It’s hard to believe, in my part of the northern hemisphere anyway, that we’re halfway between the vernal equinox (aka the start of the season formerly known as spring) and the summer solstice.

2014 may well be remembered as “the spring that never came”.   I’ve become so frustrated, I recently took in a night of axe throwing to relieve the tension and explore my Viking we-don’t-mind-the-cold-lets-get-out-there-and-explore roots.

…which got me thinking about May Day, the changing fortunes of the labour union movement, and using Organimi to create org charts and photoboards for labor unions, worker associations and other worker collectives and co-operatives.

Yeah, maybe some weird logic leaps there I know….but bear with me!!

Using Organimi to Organize Your Union: The May Day Connection

According to European custom and tradition the first day of May is a time for celebration.  You may vaguely recall references to the May pole….(no not the exotic dancing ones).

MaypoleOriginally a spring holiday, particularly in many northern countries, and a “cross-quarter” day in pagan religions, May Day has more recently become known for its close connection throughout much of the world with International Workers Day, a celebration of labor and the working classes promoted by the international labor movement which occurs every year on May 1.

So I was thinking about May, and the fact that it felt like February, and I started to think “May Day, May Day” as in the distress call for weather salvation, which is what then took me to thinking about unions.

Creating An Organizational Chart for Your Union In 3 Easy Steps

The largest labour union in North America is the National Education Association. Established in 1857, the NEA bills itself as the nation’s largest professional employee organization, committed to advancing the cause of public education. According to its website, NEA’s 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.

Like many other organizations, the NEA has a relatively static website.  Web pages devoted to Brief biographies and pictures briefly describe its senior management team and board of directors.

So we figured it would be fun to use Organimi to create the NEA org chart structure on line, and share it using LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest to that people can get a better understanding of who is involved and how they relate to each other.  NEA likely has hundreds of employees, thousands of state and local union groups and clearly has a membership of millions.  We’re just scratching the surface.  But by mapping out the top you’ll get the idea.

It’s easy.  We’re doing the same thing we did for Henry Blodgett’s Business Insider team and the Edelman PR agency when we were introducing our new social sharing features.

Getting Started: Building The NEA Org Chart Online

You start by logging into your account and creating an Orgamimi for the NEA.  You can insert the organization name, logo, office addresses and other information if you want..

Then you create the org chart for the part of the organization you want to model.  In this case we’re doing the senior management team structure, so we’re focused on the executive leadership, the executive committee and the board.  If we wanted to we could do the same thing for every state and local affiliate and embed them all here.

Then we start loading all the senior team member profiles to the roster.

Drag And Drop Team Members To Their Roles

And now the fun and super easy part is to drag and drop the members from the roster to the org chart.

There you go – a beautiful online org chart that stays updated as people and roles change and that everyone can easily access.

If I wanted to I could load up the entire state by state membership of the board of directors, just by pulling the names from here. But the sun has finally come out so I am “outta here!”.

Bonus Features Include PhotoBoards and Social Sharing

Just a quick note before I go though that not only do we get a great org chart, we get a two-for-one with an easy to create one button photoboard I can access from any browser or mobile device.

Plus I can share my org chart online at popular social sites like Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter and  Pinterest

Easy as 1-2-3 baby!


There are lots of benefits to the organization – and everyone in it – from making it easier for people to connect, communicate and collaborate.  Some of the examples from our clients:

  • onboarding new people is a lot easier when you can share the org structure with them, explain roles and responsibilities, and let them start to explore the profiles, interests and contact information for the people they will be working with
  • organizations change every day; people come and people go; making it easy to reflect these changes as and when they happen keeps everybody up to date; regardless of where they are or how they fit in…just for housekeeping purposes it makes sense
  • explaining planned or implemented reorganizations as well as laying out future growth and hiring plans
  • being able to simply print and share portions of the org structure with groups, and give them tools to use to plan organizational changes saves time and effort.
  • making accurate contact information reflecting personal communication preferences available
  • figuring out resource availability and costs and exploring resource sharing opportunities

The Bigger Picture: The Sad State of the Union For Unions

Okay you say – so what’s the big deal with unions and workplace organizations anyway?

In a recent blog post entitled The State of the Unions In the United States Michael Vandervort provides a link to a series of articles published in the Washington Examiner around the question of whether unions are obsolete.  In the first of the series, Sean Higgins explores big labor’s identify crisis.  The statistics role out in rapid fire fashion:

Back in the 1950s, when U.S. manufacturing dominated the world, one of every three American workers carried a union card….Union membership has been sliding for years, with only 14.5 million people now in a union, or about 11.3% of the U.S. workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics….Only 6.7% of all private sector jobs are unionized, compared with 35.3% of the public sector…..Organized labor has lost 3 million members since 1984. As recently as 1980, there were 20 million union members….

His conclusions are equally pessimistic, suggesting that “big labor” faces the very real possibility of dying out, becoming little more than a few chapters in the history books.

You’ll find the whole series interesting, but what is also  noteworthy is that this is a trend not only found in the US but elsewhere as well…primarily throughout the traditional “May Day” north of North America and Western Europe.

Studies from Canada as well as the OECD over the past decade have been fairly consistent in charting the trends.  The European Trade Union Institute observed the following on the level of union density (defined as the proportion of employees who are union members) within the European Union in a recent research report:

The average level of union membership across the whole of the European Union, weighted by the numbers employed in the different member states, is 23%.….However, if the levels of union membership are very varied, the direction in which they are moving is less so….growth has not kept pace with the overall growth in employment, meaning that union density has drifted downwards….[Overall] union membership has fallen. The losses are clearest in the states in Central and Eastern Europe, where industrial restructuring and a fundamental change in the role of unions have had a major impact…… In Germany, for example … the main union confederation, the DGB, has lost 48% of its membership since its peak in 1991. ….Similarly in the UK, unions suffered major losses in the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s.

The ETUI analysis notes that while membership levels have stabilized in recent years “it has been the growth in employment in the public sector, where unions are stronger, that has explained stabilised membership figures.”  Not stated, but equally relevant, has been the non-union dynamics at work in many of the higher growth industries of the last few decades such as technology, wherre potentially irreconcilable divergence is evident.

Cognitive Dissonance On Union Virility and Organizational Activities

The weirdest thing about the secular long term decline in unionization across geographies is that this long downward spiral has coincided with flat-lining incomes, increasing use of contingent workforce and other temporary placement strategies, growing income disparity, and a general shift towards more conservative, “capital friendly” public policy across almost all major jurisdictions.

Some are looking to de-bunk the myth of widening income inequality as Jeffrey Dorfman of Forbes writes in his article Dispelling Myths About Income Inequality and the need for good quality data to level set debate is always important.  However, leaving the semantics aside, there seems to bea lot of fairly compelling evidence that the squeeze is on, and that this disproportionately is impacting lower skilled and younger workers, primarily outside of the public sector, world-wide.

The doubly weird thing, is that the only area in most jurisdictions where union strength has held up, has been in public sector areas with governments and their agencies, departments and extended appendages such as health care and educational areas — precisely the areas where deficits have continued to grow, much to the consternation of your average (non-unionized) worker (who also is acutely aware of their position as taxpayer footing the bill of generous public sector entitlements they don’t share).

Instead of an internationalist revival of union activities in response to what would seem a reasonable set of conditions for organizing success in the private sector, we see International Workers Day events, such as the most recent May Day parade resuscitated in Moscow, apparently having a whole lot more to do with international balance of power, sphere of influence and propaganda politics then with traditional labour and labour market issues.

May_Day_Parade_2014_Moscow(Re) Organizing The Organizers: Unions In The 21st Century

Sure the issues are quite complex; and the topic is highly charged socially and politically, but one might have assumed that the conditions were ripe for greater success in the union organizing area, which leads to the general questions of why unionization efforts seem to be stalled everywhere outside the public sector, what will the unions of the future look like, and how will they be able to change their trajectory?

Sean Higgins has an interesting observation.  Noting that as long as jobs exist employment related concerns will need to be addressed, he sees a shift away from the old top down approach of union representation in the traditional sense:

In place of the old model will likely be a new, democratic approach that gives individual workers more options for representation while requiring greater accountability and transparency from their representatives.

In another article on the same topic, written in Canadian Business, Ken Lewenza, the President of the Canadian Auto Workers union, one of Canada’s largest and most sucessful unions, “mans up” to the issues, recognizing that the majority of the population does not trust unions and “is not convinced we are getting the job done”.

He describes a vision of a “super union” along the European model with a much larger membership that will “incorporate innovative and effective new structures and practices” and enabling “organizing new workers across all economic sectors” as well as “possible new forms of membership among workers who are not traditionally organized, including unemployed workers, students, workers in contract, self-employed, temporary and freelance positions.”

Solidarity Forever!  Getting Organized Around Organizing…Online

Recognize this?  If you don’t it kind of re-inforces the branding and “mind share” challenges the modern labor union movement faces, in terms of its role, relevance and value.

SolidarnoscBigger may or may not be better, as the mixed European experience in recent years suggests.  For some workers, bigger simply may mean more dues paid for less local issues attention given.

Maybe bigger isn’t better – but certainly “re-imagining” what unions should be – a process long overdue and now apparently well under way – seems like a good idea especially for the new generation of workers who have had little or no exposure to them.

But better has to include becoming better at getting the word out, at using and leveraging technology in the same way as younger politicians like Barack Obama and many federal, state and local politicians have done, to connect with new audiences, carry messages directly to end user communities, and create meaningful engagement around key issues.

If you’ve been a reader of Organimi’s blogs (thanks!) you will detect some interesting themes and parallels here in the internal diagnostics at work within the trade union movement.  And it is likely no surprise that they parallel changes going on workplaces themselves.

A shift away from top-down hierarchical models with “union bosses” running the shop for organizational design; a recognition of changing work environments and employee needs; and a desire to enhance opportunities for communication, collaboration and connectedness.

Sound familiar?  Workplaces are becoming more and more decentralized and virtual; organizational boundaries are becoming more fluid.  The changes affecting business structures themselves also affect their ecosystems of suppliers, customers and partners, including unions.  Our white paper outlines why this process is inevitable, across all organizational structures.

If you examine current commonplace slogans for the labour movement, you can quickly see how dated some of the pillars of unionization are.  How effectively are unions and workers organizations using modern social media and other tools to engage workers and the broader community and to make themselves more transparent and accessible – not only for their membership but for others who are interested in learning more about how union membership can help them improve their lot in like.

A lot of this starts with simple tools and solutions, like putting your organizational structure out there, online for your membership and others, and starting to create a community of connected, engaged, collaborating team members who are all aligned around key organizational objectives…which for unions these days, are all about getting organized around organizing.

So check out Organimi, and create your own org chart for the union you are already a member of, or the one you want to create!  Get organized.

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Now its time for me to get my back yard organized, before the snow flies again .

As always thanks for reading.

The Organimi Team