22 Jul

Labor Union Responses to Workplace Violence 1998 SEIU


Labor unions use a variety of strategies to reduce workplace violence, including forming joint labor/management programs, filing complaints with enforcement agencies, negotiating contract language, and working for passage of state and federal legislation. Cooperative programs in which management voluntarily “does the right thing” are usually the most effective. These programs are positive and usually experience less management resistance than actions imposed on management as the result of a grievance or citation from an outside agency.

However, cooperative programs require strong management commitment, good labor relations, meaningful worker participation, and healthy organizational culture. These positive factors are rare in today’s workplaces. When unions cannot gain cooperation from management in dealing with workplace violence, traditional adversarial tactics may be employed, including filing grievances, OSHA complaints, mass petitions, press actions, and working for new legislation. For more, read Jonathon’s Rosen’s article, A labor perspective of workplace violence prevention, at http://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S07… .

Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide. It can affect and involve employees, clients, customers and visitors. Homicide is currently a leading cause of fatal occupational injuries in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the 4,547 fatal workplace injuries that occurred in the United States in 2010, 506 were workplace homicides. Homicide is the leading cause of death for women in the workplace. Nearly 2 million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence each year. Unfortunately, many more cases go unreported.

Factors that may increase the risk of violence include exchanging money with the public and working with volatile, unstable people. Working alone or in isolated areas may also contribute to the potential for violence. Providing services and care, and working where alcohol is served may also impact the likelihood of violence. Additionally, time of day and location of work, such as working late at night or in areas with high crime rates, are also risk factors that should be considered when addressing issues of workplace violence. Among those with higher risk are workers who exchange money with the public, delivery drivers, healthcare professionals, public service workers, customer service agents, law enforcement personnel, and those who work alone or in small groups. In most workplaces where risk factors can be identified, the risk of assault can be prevented or minimized if employers take appropriate precautions. By assessing their worksites, employers can identify methods for reducing the likelihood of incidents occurring.

A well written and implemented Workplace Violence Prevention Program, combined with engineering controls, administrative controls and training can reduce the incidence of workplace violence. For much more on workplace violence, go to the OSHA webpage athttp://www.osha.gov/SLTC/workplacevio…, the NIOSH webpage at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/viole… . This 1998 video, PRIVATE HORROR/PUBLIC ISSUE: ON THE JOB ASSAULT (17 min), was created by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). This video provides a graphic depiction of the problem of workplace violence, especially for those who work in healthcare, offices, or other so-called safe environments. Using several case histories, including interviews with victims of workplace violence, emphasis is placed on workers’ rights and union efforts to prevent violence on the job.