Consumers’ advocates and Labor Unions

The modern consumer movement dates from the early 1960s, with President Kennedy’s announcement of a Consumer Bill of Rights and Ralph Nader’s crusade against General Motors Corvair.

One frame work for understanding the consumer movement is Hirschmann’s model of exit voice and loyalty. Dissatisfied customers can choose either to exit that is, to take their business elsewhere or to voice their complaints; the customers’ loyalty to the organization will determine which option is used. Exit, of course, can cripple an organization by removing its customer base without giving managers time to make changes. Voice, in contrast, is a political strategy designed to seek redress for grievance. Filing lawsuits requesting the intervention of a regulatory agency and lobbying a lawmaking body are examples of the exercise of voice.

It is important to note that the use of voice ca be constructive rather than adversarial. Recognizing the costs of government intervention, consumer leaders often prefer negotiation. At the same time, progressive managers welcome voice as an opportunity to understand customer needs and to learn about changes in the marketplace.

Many companies, such as AT&T have learned to work with consumer advocates and to listen to their suggestions for improvement in quality and service. Some companies such as Xerox have formed their own customer advocate groups (or user groups) in an effort to improve this relationship.

Media: The economy and business activity have always been covered by the media, because these topics affect so many people. Today, though mass communications allow increasingly extensive and sophisticated coverage ranging from general news reports to feature articles to in-depth investigative exposes. The coverage is also ore immediate due to the increasing use of communication satellites.

Today, managers of most large organizations realize they operate in a fish blow, where every action may be the subject of media scrutiny. To improve their communications with both internal and external audiences, they have developed sophisticated public relations, and marketing departments. In addition executives who regularly deal with the media often seek professional coaching to improve their ability to present information and pinions clearly and effectively. Some organizations provide training for all employees to help them respond capably in situations that may arise. United Airlines, for example holds regular drills to prepare all employees from emergency workers to media relations workers to deal effectively with the aftermath of an air plane crash.

Labor Unions: Personnel specialists generally deal with an organization’s labor supply sometimes supplemented by other managers with specific hiring and negotiating responsibilities. They use multiple channels to locate workers with the various skills and experience the organization needs. When an organizations employs labor union members, union and management normally engage in some form of collective bargaining to negotiate wages, working conditions, hours and so on.

Dramatic changes in labor relations have come about in recent decades. Both personnel staff and union management have been professionalized. Also, employers generally accept the collective bargaining process and cooperate with unions to increase workers’ responsibility and participation. The sit-down strikes and violence that so often characterized the unions early days are for the most part over. Instead, unions urge stock ownership, profit sharing and gain sharing programs that give the workers a stake in the organization, and quality of work life programs that give them more control over what they do and how they do it.

A quality union relationship at Armco > A case:

Union relationship has become an important factor in the total quality of firms, because total quality involves having workers take on a new level of commitment and involvement in the company’s success. However, the movement away from traditional adversarial relationships is not easy. The ‘we versus them’ mentality still found in many unionized companies can undermine quality efforts. At Armco Worldwide Grinding Systems in Kansas City, Missouri, the union management relationship was described as one of periodic non-cooperation. Then in 1992 the company implemented its Team Works program. Teamwork is an effort by the company to give all its employees an equal voice in developing ideas to make Armco more profitable, more productive and more satisfying for its workers. This was the last step in a quality process that had been ongoing for ten years.