Home Visits When the Home Is The Workplace

The most seasoned union organizers have used the home visit, as a means of organizing, with mixed results for decades.  On one hand, they offer the opportunity to sit down at the kitchen table and deliver their sales pitch with a great deal of success.  On the other hand, a cold call is a cold call and gets about the same results it does over the phone.  The organizer may not be welcomed, or the prospect not home.  In the real world practice of labor relations, home visits with employees is a subject of contention.

It is important to know that if there is an active union campaign, an agent of the company visiting employees’ homes is potentially a violation of section 7 rights and should not be considered as a strategy for traditional work places.

However, what if the home is the workplace or your workforce does not go to a brick and mortar location to start their day?  For example, we have a case with in the healthcare industry in which the employees work from private residences.  In this case, the home was technically the workplace with the “employer” being the person for whom they administered care. This was a large bargaining unit of more than 20,000, which required us to develop a political-style canvassing team with talking points and “walk-books” in hand. We were not working as an agent of the employer but rather we were technically hired by the employees. Which of course meant we weren’t bound by the constraints placed on employers during campaigns.

We were extremely successful in what we set out to achieve and due to this one on one setting, encountered very little opposition. Should your company feel home visits is a proper course of action, the following are some suggestions that may prove useful.

  • Always send an announcement and attempt to set up appointments before making unscheduled stops.
  • When possible have one of your subjects’ peers with you.
  • For unscheduled stops, attempt to learn an employee’s daily routine and be mindful of the time of day: don’t interrupt meal times and don’t arrive too early or too late. A general rule is between 10am and 8pm.
  • Be mindful of the shift in power, have the utmost respect for their home and family: When you enter an employee’s private home, you are a guest, not their manager.
  • If an employee indicates that they would rather not have someone from the company enter their home, respect their wishes and attempt to contact them some other way. Secondary location meeting, mail or email.
  • Be careful you aren’t walking into an ambush to showcase less than adequate living conditions. Get as much info on the household as possible before showing up.

-Rusty Brown, Vice President RWP Labor

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