By editorial board • 

Employee concerns deserve a full and fair consideration

The COVID-19 pandemic has crushed major sectors of the economy around the globe. The impact has proven particularly devastating in the U.S., as we have appeared unable, among the entire community of nations, to marshal the means and will to achieve containment.

Other countries have almost universally taken a unified national approach. But we have left it to cities, counties and states, and the results have been spotty at best.

Local level reaction has often proven too great. As a result, we have not only suffered tens of thousands of needless deaths, but also a greatly disproportionate share of economic wreckage.

Airlines, hotels, bars, restaurants, gyms, theaters, casinos, cruise lines and brick and mortar retailers are all facing precarious futures. And unfortunately, they are by no means alone.

Most coverage of the economic fallout has focused on the employer side. However, when employers are reeling, employees are reeling. And they are not typically anywhere near as prepared to cope.

Almost 60 million Americans have filed for unemployment for the first time. Most are suffering largely in silence, but unions are increasingly giving organized workers a chance to air their fears, concerns and grievances.

In Oregon, the call has come foremost from public employee unions. Locally, the Oregon Education Association’s McMinnville School District chapter and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees’ Yamhill County chapter have taken the lead.

At Linfield University, the Faculty Assembly has been airing issues on behalf of the faculty and staff. And no doubt additional employee voices will be raised as the crisis continues, with no end currently in sight.

That natural reflex of badly battered public and private employers would, no doubt, be to reject any additional accommodations automatically. After all, they are fighting for their very economic lives themselves.

Businesses and agencies are having to rethink the way they engage their clientèle. They are having to make wrenching changes in their budgets, business models and workforces, often with little immediate hope of a sufficient revenue payoff, particularly over the short term.

However, we must never waver from the guiding mantra, “We’re all in this together.”

Yes, the challenges and pace of change may seem overwhelming for the city, county, school district and college. They are feeling the pain just as much as hospitality, transportation, entertainment, retailing and agricultural vendors in the private sector, many of whom may fail to weather the storm.

But it would not pay for either public or private employers to dismiss the depth of fear, pain, distress and uncertainty employees are experiencing during this unprecedented disruption.

Employers cannot succeed on the backs of their employees. Those on opposite sides of the management-labor divide need to clearly communicate the dilemmas they are dealing with and do everything possible to forge mutually agreeable and beneficial solutions.

Let the voice of reason and compromise prevail. Mutually agreeable terms are much more likely to produce positive results than onerous terms imposed from above by brute force. 

Comments

Hibb

Communication is essential and that responsibility lies with both the management and staff. An opportunity to speak without fear of judgment or reprisal helps to facilitate a productive dialogue. I realize that what the County is now offering is not what the employees had hoped for and it will lessen the burden but not eliminate it. Hopefully they will be able to accept this in good faith and move forward... Both sides.

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