Unions Target Outsourcing

By Gene Koprowski  |  Posted 2005-09-05 Print this article Print

At the same time, there is turmoil in several large unions. Several unions in July broke away from the AFL-CIO, one of the worlds largest labor unions. Union officials said at the time they are trying to identify jobs that cannot be shipped overseas, in industries with workers that can be organized. Rather than seeing labors power as diminished by the fractiousness of the AFL-CIO, some business leaders see the move as a potential challenge for corporations in the near future.
"A driving force behind the AFL-CIO split is the splintering unions decision to focus resources on organizing employees, rather than on the AFL-CIO bureaucracy," Charles Birenbaum, a labor lawyer with the San Francisco office of Winston & Strawn LLP, told Ziff Davis Internet. "Those unions will now concentrate resources in an unprecedented manner to increase union membership density."
Birenbaum said unions will increasingly use non-traditional tactics to organize companies, including legislative programs, regulatory pressure, PR campaigns, boycotts and lawsuits. "Rather than simply ignoring these campaigns, businesses should be exploring their options and devising comprehensive defensive strategies," he said. Last year, unionized workers represented 12.5 percent of the American workforce, down slightly from 12.9 percent in 2003, according to research by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a unit of the U.S. Department of Labor. Union membership has declined from a "high of 20.1 percent" in 1983, the government said. Outsourcing, however, is expected to grow in the coming years. According to research from OffshoreITOutsourcing.com, software outsourcing is starting to transform the industry, and major Fortune 500 companies are engaging in the tactic. IT, overall, is the leading occupation to be outsourced, beating sales and marketing and human resources, according to outsourcing watchers. Outsourcing can lead to intellectual property issues. Click here to read more. According to an August survey by consulting company McKinsey & Co., India led the world in outsourcing, grabbing $20 billion in contracts in 2004. China was runner up with $600 million, the report said, but is expanding its offering of workers for software, hardware, semiconductors and programming services. One of the problems with organizing IT workers is that they are usually not concentrated in one office, but rather, they connect with companies and managers via the Internet from a diverse array of sometimes obscure locations. While that decentralization makes traditional organizing techniques difficult, unions now are using the tools of the IT industry to organize, such as e-mail and Web communities. The governments National Labor Relations Board, which arbitrates work actions, has ruled that it was permissible for union organizers to reach workers by e-mail at the workplace. "Employees are protected," labor attorney Schroeder said. "This may be the tool to organize contract workers." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis on IT management.


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