Saturday, March 20, 2010

Unions and Workplace Bullying

Unions: people hate them, unless they love them. I belong to the CSU-AAUP (Connecticut State University-American Association of University Professors), a bargaining unit for college professors. There is no benefit I have that I think other workers should be without. To me, the AAUP contract is the kind of document every worker in America should have, tailored to one's particular circumstances. But it does not have a provision on workplace bullying, and frankly, people don't go to the union when they are bullied, because the process is not that helpful. Unions in general need education when it comes to this problem.

I was delighted when President of CSU-AAUP, Dave Walsh, gave me the opportunity to speak to the union council about workplace bullying. Two years ago, when Connecticut's SB 60, a Healthy Workplace Bill, went down without a vote, CSU-AAUP passed a resolution saying they would support any such bill in the future. But this time I spoke more broadly, urging the union to support CT Raised Bill 5285, suggesting the union consider contract language similar to the Massachusetts SEIU/NAGE agreement of 2009, and finally asking them to actively work for a Healthy Workplace Bill. President Walsh sent a letter of support for HB 5285 and the union will discuss these other matters.

I am happy to see my union taking it seriously. All government workers, whether federal or state, are easy targets for bullies. People have a lot invested in jobs like this. I have noticed health care is another professional heavily affected, and one state is proposing a bill related only to health workers. 

The unions who support a Healthy Workplace Bill and workplace bullying legislation include the CT AFL-CIO, the New York State University Teachers, the Professional Staff Congress, and the Civil Service Employees Union (CSEA). CSEA is already educating its union stewards to recognize bullying and is negotiating contracts to include a workplace bullying protections. The Business and Professional Women of New York State also issued a resolution. 

Here is the contract language SEIU/NAGE of Massachusetts passed last year, in part:

The Commonwealth and the Union agree that mutual respect between and among managers, employees, co-workers and supervisors is integral to the efficient conduct of the Commonwealth’s business. Behaviors that contribute to a hostile, humiliating or intimidating work environment, including abusive language or behavior, are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. 

Such statements of mutual respect should not be controversial. Americans who still have jobs are spending more time at those jobs, usually under increasing pressure and stress these days. Recently, the Workplace Bullying Institute awarded one business a Bullyfree Workplace status for their hard work in creating a culture of respect. We need to see more bullyfree workplaces! 

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