Sadly, in the world of Human Resources, UFO no longer stands for Unidentified Flying Object but for something far more pedestrian and, some might say, more sinister. Union Front Organization. Just what is a Union Front Organization? I just read a five page spread on the subject (“Leading from Behind?” HR Magazine, December 2013) and I’m still trying to understand it. The best I can make out is that a UFO is a non-union union. It does not have to gain approval from the majority of the workers it purports to represent. It’s not subject to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) nor the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA). Even so, these UFOs (also known as “Work Centers” or “alt-labor” groups) are providing their members with all manner of services including worker advocacy, lobbying, legal advice, and training and many of them are initiating class action lawsuits.
Perhaps the most newsworthy of these UFOs, of late, has been the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York (ROC-NY) and its ROC affiliates in other major cities throughout the U.S., as they have joined the fight to increase fast food workers’ wages.
As memberships in traditional, regulated unions decline (having lost 4,000 members in 2012 alone), many labor relations professionals view UFOs as union wolves in Martians’ clothing, on a mission to beam working class earthlings on board. Union activists are creating or joining these so-called work centers as a means of gaining the support of and, ultimately, inducting more earthlings into their unions.
It’s possible that some of the recently sighted UFOs are as benevolent Our Favorite Martian from the black and white days of yore: that they have only the safety and the most basic rights of their members in mind and that they have harbor no ill will towards employers, the free-market, or capitalism. At the same time, I suggest that employers listen carefully to what these UFOs are saying. If their rhetoric bears a strong resemblance to the Klingons’ sayings ( “If you are sad act!” “Choose to fight, not negotiate.” “To survive, we must expand.”), we must take care and beware. The last thing our economy needs is an attack from a fleet of UFOs.
Photo courtesy of Stefan-XP (WikiCommons)