Staying union-free requires a positive employee culture, an effective communication system and managers able to recognize signs of unionizing activities. Above all, the employer must be proactive, not reactive, to develop a solid plan for building positive employee relations and union avoidance.
Taking Step-by-Step Action
- Make a union-free philosophy part of the business culture.
- Develop and communicate a comprehensive, effective union-free action plan to all organizational leaders.
- Give employees a voice in workplace decisions.
- Recognize that front line supervisors are the links between employees and upper management, and they are instrumental in keeping your company union-free.
- Train leaders to be employee motivators and morale builders.
- Teach managers and supervisors how to engage employees via positive news, a caring and ethical culture, and employee empowerment.
- Train managers to respond to employee concerns, be problem solvers and have good communication skills.
- Develop managers who can recognize obvious and subtle signs of union activity throughout the workplace.
- Train executives, managers and supervisors in the language of unions; terminology includes words like “unfair labor practices,” and “protected activity.”
- Develop an effective employee communication system that includes a video presentation of the employer’s vision, mission, values, traditions and history.
- Develop an employee-centric website for onboarding new hires and keeping existing employees engaged.
- Effectively use social media to maintain good stakeholder relations. Stakeholders include employees, investors and the communities the company serves.
- Frequently remind employees of the workplace culture, employee benefits and ethics standards, presenting the information, via communication delivery systems, as a source of pride.
- Regularly praise and motivate employees, letting them know they are important members of the team.
- Develop a pre-hire orientation program that emphasizes the business mission, values, Human Resources policies and procedures, competitive wages and benefits, diversity and inclusion, positive employee relations and union-free philosophy.
- Develop a new hire orientation that sets expectations concerning workplace behaviors, commitment to personal and business success, reasons for the company’s union-free philosophy, and a communication system for voicing concerns or issues to management.
- Make an unambiguous policy on reasons for terminations, emphasizing justice and fairness to all employees.
- Hold exit interviews with employees leaving the company. Use the opportunity to ask the employee about the reasons for leaving and the competitor’s pay rate.
- Maintain a safe workplace, and be transparent about safety violations.
- Have regular conversations with employees about the reasons for remaining union-free.
- Learn change implementation and management skills. Change is disruptive and creates vulnerabilities to employee resistance, job insecurity and discontent.
- Keep leadership training relevant to issues of the time, like managing a multigenerational workforce and effective employee motivation tools.
- Educate employees on the tactics union organizers use to convince people to sign unionization cards.
- Educate employees on the National Labor Relations Act. Information should discuss the rules governing union election campaigns, including employee rights as outlined in the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) Section 7 & 8(a)(1).
- Identify firebrands who deliberately create trouble in the workplace, and turn them into allies.
- Educate leadership on the appropriate responses to overt unionization efforts, and learn how to end unionization efforts without breaking the law.
- Establish a clear and effective dispute resolution process so the employee feels grievances are taken seriously.
- Learn how to question employees about suspected union activity without violating the NLRA. This is a particularly difficult area because many factors are used to determine if the questioning is coercive, like context and who asks the questions.
- Personalize management messages to employees, if possible, by sharing prior harmful experiences with unions.
- Take supervisor suspicions of unionization seriously, even if they are vague.
- Do not allow employees interested in unionizing to use the company bulletin boards or walls to post notices of union meetings. Be consistent. In “Fleming Companies v National Labor Relations Board,” the Court of Appeals determined an employer could prohibit union postings about union meetings only because outside organization weren’t allowed to use the bulletin board for meeting notices.
- Never give up, even if a petition is already filed. Share factual information about unionization with employees and their families, ensuring they understand the full impact on their lives should they vote to unionize.
- Realize the effort to stay union-free does not end once the employer wins a vote against unionization. It is important to follow-up, review the grievances leading to the vote, make organizational changes and rebuild employee trust.
Union Proofing Requires A Clear Communication Strategy
Union avoidance needs a focused action plan, built on good leadership and a customized employee communication system. Educate and inform at all levels; union-proof your business to create a more engaged workforce. Communicate your union-free philosophy and from that philosophy, create solid policies, informed managers and employees that know the truth about unions.
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