Unions' ValueThe release of Vice President Al Gore's...


September 26, 1993

Unions' Value

The release of Vice President Al Gore's report on the National Performance Review on reinventing government seems to have received predictable reactions.

I'd like to comment on the reaction from Donald Devine, the former director of the Office of Personnel Management during the Reagan administration.

Mr. Devine was seemingly perplexed by the unions' support of the report even though the report called for the reduction of 25,000 jobs.

You quoted him as saying, "Where is the dog that didn't bark? . . . I said I would cut 100,000, and they [the unions] almost cut my head off," referring to his early days in office.

It appears to me that Mr. Devine suffered from the same thinking that all too many managers in America are afflicted with. That is, they try to do the right thing in the wrong way.

If a manager has a collective bargaining agreement with a union that is the sole representative of the workers, then it is in the best interest of the whole organization to involve the union in the process of change right from the beginning.

To design a change process without the participation of the union is setting yourself up for reaction rather than partnership.

Workers and their representatives know only too well of the inefficiencies and waste of the organizations they work for.

If every worker were asked for three ideas that would help the enterprise become more profitable or efficient, then management would be deluged with potential initiatives they haven't thought about or the systems they have in place would not be able to manage the changes.

The value added by the union is that usually the union professionals have diverse experience in organizational change and employee involvement, and the communication systems, at least in part, are set up to capture the ideas and bring them forward in the proper context.

Independent researchers have consistently found that the most productive workplace is the workplace where the workers are represented by a union for this very reason and others.

The union's interest is served by a profitable enterprise just as much if not more than the shareholders. Union jobs are on the line. Instead of viewing unions as a "barking dog," we should look for the chance to partner with the group that cares the most about the success of the enterprise -- the workers.

David Fontaine


The writer is president of the Baltimore Area Labor-Management Center for the High-Performance Workplace.

Falling Behind

We recently heard that more than one-half of adult Americans cannot perform simple math computations.

Is the next generation going to be able to compete with the rest of the world? Without the proper tools for learning, today's children are falling behind their parents and the children who are their peers in other developed countries.

Isn't it telling that when I last tried to go to visit the Baltimore County Library in the Greenspring Shopping Center, I found it replaced by a video arcade? Will spending time on pinball and Sega Genesis improve our S.A.T. scores?

Adrienne R. Smith



My candidate for the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize: Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman. He is the only notable leader in 30 years to induce severe abdominal cramps in both Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat.

Out of sheer terror at the prospect of an Egyptian revolution, these two have heeded the wise words of Benjamin Franklin, who at the outbreak of our own revolution said, ''We must all hang together, for if we do not, most assuredly, gentlemen, we shall all hang separately.''

Many of us loathe and excoriate Sheik Rahman's teachings, but for this one outcome we should all be eternally grateful.

Bancroft Williams


NAFTA Would Infringe Nation's Sovereignty

Never did I think that in defending the constitutional protection of the people by the federal courts of the United States that I would pull down such vitriol on my head (editorial, Sept. 21).

Since the 1991 editorial in your newspaper extolling the virtues of proposed trade treaties that will place the United States under the power of foreign rule-making bodies, I have closely researched the proposed North American Free Trade Agreement and General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and am puzzled how this delegation of power can be accomplished without a constitutional amendment.

The Congress, in the enabling legislation for each one of the treaties, has been willing to cede its power over the entire interstate and foreign commerce clause of the Constitution to unelected, international lawyers serving on dispute panels by not allowing for U.S. court review of the panels' decisions. (I voted against this action) . . .

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