EKU professor discusses labor movements, worker-management relationships

EKU professor discusses increase in strikes, labor-management relationships
Published: Aug. 30, 2023 at 11:10 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - After UPS narrowly avoided a strike by agreeing to a deal with the Teamsters last month, many Kentucky workers are once again embroiled in negotiations with their employers. This time, it’s the UAW and big three automakers who find themselves at an impasse.

Just last week, Ford union workers at the Kentucky truck plant in Louisville gathered for a practice picket.

Several factors are playing a role in these authorized strikes. Besides demand for higher wages and better working conditions, EKU assistant professor Ki-Jung Kim says job security is also a major concern among workers.

“I think this is facilitated by recent technological advancements, especially in artificial intelligence and automation at the manufacturing facilities,” said Kim, who works in the Colonels’ College of Business. ”We are seeing employers use, recent technologies, especially ai, to reduce the number of workers in the workplace.”

Kim has a focus on human resources and labor-management relationships and notes it may be the lack of a relationship which compounds the problem.

“There’s a kind of ‘voice gap,’ which means workers want to have more voice - more meaningful voice - at their workplaces,” Kim said.

Kim says one of the most effective ways to bridge that gap is with a union. Strong, newly appointed leaders of both the Teamsters and UAW are giving many workers that voice.

Kim says issues like inflation exacerbate the problem, as it’s become harder for people to make a living. He feels companies should be seeking out their own workers’ voices, to better handle these situations before they get tense.

“I’m trying to teach my students how to create harmonious and cooperative organizations in the real world,” said Kim.