Many will be familiar with the love/hate opinion I have of unions.
I love unions because fundamentally supporting employees is important. We live in a world where the agency of the individual is limited compared to the risks and importance of the workplace to our lives.
But unions are unconvincing in their approach to addressing this - and in my experience as a member unpleasantly unprofessional to deal with to boot (I can only imagine what it's like being involved professionally).
The complex, networked world we live in does not fit well into an oppositional approach to industrial relations - an 'us' vs 'them' perspective. This is truer in some workplaces than others, and some unions get it better than others.
Yes sometimes a hard line is and will always be necessary. But when? How do different approaches contribute to a better workplace and better lives? What role do unions have in education and improving transparency? Finding employment? Supporting networking and bringing people together? Supporting individuals to improve their value, through training or otherwise? Career planning?
All of these things contribute to good workplaces, but how they contribute is not easy to understand - the world of work is complex. To understand what to do to best deliver a better employment situation for employees requires a sophisticated understanding of this world.
Do unions have this? Do they take an informed approach?
Unions do some valuable work, but I'm yet to find evidence that they're doing it well.
(Written on thinking about John Quiggin's recent post on unions.)