NEWS BLOG (WSAU) If I have an anti-union bias, it's because my experience was so negative in the one union shop I'd worked in. It was in New York. I was a much younger News Director then. But I was management. The radio station employees had just voted to unionize. We were in that hazy area where the union had been voted in, but a contract hadn’t yet been negotiated.
There were interim rules. No one could be fired. No one’s work hours or job duties could be changed. We were in a holding pattern until a collective bargaining agreement was in place.
One of my employees – a midday newsperson – began showing up late to work. He was supposed to be in the newsroom at 9am, preparing for his first newscast at 10. 9:30 came… he wasn’t there. 9:45… still not at work. I began preparing the 10am news, prepared to go on in his place. He arrived at 9:50, made a bee-line for the news tele-type and began collecting the pre-printed news stories from the Associated Press. He was preparing to do a ‘cold-read’ newscast – reading stories he’d never seen before live on-air.
I did the newscast instead, and spoke to my late employee afterward. “Sorry. Car trouble.”
He was late the next day too. And the day after that.
I wrote him up, and reported him to my boss. The case of the late newsman became an official union complaint. It would take a few weeks for a formal hearing. During that time, my employee was never, not once, on time for work.
The date of the hearing came. A union representative, who I’d never seen before, came into the office. Our company’s lawyer sat in the meeting. The union filed a complaint against me. The occasions when I took over the 10am newscasts was a classified as management (me) replacing a union worker (the late worker). The union announced they would trade my “violation” in exchange for management dropping all of the late-to-work complaints against their member.
Although it sounded outrageous, that’s exactly what happened. Our lawyer advised that small side issues would only complicate the upcoming contract negotiations, and that the matter should be dropped.
The roles were entrenched. It was always “us” against “them”. The union would protect workers, no matter what; management was always considered overbearing and unreasonable.
Not every union situation is intolerable. Not every union member is bad. I’ve worked in a union environment only once, and it was not good.