Labor-Management Partnerships: A Win-Win for Workers, Employers &amp; Communities

California’s labor force is in the midst of a major economic and demographic transformation. High Road labor-management training partnerships can play an important role in ensuring California’s workers have the skills they need to remain competitive in an increasingly volatile economy. 

That's why the California Labor Federation's Workforce and Economic Development Program has recently reprinted Working Together: Sectoral Lessons from Labor-Management Training Partnerships in California. By profiling four unique labor-management training partnerships, Working Together examines the strengths of industry-focused and sector-based workforce development strategies. The report  demonstrates the benefits of investing public workforce dollars to seed sustainable initiatives, and concludes that labor-management training partnerships have special advantages over other forms of sector-based strategies. 

Labor-management partnerships can be effectively implemented across all industry sectors, and make an invaluable contribution to workforce development.  Unions contribute to these partnerships as they have an innate knowledge about the industries in which they work, and a deep, self-interested commitment to the industries’ competitiveness, making them a critical partner in job training. 

Working Together profiles four high road partnership models that can be applied to any industry sector: 

  • SEIU UHW — Kaiser Permanente
  • San Francisco Hotels Partnership Project
  • Supplier Excellence Alliance — Labor Education and Training Center California Training Partnership
  • San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council –- National Steel and Shipbuilding Company

Each profile details the labor market challenges that led to the project’s implementation, looks at the project’s approach to addressing these challenges, analyzes the project’s accomplishments, and asks what made the project successful.  Each profile also tells a compelling story about the ways in which these kinds of collaborations advantage all affected stakeholders: employers, workers, communities, and unions:

  • Employers gain a more highly skilled workforce through affordable, tailored training programs; increase quality and efficiency; improved recruitment and retention; and higher employee and customer satisfaction.
  • Workers gain enhanced employability and greater employment security; career mobility; improved wages; increased job satisfaction; and a voice in designing the programs.
  • The community gains when its companies and workers are more economically competitive and prosperous.  Community institutions – such as community colleges, community-based organizations, and workforce investment boards – also benefit from access to high demand occupations and placement and training opportunities for target populations.
  • Finally, labor-management training partnerships bring important benefits to unions themselves.  These benefits include retention of union jobs; new pipelines into the union; new benefits unions can offer their members; access to new training resources, training expertise, and capacity; and new ways to exert leadership within the wider community.

The experiences of the projects profiled in Working Together suggest that policymakers should take a closer look at the role that sectoral strategies — rooted in the individual experiences of regions — can play in addressing the workforce needs of industries and improving the skills and incomes of workers.  Further, these cases illustrate that, as sectoral strategies are adopted nationally and by states, policymakers would do well to remember the important structural advantages provided by labor-management partnerships, and to keep these kinds of initiatives at the center of the sector-based programs they adopt. 

For California to remain competitive in a vastly changing economic environment, it is critical that we learn from our own best efforts, with labor-management partnerships being chief among them. Click here to read the full report.