workers who are in subordinate positions to actively cope with hazards: membership in an independent labor union. ...These findings suggest that union growth could indirectly reduce job stress by giving workers the voice to cope effectively with job hazards.”

Look, our methods to complain about physical conditions is limited at best. When walls go up to reduce sound problems, they can also put us at risk of death during mass evacuations, or trap in the heat. When boxes of paper are all over the place it is a fire and collapse hazard and it impedes our access to the exits of the building. To many computers on one table fire hazard. People sitting too close without barriers an infectious disease hazard. And what about those rats i nthe kitchen? Coders would be so much happier and not leave so quickly if law firms just treated them like human beings.


I think the firms have a more direct and higher motivation in all of these areas, and to be quite honest I think the firms would love to see an effective hiring oriented union for document review. They could save costs. Ironically, this is exactly why the contract agencies would hate the idea of a contract attorney union. The likelihood is that it would take money out of their pockets.

Anyway, I will try to be more near and dear to all of your hearts next time, but as always, I could use some more input.

For some of my other discussion on unions, see also:
Unions Part 1, Why should we form one?—Finally…

The Black Sheep