Tips For Responding Online to Union Organizing

Responding to Union Organizing OnlineIf your company’s employee outreach ends when your workers leave the building, you’re missing a valuable opportunity to connect with your staff. Online outreach, in the form of mobile apps, social media and websites, is a popular way for labor union organizers to legally reach potential union members. There’s also evidence that union support is increasing: A Gallup poll found that union support has risen 10 percentage points since 2008.

By having your own website that explains the company’s position on labor unions, you can offer a counterpoint to union websites that employees can use to research the benefits of unionization.

Dark Sites Tip Sheet

Common Labor Union Website Features

With an estimated 68 percent of adults owning their own smartphones, there’s a strong likelihood that your employee base is social media and tech savvy. That’s why unions use multiple and varied online techniques to reach employees.

Union websites provide a place for reporting workplace misconduct, drawing attention to suspected employer misconduct and dispersing news. Many union websites also have blogs that answer employee questions and provide regular, new content for readers. Many websites also support electronic union authorization cards to demonstrate interest in a labor union and to begin the organizing process.

In addition to having a strong website, many labor unions are also active on social media. They connect with potential and current members through Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and other popular platforms.

Finally, labor unions also have mobile apps. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and the Communication Workers of America have apps that allow members to sign petitions, receive press releases, report suspected workplace violations, watch videos and read regular news updates. The apps also tie to the unions’ robust social media presences.One think-tank that researched labor union mobile apps speculated that union organizers could easily get 30 percent of the authorization cards signed using an app before the employer even knows they’re recruiting.

Government agencies are also providing labor apps to workers. The National Labor Relation Board (NLRB) has an app that provides information to employees about labor laws and gives location-based union contact information. The National Law Review reports that the NLRB intends to expand their mobile app from a reference device to a device that allows members to act immediately on possible workplace violations and other interests.

Organized Labors Secret Online Weapons

Developing Your Own Content

Establishing your own online presence is one of the best ways to offer an alternative viewpoint on the benefits of labor unions. The goal of your company site should be to clearly communicate your company’s philosophy, provide reasons why employees may not want a union and completely inform your workers about their rights to resist union formation. Your company should also decide if it wants to make the website public or only accessible to employees.

While content is important, it’s also essential that the company website be attractive to visitors. It should be easy to navigate and have an address that’s simple to remember. Your company should also monitor the traffic on the website to find out which areas are most interesting to visitors. This monitoring will give you valuable information, so you know which areas should be updated regularly or discussed during the workday.

You may also want to weigh the benefits of interacting with employees through social media. Developing a private social media account that is independent of public social media can give your business a way to discuss concerns in a less formal manner. If you have a younger workforce, your employees may prefer to interact on social media versus talking face-to-face.

Labor unions know how to use technology to bring their organizing messages to your employees, so it’s important that your company has a thoughtful counterpoint. By providing a website that gives employees factual information about unions and showing your workers that you’re interested in their wellbeing, you can make sure your employees will make an informed decision.

Dark Websites

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How to Connect With Employees Twice As Well in Half the Time with A “Dark” Website

darksites_billboardOn April 14, 2015, the National Labor Relations Board “Ambush Election Rule” became effective, dramatically shortening the time between the filing of a union certification petition and the election.  National Law Review reports that between 2010 and 2015, the median time from representation petition to election was 38 days. By February 2016,  Law 360 reported that timeframe was reduced to just 24 days.

Is your company prepared for a union representation election that could take roughly 3 weeks from start to finish? Check your calendar and look at the date 24 days out. If you were to receive a petition today, you could be unionized and on your way to contract negotiations just that quickly.

If you aren’t ready to look the cost of unionization squarely in the eye, now is the time to prepare. The good news is that the best tool available today can be prepped in advance. It’s a resource that will help you communicate openly and honestly, educating your employees on why the company believes a union-free environment is in everyone’s best interest.

Dark Sites Tip Sheet

All Union Elections Are Ambush Elections

All union elections today are what we would have called “ambush” elections just a few years ago. Union membership totals may still be down, but expedited elections are energizing union organizers. In September 2016, the NLRB reported 127 elections nation-wide, with unions winning 76 percent of them. Now, that’s nothing new – union win rates were high even prior to the ambush election rules taking effect. So should we take from this that unions only spend money on pursing employee groups they’re fairly certain will unionize? Regardless of the chicken-and-egg questions inherent in that data, preparing in advance for a possible union election has never been more important. The ideal way to address organizing online and via social media is to respond where your employees are already hanging out… the key to staying union free today is the “dark” website.

A dark website is a communication tool designed with a union campaign in mind. There are as many ways to use these sites as their are unique companies using them, but largely it’s a website built for the sole purpose of educating employees on the facts about unions in general, and more specifically, about the union targeting them personally. It can be made live immediately upon completion in order to raise employee awareness of the company philosophy and the facts of unionization. Another strategy is to have a website that’s 95 percent developed but not activated until union organizing begins, it can be kept in a “dark” state, and when a campaign begins or a petition is filed, the website goes live to specifically respond to a union’s exaggeration of company issues and overblown promises.

Presenting a Unique Voice

The dark website enables your company to present a unique voice on unionization. Besides your company philosophy, you can share the company position on unionization. Employees get access to the campaign website through a group password, allowing anonymous employee website review in the privacy of the home, giving family members access to the information too. It is also accessible via mobile devices.

The dark website is used for multiple purposes, including campaigns, strikes, contract negotiations and decertification. Different versions of the dark website can be developed if more than one union is involved. Once developed, the website can be up and running in 24 hours, so no time is lost when an ambush election begins.

secretweapons_banner

For greatest effectiveness, your dark website content must be transparent, factual, fresh, interactive, easy to navigate and have a memorable URL. Customizing the content and making it specific to your unique employee demographics, such as a Spanish version for the Hispanic workforce, adds to the impact. The dark website discusses important issues, like employee rights, implications of signing the signature card or online signature, and factual information about unions, such as bargaining and strikes and the impact on employees.

Employees can also read through FAQs and ask questions anonymously, giving management opportunities to respond. Adding interactive online calculators for calculating dues, cost of strikes, the employee investment and the cost of personal risks brings the impact of unionization home to the employee.

Professionals With Knowledge and Experience

Projections has an in-house team of web architects and designers who have developed hundreds of customized employee websites under the brand name of UnionFree.com. These sites are integrated with companion social media and videos specific to the union and issues at hand. Additionally, UnionFree.com sites offer high levels of interactivity, including calculators that demonstrate the personal cost of dues, strikes and benefits. By working with the experts at unionproof.com, employers are able to access insight into the most current strategies employed by union organizers, creating a custom-built UnionFree.com website that responds to the needs of the company by including management live streaming sessions, insightful quizzes testing employee knowledge of unions, and a comprehensive glossary of union terms, among other things.

The professional dark website developer can quickly revise the material to address what is happening at the moment, something that’s often difficult for companies to keep up with themselves. “Because UnionFree.com websites are built with easily modified components, our team can keep information relevant as the campaign progresses,” explains Projections’ President, Chris Craddock. “There just is not enough time to hold a company meeting every time new information should be communicated to employees,” relates Craddock. “Companies choosing to try to maintain these kinds of websites with in-house staff are at risk of losing their employee audience if they can’t maintain relevance to what’s going on every single day.”

The bottom line is that the shorter your time frame is from petition to employees casting their vote, the less time you have to communicate. Pre-prep is essential to connecting with employees. Visit Projections’ UnionProof team at UnionProof.com to download a free report on “Organized Labor’s Secret Online Weapons (and 5 Things You Can Do Right Now to Protect Your Company)” and to learn more about campaign-ready websites to help build trust and stay union-free.

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Go Union? How Today’s Labor Laws Favor Unionization

Labor Law Favors UnionizationMost employers simply want to create a good working environment and strive to establish relationships with employees based on mutual respect. But over the last eight years, the US government has been particularly labor-friendly, especially since unemployment is down and union popularity is up. As a result, even the best companies now have to focus on following the laws while trying to keep their employees happy and invested.

Cost

In a time when the nation is still recovering from economic hardship, the cost of unionized workers can put quite a strain on a company that is trying to remain competitive with their competition. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ September 2016 study shows union-free companies paid their workers $19.06 per hour on average. Comparable union companies were obligated to $22.76. Non-union employers provided an average of $7.33 per hour in benefits, while union employers had to provide $13.82. While you want to attract and retain great employees by providing competitive wages & benefits, that can only happen if your company is able to maintain a healthy bottom-line, and being contractually obligated to higher costs can be a true challenge. Businesses must remain flexible -and profitable –  or everyone suffers. If your company becomes unionized, there is a real chance that you can eventually be forced to sell out, close down or move overseas.

Government Regulations

One recent example of the bent toward unions came last summer when the  NLRB overturned a long-standing precedent by determining that a company can be found in violation of a labor law without a specific labor practice complaint being lodged against it. That decision puts the onus on management to be proactive and inform unions of action or inaction that could potentially violate NLRB rules. In these situations, an innocent oversight on the part of a manager at a unionized company can lead to legal action by the union and the government, sometimes leading to government fines and even more onerous employment procedures. Your company’s management can have excellent intentions but still end up in hot water.

The NLRB issued another recent decision that made unionizing easier than ever before. Now your direct employees and the temporary employees you have hired through another party can be part of one bargaining unit. This is known as “joint employement” and if your company routinely hires temp workers during tax season or the pre-holiday rush, those employees can help bring a union to your company. If you depend on this type of temp-hire, the desire of your direct hires to stay union-free can be overturned.

RELATED: Changing U.S. Labor Laws and Their Effects on Union-Free Employers

Employee Relations

In the face of these difficulties, maintaining positive employee relations for union-free companies requires thought, strategy and intention. With a lower unemployment rate, your employees have more employment choices. Cultivating a sense of loyalty among your staff or employees is more important than ever before. Part of the process must include transparency about financial growth and future outlook. Continual employee input is necessary to “union-proof” your company, as are methods by which employees can resolve issues. Although you may not be able to financially match union benefits, you can provide a friendly, open workplace that is receptive to worker feedback and suggestions.

RELATED: New Labor Law: How Top Nonunion Companies Manage Employees

Businesses with a union-free operating philosophy can face unique challenges in this economic and political climate. You can fight to keep your employees satisfied by allowing them to participate in plans for the business, offering them flexible work situations and allowing them to voice their concerns. Positive employee relations can overcome the threat you face from a union-friendly government.

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