Voices Seek Clarity and Clout – The New Look of an Employee Group – By John Hendrie

Are the two teams who batted for the NCAA Basketball Title considered employee groups, subject to collective bargaining and unionization? At least one regional National Labor Relations Board has ruled that the football team at Northwestern is just that, moving into unusual, uncharted territory.

Disparate groups looking for a little recognition!
Are the two teams who batted for the NCAA Basketball Title considered employee groups, subject to collective bargaining and unionization?  At least one regional National Labor Relations Board has ruled that the  football team at Northwestern is just that, moving into unusual, uncharted territory.  In our changing world of business and employment relationships, we may have some new definitions and categories.  Hospitality will be impacted.
Welcome to the new gray, which may impact at some point the way you do business.  Besides college athletes, there are other groups out there who will also need to be addressed, for this is not your father’s old workplace or market.  Let’s start with those fast food employees.
As noted in a Boston Sunday Globe lead story on April 6, 2014, “The New Face of Labor”, “…what we’re seeing is evidence of a struggle to establish clarity about what constitutes employment, and an effort to reduce the ambiguity surrounding the relationship between workers and the entities that wield power over them”.  Fast food workers are seeking higher wages and the right to bargain.  To date, the fight has been directed to the franchises rather than the brand corporation.  However, for example, these workers wear the brand uniforms and work to brand standards at the various fast food emporiums.  Politically, with the current administration in Washington, this argument could be diluted.  It is much easier and impactful to organize with the corporate McDonalds than a franchise owner of several outlets.
And, then there are the contingency workers, those contractors and 1099’ers. The worker look of a full-time, long-term job with benefits has become a distant memory.  Independent contractors have become the new employee profile across post-industrial America.  Do the new realities adapt to the old labor law model?  Consider the situation with a current issue in the news – the college athlete.  Are they an employee or not?
Shabazz Napier, the star senior on the winning UCONN basketball team, says he often goes to bed hungry and has no money for that quick snack.  Too bad he does not get a piece of the action when the university sells his basketball jersey at the campus store.  Then, there are those freshmen who led the University of Kentucky squad.  Their coach knows that it is “one and done” – play one year and then move on to the NBA (it already happened to him two years ago).  The NCAA refers to these young fellows as student-athletes; more aptly they should be called quick trip passengers, just travelling through – please punch my ticket.  Certainly, with the University of Kentucky, they grow the robust UK Brand and feed the coffers.  Other large university programs, such as Wisconsin, have programs like basketball, hockey and football which are powerful revenue producers, revenue generated on the backs of primarily young men. Do not forget the University of Texas in Austin.  Their athletic department receives $150 million annually from ticket sales, merchandising and their own cable sports network; they also spend more money on their football program than any other college in the US. Trying not to be sexist, young college women, as of yet, do not have the same clout with their programs and exposure.
What happens when one of these student -athletes is injured?  What happens to their scholarships and stipends?  What happens to their medical expenses?  Their dreams may be as shattered as their bones, yet they were performing for the company – the university!  On the college level, how this unfolds will be very interesting.  The NCAA, their rules and the students they cover will need to change. 
The Boston Globe article closed with the challenge we all will need to face:  “…at a time when complex supply chains, outsourcing, and independent contracting have come to dominate the experience of work in the United States, it’s worth taking an honest look at exactly what it now means to be employed – and what the relationship requires of both the employer and the employee.  For American workers of all kinds, from music video dancers to football players to short-order cooks, it could be a useful first step toward restoring what was good about working conditions of the past while accommodating the realities of the present”.
LRA logoJohn Hendrie is the author of the LRA blog ‘A Guy Walks In’LRA is a leading research and consulting company in the emerging discipline of Customer Experience Management (CEM). We work with our clients to help them design and deliver consistently exceptional customer experiences in order to drive customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy, and company growth and profitability. We have built a range of quality assurance, mystery shopping, research, training and consulting solutions to help them do so.

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