business news in context, analysis with attitude

From the Wall Street Journal this morning:

"More workers across a range of industries are going on strike, seeking pay raises to catch up to inflation while the tight labor market has taken away some of the risk of walking off the job.

"In the past few weeks, thousands of teachers in Ohio and Washington, nursing-home workers in Pennsylvania and mental-health therapists in California have walked picket lines after contract negotiations broke down over wages and other issues. Other workers have held daylong walkouts as they try to unionize coffee shops, distribution centers and other workplaces.

"There were 180 strikes involving roughly 78,000 workers in the first six months of this year, up from 102 involving 26,500 workers in the same period a year earlier, according to a strike tracker created by researchers at the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

"More unions and employers are also entering into tough contract deliberations, with the potential for strikes looming. Workers’ demands include higher pay to account for inflation as well as better conditions, reflecting how the pandemic has reshaped jobs and many people’s attitudes about their work."

KC's View:

There are some retailers out there who have expressed their displeasure to me when I've suggested - simplistically, in their view - that retailers can reduce the threat of strikes and strife by paying attention to workers needs and demands preemptively.  I actually think that's a fair criticism - there are a number of retailers out there who have been progressive (not in a political sense) in their labor relations, and yet have been subjected to criticism and hostility anyway.

I'm not sure how to address this, short of waiting for the pendulum to move back the other way.  But I do think the most sustainable way for business leaders to deal with labor in the long run is to invest in workers to the degree that they will feel invested in the business … and working to make sure that throughout their organizations, people feel that their work is meaningful.

This may not solve all their labor problems, but I do think it might create the beginnings of a foundation on which to build.