Trade unions have had their hand in supporting workers through many changes through the decades. Now, more than ever, they have been increasing in popularity among employees as well for the work that they do. Gallup notes how approval rates for unions are currently at 65%, with many Americans considering these groups to be good for workers — so much so that a survey by MIT notes that 48% of nonunion workers would like to join one. Today’s business landscape shows just how quickly things can change. Workplaces are implementing new strategies to promote better employee well-being and corporate responsibility. One way they are doing this is by transitioning into more sustainable practices. But this is still a big change that some workers may not entirely be ready for. Thankfully, trade unions can make the shift easier through these ways:
Create mutually beneficial strategies
An article by History.com on the labor movement explains how unions were created to advocate for the rights of workers. They often rallied behind employees to negotiate with companies for things such as better working conditions, higher pay, and increased benefits. With companies making changes to greener policies and practices, they can consult with a trade union in order to address potential issues for their employees.
By having consistent leveling-off meetings with union representatives, businesses can mold their strategy to not only be more sustainable, but also more beneficial for their workers. This can include incentivizing the use of local transportation to limit gas emissions and using cloud-based technology to limit waste. Trade unions can point out any flaws that these policies may have, how they can negatively affect workers, and what companies can do to compromise.
Aid in creating a smooth transition
As mentioned above, going green can be a big change for companies that adhered to a more traditional setup. A write-up on putting a human face on sustainability by LHH notes how this has caused skepticism, alarm, and hostility against the idea of taking people from traditional industries and placing them into new jobs, with new skills and a lower carbon footprint. This can disrupt a business’ workflow, leading to employees suffering from underperformance, confusion, and overall difficulty adapting to the change.
With employees needing to learn new skills, trade unions can recommend resources to help these companies. One example of this is Biden’s proposed American Jobs Plan, which allocates $100 billion to workforce training programs. While it currently doesn’t encapsulate upskilling, a union can still encourage employers to participate in the program to minimize the rates of worker displacement.
Ensure continuous conversations
Shifting to more sustainable practices is not a one-and-done endeavor. Many strategies often have a timeline to adhere to, which may last for years. It is not enough for companies to only consider productivity during the first phases of the transition. They should make sure that with every step, their employees still feel secure, valuable, and pertinent to the success of the shift. This means actively asking employees about their needs as a group, a process that can be made more efficient by involving trade unions. A trade union can help ensure that the goals of a company are aligned with workers' views, and negotiate so no one is left disadvantaged with the shift to sustainability.
Our past work titled ‘This Is No Time for Climate Complacency’ addresses how systemic change is necessary in the pursuit of sustainability. Indifference is not an option if people want real change to occur. With this in mind, employers should continue to change their green strategies as they see fit in order to attain corporate and social responsibility. By having consistent negotiations with unions, businesses can continue to prioritize their employees, and support them through the transition.