Union avoidance is not a single action, but a process. Success in building a union proof business requires understanding unions in general, the methods employed to recruit employees as new dues-paying members, and what to do to ensure that your employees will never want a union. Below are just a few issues you should investigate when building your union proofing plan.
The History of Unions
Unions were created to protect workers. Prior to unions, working conditions were dangerous, benefits were limited, and management was largely unresponsive to the concerns of their employees. Over time, government regulations, corporate responsibility and union actions helped address many of these issues. As a result, the American workplace is a very different place than it was when unions were first created.
The Cost of Unionization
Does your company understand the financial implication of unionization? The cost of unionization includes an increase in operational costs that follows union representation. That means more than just higher wages and better benefits. The cost of unionization can include administrative training, planning for strike contingencies, the cost of collective bargaining, and a host of other implications. Creating an understanding – from top to bottom – provides a foundation for becoming UnionProof.
What’s more, if you are forced to raise salaries and dedicate a larger portion of your budget to union-related administrative costs, that means you will need to raise your prices. Basic economics tells us that higher prices translate to lower sales, which in turn means you will need fewer employees. While letting people go is never a pleasant process, letting go of unionized employees is much more difficult, even if there are legitimate financial reasons for it. Your entire business model can be destroyed by the presence of a union.
The Legal Side of Unions
Unions enjoy federal protections that often create relationships that are fraught with difficulty. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) oversees all collective bargaining, and can interfere with your business practices if it believes that your actions can have a negative impact on “the general welfare of workers.” Unions also have a long history of corruption and connection to crime organizations. In short, unions can create a series of regulatory and legal burdens that can greatly hinder your business.
The Process of Unionization
The process of unionization is one that is filled with potential regulatory violations for an employer. The process begins with unions attempting to get employees to join the union by getting them to sign authorization cards. Once that process begins, your communication with your employees and ability to regulate them during work hours is limited. If you take any action that is considered a violation of Section 7 Rights – their right to organize – you invite a rebuke from the NLRB or even the automatic adoption of the union as the employees’ bargaining representative.
What Happens after Unionization
If your business unionizes, you will have to deal with more than just a drop in sales. Unionized companies lose control over how they run their team and care for employees. Negotiations with the union are overseen by the NLRB and could you leave you open to sanctions if that federal agency believes you did something inappropriate. Of course, employees will have to pay dues to the union and will lose all ability to speak directly to their managers on their own behalf. And finally, there’s always the threat of a strike if the company and the union can’t agree, disrupting not only the business, but the lives of employees, their families, and the community.
The key to being union proof is having a positive employee relations strategy. Unions are only necessary when employees believe that their concerns are not being met or even heard. By maintaining a positive line of communication between management and employees, you can greatly decrease the chance that your employees will want to join a union.
Be proactive in determining what your employees need. Creating a UnionProof company means having the right positive employee relations strategy in place and working on that strategy by communicating, and engaging with employees regularly.