Mercedes workers reject unionization; Philadelphia demands return to the office

In this week's round-up of HR news making the headlines: Mercedes workers sensationally reject calls to unionize; Philadelphia demands return to the office; plus the most stressful jobs are revealed:

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May 23, 2024

Mercedes workers ‘reject’ unionization

In a result that will be seen as a major blow to the resurgent United Auto Workers (UAW) union, Mercedes workers in Alabama have voted against union representation. Voting took place all last week, with around 90% of eligible workers choosing to cast their cross. But the result of the count saw 56% of the 2,642 participating workers reject the UAW. Although 51 ballots were challenged and five were voided, these numbers were not sufficient to alter the outcome. The UAW union now has five business days to file any objections. This defeat is a considerable blow to the UAW’s broader recruitment campaign, which began late last year targeting 13 non-union automakers in the US. The union had recently secured lucrative contracts with Detroit’s major automakers, Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis, as well as significant wage increases and other benefits. Mercedes-Benz said company officials “look forward to continuing to work directly with our Team Members to ensure [Mercedes-Benz US International] is not only their employer of choice, but a place they would recommend to friends and family.” UAW President, Shawn Fain, described the vote as a “bump in the road” rather than a failure. He said: “While this loss stings, I’ll tell you this, we’re going to keep our heads up, keep our heads up high. These workers have nothing to do but be proud in the effort they put forth and what they’ve done. We fought the good fight and we’re going to continue on, continue forward. Ultimately, these workers here are going to win.”

Philadelphia demands all full-time workers return to the office

Philadelphia has mandated that all city employees who work full-time must now return to the office by a July 15th deadline. In announcing the news, mayor Cherelle Parker said the decision was based on a number of elements, including wanting a more visible and accessible government. She added: “Employee presence at the workplace allows for more personal and productive interactions. It facilitates communication. It promotes social connections as well as collaboration, innovation and inclusion.” But the decision has already attracted sharp criticism from American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2187, which represents many of the city’s professional and supervisory employees. It said the decision was unilaterally imposed instead of going through collective bargaining. In a statement issued Monday, Local President David Wilson said the policy would worsen the municipal worker shortage the city has suffered since the pandemic. He also said that making the change over the summer, when children are out of school, will likely complicate schedules for parents. “It has become clearer than ever that the mayor doesn’t care for her city work force,” Wilson said. “Her actions speak louder than words.” Parker said about 80% of the city’s 26,000 employees have been working fully on-site since last year, while the remainder have worked between 31 to 75 hours per-pay-period on site.

…as one back to office policy is reveled to have backfired

The Justice Department’s January-instigated return to office policy has been found to have backfired, according to a survey by the National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys (NAAUSA). According to the NAAUSA, there was a stark contrast in job satisfaction between those with telework options and those without. In offices where routine telework has been curtailed it found a staggering 81% of those without flexible working options were now actively seeking other employment opportunities. This compared to only 42% of those doing the same who had teleworking maintained. Under the back to office mandate, most of the workforce were required to be present (in person), for up to six days per pay period (or about three days per week). But, there were more stringent requirements for assistant US attorneys. NAAUSA vice president, Adam Hanna, summarized the scale of the disquiet as a “workforce revolt.” In response to the survey findings, NAAUSA has urged Justice Department leadership to implement consistent telework policies across all offices. The organization recommends a minimum baseline of two telework days per week, citing the importance of treating employees as responsible professionals capable of balancing in-person and remote work effectively.

NASA tops poll (again) for best place to be a federal worker

The annual poll of best places to work for federal employees has been published – and (surprise, surprise), NASA has once-again scooped the top spot for the best large agency – an accolade it has now claimed for the last 12 years running. This year’s league table – which first launched in 2003 – covered 532 federal agencies, including 17 large ones, 26 midsize agencies, 30 small agencies and 459 subcomponents. NASA topped the list of large agencies, while the Government Accountability Office – often called the “congressional watchdog” because it examines how government money is spent – topped the list of mid-size agencies. The National Indian Gaming Commission, making its first appearance on the survey, was first among small agencies. On the opposite end of the scale, the Social Security Administration remained in last place among the 17 large agencies. The survey found that overall job satisfaction and engagement across the federal workforce increased to 65.7, which is a 2.3-point increase over 2022’s figures. Scores for the Department of State and the US Agency for International Development declined for the second year in a row, putting them near the bottom in their respective categories. The Export-Import Bank of the United States was at the bottom of the small agencies category while the Federal Bureau of Prisons, with a score of 38.1 out 100, was at the bottom of the subcomponents list. The survey measures job satisfaction and engagement on a scale of zero to 100.

Employers accused of allowing staff to eat their way to poor productivity

Research by wellbeing company, Lifesum, has found that 70% of employees blame the availability on on-site ultra-processed foods as contributing to reduced productivity. It finds that a further one-in-six employees are addicted to ultra-high processed foods – foods that have well-documented links to decreased cognitive function and low energy levels. Lifesum questioned more than 5,000 employees and found widespread ingestion of ultra-processed foods at work, revealing that 85.4% of people consumed them at least once a week, while 20.5% consumed them daily. Survey respondents reported convenience, stress and time constraints as the main drivers for consuming ultra-processed foods at work. Some 74.5% of respondents blamed these foods on poor mood regulation, low energy levels (78.6%) and reduced cognitive function (62.3%). Despite their detrimental effects on performance, 70.6% of employees said their employers make ultra-processed foods readily available in the workplace. According to “Fast Food Nation” author Eric Schlosser, roughly 60% of the food Americans eat is now considered ultra-processed and carefully designed to create a “mouthfeel” – such as the satisfying crunch of a salty potato chip.

Cargo workers begin withholding labor in bid to speed up contract talks

The US’s busiest ocean gateway was forced into temporarily closure last Friday, after members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) opted to withhold their labor in a bid to end long and drawn out contract negotiations. Operators at the Port of Long Beach decided to temporarily close four of the seaport’s six terminals when workers did not show up on Friday morning. The action meant the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach effectively had to close. The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represents employers, said the missing workers were the result of coordinated action by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), to deliberately withhold labor as contract talks drag on. Workers at the ports have been on the job without an employment contract since the previous agreement expired on July 1, 2022, and the labor dispute has forced major retailers to shift cargo to East and Gulf Coast ports to avoid disruptions. Port of Los Angeles officials were communicating with the ILWU and PMA, along with federal, state and local officials, to “support a return to normal operations,” said the group, which is managed by a unit of the City of Los Angeles.

Top 20 ‘Most Stressful’ jobs revealed

US News/US Bureau of Labor Statistics has published its list of 20-most stressful jobs – and while there are some expected occupations that make the grade (such as being an anesthesiologist, or clinical social worker, community health worker and fire fighter), some less obvious occupations are also flagged up. It finds being a financial analyst is also a top 20 stressful job (a career that is expected to grow in headcount by 8.2% by 2032); as is being a lawyer….and…. you guessed it, being an HR specialist. “HR specialists are typically the most stressed role for a good three weeks during performance reviews and compensation processes,” said one respondent. HR specialists are expected to grow in headcount by 6.3% by 2032. Also joining these stressful professions are marriage and family therapists, mental health counselors, nurses, paramedics, patrol officers and sales managers. According to the list, software developers are also highly stressed too, due to constant “product updates and launches.” This latter profession is one that needs the greatest level of growth – of 25% by 2032. US News has also produced its list of ‘Jobs you’ve never heard of’ – including a solar photovoltaic installer; logistician; industrial psychologist and operations research analyst.