Collaborate with Unions

collaborate-with-unionsDespite recent trends of declining union membership, 14.6 million U.S. workers belonged to a union in 2014 and an additional 1.6 million workers were non-members who worked under union contracts.18 Labor unions have a long history of working to improve employee health and safety, and have collaborated with management to reduce chronic conditions and risk factors in the past.19,20 However, unions have also worked against management-sponsored initiatives that aligned with their own interests because they were not always included in the policy-making process.19 Thus, it is important to view unions as potential collaborators from the start of a program and work with them to build a foundation where workers feel they have a say. Interview employees about what their health goals and needs are, and encourage participation in “wellness committees” or advisory boards that design and modify the workplace health promotion program.21,22 Also, identify “wellness champions” from all levels and departments of the company who will advocate for health and well-being to fellow employees.21,22 Finally, communicate to employees that the goal of the program is to help people live better, healthier lives, not to punish unwanted behaviors or threaten jobs. Incorporating employees’ needs and wishes into programs, and addressing their concerns, can create a sense of ownership of the wellness program among employees, reduce feelings that management is forcing the program upon them and boost employee morale and engagement.