Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

CEO Perceptions of Current Union Activity

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

CEO Perceptions of Current Union Activity

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between the organizational environment and unions as observed by chief executive officers in various industries. The organizational environment in which an executive functions is fruitful ground for management study. Organization theorists and organizational behaviorists are concerned with environmental concepts, structures and processes in analyzing organizational effectiveness. The focus usually is centered on several components of the organization. While undeniably important, such analyses often do not incorporate the antecedent considerations of the particular industry in which the organization is located. For example, the appendage of the medical staff in the hospital organization and the centrality of the faculty in the university organization undoubtedly influence the practice and behavior of the chief executive officer. Since hospital and university organizations are considered two of the most "democratic" organizations, do the CEOs of these institutions use certain management concepts, tools and techniques more than CEOs in other industries?

Robert Boissoneau is the Dean of the College f Health and Human Services at Southeast Missouri State University and ha, combined a uiversity career, in administration and teaching. Previous assignment, in administration include the position of Special Advisor to the President of Wright State University, founding Dean of the College of Human Services at Eastern Michigan State University and origanizing Administrator of Means Hall in The Ohio State University Hospital system. He has produced more than 150 publications and presentations, including books, Health Care Organization and Development and Continuing Education in the Health Professions. He has the Ph.D. in Higher Education Development and Administration from The Ohio State University, M.H.A from Virginia Commonwealth University and B.A. in Liberal Arts from Eastern Michigan, University.

Unions have been a part of the industrialized society for most of the 20th century. However, like most managerial practices, unions are also in a state of transition. Today, we may be witnessing what appears to be the twilight of the American labor movement. Economic, political, and social tides are all running strongly against unions. By the end of this decade, unions could dwindle to insignificance.

The crisis of labor is only too apparent. The statistics are grim enough for the present, but the omens for the future are still worse. Nearly 17 million American workers belonged to a trade union in 1987, according to the Bureau of National Affairs Director of U.S. Labor Organizations. This number is 4 million fewer than in 1980. The share of union workers among all workers in the United States has decreased from a peak of 35 percent in 1945 to 23 percent in 1980 and to 16 percent in 1990.(1)

Forty years ago, organized labor could boast that it represented about 35 percent of the nation's non-farm work force.(2) However today, the scale of decline is striking. Big Labor's fall from grace has been stark and unrelenting. Since 1970, the unionized share of the private work force has shrunk so rapidly that it now stands at about 12 percent - only a third of its size in the mid 1950's. Table 1 shows the decline. Even counting government employees, only 16 percent of workers now belong to unions - the lowest level in at least 50 years. (3)

Consequently, dealing union membership has not been limited to the United States. The labor union movement all over the world appears to be in disarray. In Japan, union membership has fallen from 35 percent of the 1970 work force to 28 percent of the 1987 work force. Union membership and power are declining fast in Italy and France, and are beginning to do so in West Germany. Union membership in Great Britain peaked at 55 percent of the labor force in 1979. By 1985, only 44 percent of workers belonged to a union. …

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