A comprehensive guide to improving employer/employee relations before and after unionization.
A nationally recognized expert on labor, Wilson is the president and general counsel for the Labor Relations Institute. This substantially revised edition of a book initially published in 2003—nearly twice the length of the original—is stunningly comprehensive in scope. The book’s central metaphor, “left of boom,” is a military phrase that refers to a preventive strategy used to minimize the explosion of IEDs with an emphasis on the prevention of disaster as opposed to its subsequent management. Likewise, Wilson encourages employers to create a hospitable, happy environment for their employees before problems emerge, particularly problems that may lead to unionization—“a significant negative event” in the workplace. Doubling down on the metaphor, he says, “Union organizers can be compared to the insurgent networks that attempt to disrupt the U.S. military in Iraq.” Wilson also has plenty of counsel for those already dealing with the aftermath of unionization and attempting to repair dysfunctional work cultures. Covering an impressive array of subjects, the guidance he provides is consistently rigorous and supported by a mountain of data. He not only explains how a company can test its own vulnerability to widespread worker discontent, but he details how management can engender a workplace environment that doesn’t inspire it in the first place. This includes an approach to hiring and recruiting, the determination of fair pay and benefits, the proper way to resolve disputes, and a helpful primer on corporate communications. Wilson also instructs employers how to make, administer, tabulate and understand employee engagement surveys, designed to pinpoint disgruntlement before it snowballs into a crisis. Wilson argues that, all other factors being equal, a union-free workplace is better than a unionized one—for “good” supervisors, at least. “Good supervisors don’t like unions,” he says; “Bad supervisors, by definition, really couldn’t care less.” Regardless of whether readers agree with that bold statement, his overarching point is that unions can only be avoided by effectively governing all aspects of labor relations. Along the way, he furnishes a sense of the legal context and stakes, helping management navigate an ever-shifting landscape. “Becoming an employee relations leader does not end at the conclusion of a year of transformative work. It requires constant effort, forever,” he says. “Living Left of Boom is not a fad program—it must be a habit.”
An insightful handbook that could prove useful to any company, unionized or not.