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Appendix A: The Worker Representation and Participation Survey

The Worker Representation and Participation Survey is a national survey of American employees, directed by Richard Freeman and Joel Rogers and conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates in the fall of 1994.<Footnote: Thisstudy was funded by private foundations and receivedtechnical assistance from members of the business and laborcommunities.>

This study is a detailed and in-depth analysis of workplace practices and of the attitudes and views of workers on workplace issues. <Footnote: Where questions overlap, theWorker Representation and Participation Survey findings are consistent with those of earlier surveys, such as the 1976 Quality of Employment Survey sponsored by the U.S.Department of Labor conducted by the University of Michigan;the Penn and Shoen survey conducted by the LPA; the Harris Poll conducted for the AFL-CIO; Industrial Relations Counselors, Inc., Report on the IRC Survey of Employee Involvement, August 1994, among others. > It presents the views of a representative sample of over 2,400 employees inprivately owned firms with greater than 25 workers. It identifies separately workers and supervisors, current union members, prior members and non-members, as well as the diverse demographic groups that make up the American workforce. The survey questions were prepared through consultation with staff of managements and unions experienced in survey work and included variations in wording to minimize the possible dependence of responses on the precise way a question was phrased. While there have been several opinion polls of employees in the past, and while some management organizations and some unions regularly survey their employees or members, in the Commission_s view this survey provides the best current indicator of how American employees see some of the workplace issues facing the country. As a representative sample, the views expressed do not, of course, characterize any particular workplace or workforce. Future studies and analyses may be expected to perfect this information.

The major findings of the Survey may be briefly summarized in the following single paragraph: American workers want more involvement and greater say in their jobs, they would like this involvement to take the form of joint committees with management and would prefer to elect members of those committees rather than have managers select them. They prefer cooperative committees to potentially conflictual organized relationships. A sizable minority are in workplaces where they and their fellow workers want to be represented by unions or union-like organizations.

Some of the more detailed responses to the Survey are summarized below:

  1. The new forms of work and work relations about which the Commission heard considerable testimony are part of the working lives of many American employees. The distinction between supervisors and non-supervisors is eroding: 35 percent of non-managers report supervising others as part of their official job. Nearly a quarter of the workers view their jobs as something they would probably leave, rather than as part of a career; and only one-third were confident they could quickly get another job at about the same pay, without having to move. One-third (32 percent) of employees report being involved with self-directed work teams, total quality management, quality circles or other forms of employee involvement programs, and over half report such programs existing at their firms.

  2. A substantial number of employees are unhappy about their work lives and workplaces. While two-thirds of all workers report that they -look forward_ to going to work on the average day, 33 percent do not look forward to work.One-fourth say they -wish (they) didn_t have to go" to work and another eight percent don_t care one way or the other about their job. Among workers making $200 - $399 a week, the percent dissatisfied reaches 41 percent; among black workers, 42 percent. Similarly, just 18 percent report that employee-management relations are excellent at their workplace; 49 percent report that relations are good; and nearly a third report relations to be only fair (22 percent) or poor (10 percent). Again, the proportion reporting only fair or poor relations is higher among the low paid and among minorities. Five percent reported going to court or a government agency for a violation of their workplace rights, while another nine percent report having thought about going to court or to an agency but having decided not to do so.
  3. Workers generally report feeling loyal to their company, but perceive a lack of company loyalty to them. Among all employees, 64 percent report feeling a -lot of loyalty_ toward their company, but only 38 percent trust their company a lot -to keep its promises_ to them. Across non-managerial employees _ supervisory and non-supervisory _ high loyalty to the company averaged 53 percent, high trust was 35 percent. Among managers 24 percent reported trusting their company -only a little_ or -not at all,_ even higher than the 19 percent of non-supervisory employees that provided the same response.
  4. Most employees want more influence or decision-making power in their job, and believe this would improve company productivity as well as their working lives. Sixty-three percent of employees said they wanted more influence, compared to 35 percent who were content with things as they were. Among the areas in which employees said they wanted more influence were: deciding what kinds of benefits are offered, awarding raises for those in the work group, deciding what training is needed.
  5. Workers generally have favorable attitudes toward employee involvement plans, but believe the plans would be better if rank and file employees had more power in them.Thirty-one percent of workers who participate in programs viewed them as very effective, 55 percent as somewhat effective, and 11 percent as not too effective. In the majority of programs, management recruits participants by asking for volunteers (47 percent) or simply picking people (27 percent), rather than by having employees elect or otherwise select their peers. The vast majority of employees (82 percent) believe that -if employees, as agroup, had more say in how these programs are run_ they would be more effective than at present.
  6. Many employees would prefer raising problems with their employers as part of a group and most believe that workplace problems could be resolved better if employees had a greater say in their resolution. Between 43 and 57 percent of employees (the proportion varies with the wording of the question) say they would feel more comfortable raising work problems through an employee association or with the help of fellow employees, rather than as an individual. Seventy-six percent believe that if employees had more say in resolving workplace problems, their company_s system would be more effective than at present.
  7. Some 71 percent of current union members report their experience with the organization as -good_ or -very good;_ only seven percent consider it bad; and 90 percent would vote to keep the union in a new representation election. Among former union members, however, feelings are less positive, with 24 percent ranking the experience as bad. One-third (32 percent) of nonunion employees say they would vote for a union today, while 55 percent of nonunion employees say that they would vote against a union, and 13 percent were undecided. In workplaces where employees believe management opposes unions, twelve percent of nonunion workers who say they are against a union drive report that they would change their vote if management did not oppose the union; in nonunion workplaces where employees believe management does not oppose the union; eight percent of union supporters said they would vote against the union if management opposed the union.
  8. Managers in unionized workplaces have ambivalent attitudes toward unions. By a two to one margin (32 percent versus 16 percent), managers in unionized workplaces report that in recent years unions have become more cooperative rather than more confrontational, and 69 percent report that the company accepts the union as a partner. Twenty-seven percent of managers believe that unions help the company_s performance, while 38 percent believe that they hurt the company_s performance. Two-thirds (64 percent) believe unions help their members. Among managers in nonunion workplaces, 53 percent of nonunion managers report that they would oppose a union drive at their facility; 32 percent report that it would hurt their career advancement if the employees they manage successfully formed a union.
  9. Asked about the sort of workplace organization they would like to have, employees voice fairly clear preferences for joint committees that would work cooperatively with management, but which have some independence from management, through, among other things, employee election of members and outside referees to resolve disagreements. But employees want any organization to enjoy cooperative relations with management. They prefer (52-34 percent) an organization drawing on company budget and staff to one relying only on its own budget and staff, and almost universally (86-9 percent) prefer an organization -run jointly_ by employees and management to one run by - employees_ alone.<Footnote: The Commission observes that unilateral reductions in wages or benefits, or increases in work assignments or discharges and layoffs deemed unfair by workers have on occasions historically changed preferences for employee organizations rapidly and precipitated a union.>
  10. The vast majority of workers believe that the key to a successful workplace organization is management cooperation with the organization; by 78-17 percent, employees believe - employee organization ... can only be effective if management cooperates" with them. The interest in management cooperation dominates preferences on organizational form. Asked to choose between an employee organization that _management cooperated with in discussing issues, but had no power to make decisions"; and one -that had more power, but management opposed,_ 63 percent of employees prefer the weak organization to the strong. For their part, 36 percent of managers report that they definitely would be willing to work with an employee organization to solve workplace problems, while 47 percent report they probably would be willing to do so.
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