A poll released last month by the San Francisco-based Employment Law Alliance, found that workplace safety was the top reason given by respondents for organized labor, narrowly edging benefits, wages and job security. Of those polled, 63 percent listed workplace safety as a major factor driving them toward unionization.

More than 40 percent of those polled believe that unions have had a substantial impact on improving the working conditions of average American workers. At the same time, 35 percent of respondents believe that unions need to focus more on organizing new members and less on electoral politics. The top four reasons identified by employees as the most important factors driving them to unionization included:
  • workplace safety (63%)
  • getting better benefits (60%)
  • obtaining higher wages (57%)
  • increasing job security (54%)
Workers reported that factors related to poor management were much less important in deciding whether to join a union: poor communication (34%); inconsistent discipline (33%); having union representatives speak on their behalf (31%); and managers playing favorites (29%).

Stephen J. Hirschfeld, the ELA's CEO and a labor and employment law attorney with the California-based law firm of Curiale Dellaverson Hirschfeld & Kraemer, LLP, finds the poll results revealing. “These results indicate to me that most companies have done an effective job dealing with employee relations issues such as workplace respect, effective communication and consistent discipline,” says Hirschfeld. “Those factors used to be the primary drivers which caused employees to look to unions for help. Now, for the first time, employees are telling us that workplace safety, wages, benefits and job security are areas where they think unions will do a more effective job in helping their plight.”