What can employees do when their boss is a jerk, when he/she makes them work extra hours or not enough hours, when there are unreasonable demands, or the pay is bad or the conditions unsafe? Answer: They can help themselves.
Does that sound like a union? Maybe, but for young people in particular, the u-word might be unfamiliar, or even off-putting. That's what is so interesting about a new web site launched this week by an AFL-CIO affiliated organization, Working America.
FixMyJob.com talks about workers can help themselves without even one mention of the word union and even incorporates a wild You-Tube video where the workers and the boss dance themselves into adversarial frenzy. At one point, as workers are dancing in what looks an empty office, the words, "When workers stick together & protect each other on the job: we are more likely to have a set schedule of regular hours, we are 30 percent more likely to get paid sick leave" and the list goes on.
Workers acting together to help themselves is called "protected concerted activity" and it is protected by the law, whether the workers are in a union or not. Considering that fewer and fewer workers are in unions, it is no wonder that the AFL-CIO, through its non-union Working America affiliate, and the National Labor Labor Relations Board, which enforces the National Labor Relations Act, have been promoting an understanding of the concept of "protected concerted action."
But, how do you get the message to young people, particularly the millennials, who will soon be the biggest part of the workforce, based on sheer demographics, but who have been hammered in this recession. Maybe FixMyJob.com is an answer.
“It’s like an online house call from the doctor for workers,” said Working America Organizing Director David Wehde in a press release announcing the web sites launch. “Users can check their workplace issues. Whether the problem is poor workplace policies, unsatisfactory health benefits, an incompetent boss, low pay, insufficient hours, safety concerns or more, the site is a place where working people can find potential remedies.”
Wehde said the primary goal of the site was to get workers to start mobilizing. “In this economy, workers are struggling. We want to create a fertile environment for workers to self-organize in whatever forms they find natural and effective.
"Tough day at work? Are you feeling overworked, underpaid, unsafe or disrespected by your boss? You aren't alone - and you don't have to just put up with it," the web site says, One more click - and there's a grid that helps workers think through their problems and think how they might resolve them.
Another click leads to a step-by-step guide to organizing, including a section on tactics.
“We’ve never embarked on something quite like this before,” said AFL-CIO Deputy Organizing Director Christian Sweeney in the same press release. “Innovation and experimentation is a rich part of labor history. We look forward to seeing how this site evolves to help more and more people find power on the job.”