If you ever want silence during a board meeting, just say the word “union.” It’s a topic that some people will go to any lengths to avoid, to the point where the U-word itself is almost taboo. This is a dangerous approach, as unions are often the result of a breakdown in employee communications.
So why do we struggle to talk about this issue? There are four main reasons.
1. We’re Worried People Might Get Ideas
“Maybe if we don’t say the U-word, our staff will never find out that it’s an option.”
This is a deeply unprofessional approach; successful businesses don’t hide from problems, they face them head-on. Union avoidance is one of those issues that requires a decisive and direct approach. Speak openly with your staff, and listen to what they have to say.
2. We’re Worried About Bad PR
“If we come out against unions, we might be attacked in the press and on social media.”
Fear of a backlash sometimes prevents us from taking a stand. However, being anti-union is not a crime, as long as you communicate exactly why you’re taking this position. Speak to your own PR people about how your stance ties in with your broader brand, and how you might prepare for potential press queries.
3. We’re Afraid of Appearing Exploitative
“If we oppose unionization, our staff might think we’re planning to take advantage of them!”
Unions thrive on the idea of the “downtrodden worker being bled dry by the overpaid fat cats.” But by and large today, this is far from reality. Companies want to recruit and keep the best workers, and legal oversight and robust HR procedures have made unions less powerful and less useful, and unions can actually be a hindrance to employee interests. State your union free philosophy to your workforce, and explain to them why remaining union-free is best for your organization.
4. We’re Worried It Might Highlight Other Issues
“If we start talking about unions, it might start other conversations on topics we’d rather not discuss.”
The best way to make your company Union Proof is to eliminate the need for a union. That means working hard to maintain positive employee relations. Make a commitment to the basic issues, such as offering competitive salary and benefits, assisting in work-life balance, meeting regulatory workplace standards and creating an atmosphere of fairness and respect. Employee communications are vital. You need to have those difficult conversations now, or your staff may start having them with union organizers.
It’s hard to work on your union avoidance strategy unless you’re willing to talk about unions. Raise the issue with your board, raise the issue with your workers, and make sure that your organization is on course to stay union-free. Take our union vulnerability assessment to make sure that you’re on the right track.