Worker Voice in America: A Current Assessment and Exploration of Options

Source: Thomas Kochan, William Kimball, Duanyi Yang, and Erin L. Kelly, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Institute for Work and Employment Research, Working Draft 1/17/2018

This article reports the results of the first phase of a multi-method study of the state of worker voice in America and options available to workers for closing the gap between the amount of say or influence they expect to have on their job and their actual level of influence. The authors draw on a nationally representative survey of workers that both updates the Freeman and Rogers 1995 survey and one conducted by the Department of Labor in 1977 and goes beyond the scope of these previous efforts to assess worker interest in a wider array of workplace issues including workplace/personal issues, personnel/collective bargaining issues, and higher level organizational values and related issues. The array of voice options examined is also expanded to capture internal firm provided options such as supervisors, coworkers, ombuds systems, grievance procedures, joint committees along with union representation and the newer examples of worker advocacy such as online petitions, occupational associations, and protests. Results indicated that workers believe they ought to have a voice on this full set of workplace issues, there are substantial gaps between their expected and actual voice, a higher percentage of non-union workers want to join a union than was observed in the two prior national surveys, and there are significant variations in the preferences, rates of use, and satisfaction with different voice options. The results suggest that there is a sizable voice gap in American workplaces today but there is no “one sized shoe” (voice option) that fits all workers or all issues.

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Source: Thomas Kochan, The Conversation, January 30, 2018