BP, Massey, Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, and Ludlow: Why The US NEEDS Unions and Anonymous Hotlines for Employees

At a 2009 SHRM conference, there was a call to make unions “irrelevant” by implementing the kind of corporate governance that would make employees not even consider a union. There is nothing wrong with this ideal as a goal to aim for, as long as there is no union-busting, which is unlawful.

When corporate governance is what it needs to be in terms of legal compliance, a lack of cronyism, and good-faith dealings with all employees, we do not see employees trying to bring unions into their workplaces, though that is every American’s right.

If you had access right now to an anonymous hotline that truly protected you from unlawful retaliation – to report wrongdoing at your workplace – what might you report? .

Whether you work in HR or in any other position, Tell YOUR Story here

Are the existing complaint mechansims at city, state and federal levels effective? Do the IGs, AGs, Commissions on Public Integrity, Governors’ Offices, Corporate and Government Fraud Hotlines, City and State Divisions of Human Rights, EEOC, OSHA, and other reporting avenues truly protect employees from unlawful retaliation and truly soundly investigate and remediate wrongdoing in American workplaces? How are injured and wronged employees made whole?

BLS statistics and the many reported government and corporate scandals we know about suggest that these are not as effective as they need to be. Imagine just how many corporate and government scandals we do not know about.

How do we ensure that those who receive complaints in and outside of workplaces are properly trained in the relevant areas of necessary technical knowledge, sound critical thinking and investigation skills, salient diversity issues, sound conflict resolution and ADR methods, competent communication and self-awareness skills; and issues of ethics, avoidance of conflcts of interest and cronyism, and work within appropriate standardized guidelines that are protected from any form of improper interference?

If HR/OD professionals and business and government leaders want to make unions irrelevant, competitive corporate governance (TM Pending) is necessary. Read more about competitive corporate governance in my book: The HR Toolkit: An Indispensable Resource for Being a Credible Activist.

LinkedIn groups such as Corporate Integrity, Compliance X, and HR/OD Credible Activists are good places to engage in discussions with professionals who take seriously the crucial issues of corporate governance, legal compliance, ethics and integrity.

Tell YOUR Story here.

The Ludlow Massacre, and the poem below about it, are very instructive for all employees, organizational leaders and HR/OD professionals. What was considered violence then and what wasn’t? What was acceptable then and why? Why were Greek immigrants considered “okay” to slaughter? Why were employees who expected fairness considered “okay” to silence with intimidation and death?

If there is apathy among leadership and corporate lawyers to ethical arguments, what are the monetary costs of engaging in unalwful union-busting, unlawful retaliation, unlawful terminations, disdain for knowledge and best practices, and other unlawful practices in the courts of public opinion, civil court, criminal court, and in terms of regulatory fines? There were union-busting methods used at the WV mine where 40 miners died, and there was also a pattern of documented safety violations. What can we learn from this? Are OSHA fines not expensive enough? Is the loss of forty lives simply the cost of doing business? Will those responsible for those deaths and for union-busting be aquitted just like those responsible for the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory and Ludlow massacres?

What are the injustices in our modern workplaces? Harassment, discrimination, retaliation, unsafe working conditions, workplace violence and cronyism are just a few. The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that our modern workplaces are still sullied by these ways of doing business in epidemic proportions. How is this possible if they’re all unlawful and what will we do about that?

What is important to realize is that the massacre at Ludlow in 1914 resulted in little to no criminal charges against those responsible for the massacre. How often do we see this happen in the 21st century when it comes to slaps on the wrist for those who are responsible for workplace violence, harassment, discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination, and other unlawful acts?

In fact, when we consider the BLS stats on workplace violence, unlawful EEO and ADA violations, FLSA violations and workplace fatalities – it doesn’t seem that we’ve come that far from the entirely preventable Triangle Shirtwaist Factory deaths of over 140 people in 1911. And, remember, the factory owners were aquitted of the charges brought against them.

West Virginia is implementing a telephone hotline for WV employees to call to report unsafe working conditions. This is an excellent step and obviously needed. However, it also begs the questions: Why is it necessary for this to be anonymous when we have supposed OSHA protections against unlawful retaliation against those who complain about safety issues? – and- Why aren’t employees already empowered to simply make legitimate complaints at work?

Because unalwful retaliation still occurs daily in our corporations. Forty people were killed in the recent WV mine accident, yet we still need an anonymous tip line for the reporting of unsafe working conditions. What does this tell us about the state of corporate governance in these mines?

Tell YOUR Story here.

The very important micro building block of all of this comes down to the Emotional Intelligence (or lack thereof) of those corporate leaders who choose to engage in unlawful behavior and assume they will get away with it or that those whom they wrong will not be able to afford to fight back. This is nothing more than more of the intentional exploitation we’ve seen throughout the history of labor issues. This is a micro component with very significant outcomes.

What drives such exploitation? A lack of Emotional Intelligence, greed, valuing profits over human life, and a refusal to acknowledge when one has made errors and to correct those errors – which is rooted in interpersonal and intrapersonal issues.

There is also an element of refusing to LEARN. There are obstinate, angry refusals to acknowledge that Emotional Intelligence, sound conflict resolution methods, BLS statistical patterns, OD knowledge, and best practices are elements of real solutions. This is often due to deeply-rooted shame in acknowledging that if one can learn something, one is somehow “inadequate” as one is now. This is unfortunate and unnecessary – as well as a failure of our educational and workplace systems to impart sound critical thinking skills, understanding of what a credible source is and is not, and a love for learning that does not diminish anyone personally for continuing to learn.

Leaders are paid higher salaries for a number of reasons, one of which is that they are charged with acting responsibly, legally, ethically, without conflicts of interest, and without cronyism. If it is personally or interpersonally difficult for a leader to NOT engage in cronyism, conflicts of interest, unethical behavior, unlawful retaliation or other EEO/ADA violations then that leader is not fit to lead. Such behaviors and violations are significant failures to meet the job description of leadership. The same is true of any leader who seeks to push the envelope of what is legal and what can be gotten away with in terms of disenfranchising employees and treating them differently than leaders treat themselves and those who fit the defintion of cronies.

We do not like to acknowledge that cronyism exists in the US, however it does and is, in fact, epidemic, based on emails I’ve received from employees all over the US.

What can we conclude from workplace leaders who refuse to hear and respond to safety complaints from employees until someone is killed – and even not then? What can we conclude from workplace leaders who refuse to hear and respond to concerns about legal non-compliance or ethical violations from anyone from line staff to their HR/OD professionals yet will pay external counsel $400 an hour to be told the very same things?

What is the state of corporate governance in your workplace? Can you report violations of any employment law without fearing unlawful retaliation? Do you need anonymous hotlines in your company or in your state? Why or why not? Would you fear raising issues of legal non-compliance, ethics concerns, or safety issues at your workplace? Why or why not?

What can we say about a US in which the consequences for Americans exercising these rights is often the loss of one’s job and health insurance? How do these very real consequences serve to silence American employees and allow unlawful and unethical actions as well as unsafe workplaces to thrive? Who is protected and who is not? Why do corporations protect some but not others? What drives cronyism, disparate treatment, unlawful retaliation, and other violations of law? How can we all prevent these?

My book provides several solutions, but I want to hear from you about your experiences.

Tell YOUR Story here.

by John Wright

not in the tourguide
of America’s roadside attractions
treeless exit on I-25
south Colorado
handmade billboard Visit UMWA Monument
yellow prairie west toward the Rockies
old snow on the ground
nothing remains
Ludlow only a name
a story
a whitewashed tomb
fenced off, sentimental
with statue of Man, Woman and Child
only a story
IWW Zenith of power
western miners of Wobbly stronghold
Colorado coal miners’ strike
Rockefeller interests
evicted from company houses
tent city attacked by
strikebreakers hired guns
Colorado National Guard
machine guns, bushwhacked
miners cut down
tents set on fire
two women eleven children
burned alive
coal for Rockefeller mills
flames leave nothing but
a story a monument
a Woody Guthrie song
a wooden box of looseleaf paper
like any guestbook
covered with names dates and places
COMMENTS:“son of a union miner”
“long live the Wobblies”
“my grandmother, Dolores Aguilar,
survived shooting”
“never forget!”
“someone should tell this story”
tell this story
American Auschwitz
white Wounded Knee
witch burning
numbers small, intent the same
Ludlow, Colorado
National Guard
never forget

(from Bookstore Cowboys, by John Wright, 1991, Snake Oil Press, Boulder, CO)*

What experiences of poor corporate governance have you had in your work life? Feel free to blog about them here.

Tell YOUR Story here.

Please do not use real names of people or companies unless what you’re telling about is part of a public record, to which you can provide a link. Otherwise, use aliases. As more and more Americans tell the truth about the injustices they face at work despite those being unlawful, we can begin to truly address and improve these things.

Who makes decisions about whether to operate in a legally compliant manner or not in your workplace? How do HR/OD Credible Activists speak up to workplace leaders who direct them to violate laws or to push the envelope on what is legal?

If you had access right now to an anonymous hotline to safely report wrongdoing at your workplace, what might you report?

The HR Toolkit: An Indispensable Resource for Being a Credible Activist has scores of sample memos for HR/OD professionals and employees of any level to submit to their workplace leaders to demand legal compliance in their workplaces.

Tell YOUR Story here.


*In 2008, an official Memorial for the Ludlow Massacre was created. Denver University’s Dean Saitta, Phd was instrumental in making this happen. His research on Ludlow is an important history lesson for all Americans.


3 thoughts on “BP, Massey, Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, and Ludlow: Why The US NEEDS Unions and Anonymous Hotlines for Employees

  1. There is an epidemic of violations public safety, fraud, and corruption laws that are directly related to labor law violations in government entities and US corporations. Despite this Ethics Commissions, AGs & IGs are unresponsive to labor violation complaints in workplaces and government, even when proof is submitted, tax dollars are misused, and there are rampant ethics, safety, and other compliance violations. The EEOC, OSHA, and State Divisions of Human Rights are underfunded and understaffed, thus their responses to these complaints are almost always delayed and insufficient.

    Given that all government employees are required to report legal and ethical noncompliance, mandatory imparital investigations must be implemented without exception and accompanied by absolute prevention of unlawful retaliation against complaining employees. There must be a freeze on any termination of any complaining employee while a sound, impartial, unbiased and thorough investigation is completed, and even afterwards, retaliation against complainants must be prevented.

    Violations of EEO, OSHA, public safety, retaliaiton protections, whistleblower protections, ADA, union-protections and fraud/corruption prevention laws must be classified as serious crimes that result in prosecution. There is extremely insufficient protection for employees who use apropriate channels to report noncompliance in both government and corporate workplaces.

    Currently, legal compliance with US labor laws is essentially optional for corporate and government workplaces. Only employees who can afford lawyers have a chance of recourse. Most lawyers will not take cases on contingency, even if complaining employees can prove employer noncompliance with labor and other laws. When there is rare justice, it comes years later – often after unlawful termination and great damage to health, families, and finances.

    Most legitimate employee complaints are dismissed by noncompliant employers who unlawfully retaliate against these employees, terminate their employment and health coverage and pay them a small sum for which they are desperate and on which they are taxed. This money almost always comes with a gag order, the dismissal of the complaint with government authorities so there is never an investigation, and the continued employment of those guity of serial noncompliance and other violations of law, which remain unremediated.

    Many General Counsel attorneys falsely believe their duty is to protect the corporation by any means instead of ensuring legal compliance and remediating noncompliance according to non-retaliation laws. GCs who knowingly cover up unlawful practices in corporations and government entities must be addressed by the criminal justice system and BAR associations given the enormous financial fraud perpetrated upon taxpayers and shareholders when significant funds are used to unlawfully retaliate against employees who exercise their rights to complain about noncompliance. When this occurs in government entities, it is fraudulent misuse of taxpayer money.

    These crimes are epidemic and do require deterrence in the form of large fines, improved processes for complaining employees, and guaranteed sound impartial investigations into unlawful practices, even whenthere are settlements with complaining employees. Gag orders need to be made unlawful, regardless of settlements with employees.

    Please Sign this Petition @change : Demand Legal Compliance in US Workplaces http://chn.ge/bO31L8

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s