Magazine article Workforce Management

Union Roots Inform HR Leader's Actions

Magazine article Workforce Management

Union Roots Inform HR Leader's Actions

Article excerpt

IBM HUMAN RESOURCES CHIEF Randy MacDonald says growing up in a union household helped steer him into HR. In recent years, labor advocates have criticized IBM's U.S. job cutting and movement away from traditional pensions. But MacDonald says his father's union work has influenced him to make decisions about workers with integrity.

WORKFORCE MANAGEMENT: How did your father's union involvement affect your career path?

RANDY MACDONALD: My dad was a local union president of the typographical union in upstate New York. My father had a lot influence on me in many, many different ways. One of the things he taught me, and one of the reasons why I ultimately went into human resources, was that there are adversarial ways of running businesses and then there are harmonious approaches, and being provocative and being different was acceptable. One of the things he was most proud of was that in all the years he was union president they never had a strike, but his people felt that the contracts were fair.

I listened to his conversations at home on the phone with the company negotiators on an off-the-record basis. The integrity of those conversations proved to be very worthwhile. I practiced that going forward.

WM: You had to deal with unions at GTE.

MACDONALD: That's right. At IBM, we have 3 union-free environment here in the United States. We have unions elsewhere in the world. We manage them differently, because they tend to be European unions. But all of those experiences are relevant to me. …

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