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Friday, September 2, 2011

What About The kids ?

When I started this blog it was my intent to avoid labor/management issues.  The rhetoric has become so loud that I feel compelled to weigh in.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a two-parent household with my mother and father.  Times weren’t always sunshine and butterflies, but it worked out pretty well.  We had good times and not so good times.  My Dad was a telephone man back in the days when if your phone quit working a man in a green truck pulled up to your house and fixed it, no charge.  My mom worked part time for a local gift shop.  I have a brother three years older who was always doing homework.  We almost always ate dinner together.  It was not quite as idyllic as it sounds, but we were a family.  Although there were hard feelings from time to time, my parents supported us with both time and money.  Our family was their main focus.  Divorce was not the ubiquitous domestic paradigm that it is today.  Adults today often seem to put their individual agendas ahead of their families. 

Airline companies, for some reason, feel a lot like a family.  I don’t know why for sure, but I think it is because of the seniority system and the time flight crews spend away from home.  The seniority system makes it very difficult to change companies without a big potential loss of pay, advancement expectation and working conditions.  Therefore, airline employees have much invested in their company’s future and well-being.  Also, anytime people travel together, there is a bonding that takes place.  In any industry employees feel some connection with their employer, but this seems especially true for those in the airline sector.

Because of the Railway Labor Act and other unique aspects of the air transportation industry most airline employees are unionized.  They organize with either a national or in house union.  Although not absolutely necessary, a collective bargaining agreement or contract helps establish agreements between labor and management on how their relationship will be maintained.  When the relationship is healthy, it resembles a family that has respect for and trusts in its members.  When the relationship is strained it is much more analogous to a divorced couple with joint custody of the children.  If there was not mutual respect and trust by the parents before the divorce, it seldom improves after.

When a divorced couple is given joint custody of the children, rarely do the parents put the children first.  Usually the parents personal agendas take priority over the kids.  Who is responsible for what becomes very emotional.  Both parties think they are being taken advantage of.  Meanwhile the children are continuously bombarded by slanderous rhetoric toward the other parent.  The children are put in a position of having to choose to believe one parent or the other.  Anyone who has experienced that situation knows it is a very difficult place to be.  Both parents usually go to great lengths to defend their positions.  They hide behind their espoused motivation of protecting the kids.  Ironic isn’t it that the kids are the ones that actually suffer the most?  How can children ever respect either one of their parents when all they do it blame and disparage the other one?
They complain and justify their actions to supportive friends and relatives. Sometime they go back to court to have a judge validate their position.  Money is paid to lawyers, a new agreement is imposed and the children are forced to adapt to the new situation.  

When employees are put in this position, safety and quality suffers dramatically.  A little productivity increase for the company or a pay raise for the employees is no more a solution than divorced parents buying themselves or their kids an expensive present as an anesthetic.  It treats the acute symptom, but not the root cause of the problem.   Children need a safe, supportive and stable environment to prosper.  Bickering and confrontation are not the means to that end.  Employees need the same things.  Corporate executives and union leaders have a responsibility to the employees they volunteered to lead.  It is to support, not exploit them.

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