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Can We Guess if You’ll be the Target of an Organizing Campaign?

Vulnerability_Can We GuessUnionization – it can be stressful, costly, time-consuming and divisive. You’ve probably watched companies, in and out of your industry, battle highly organized efforts to unionize workers. If your company is successful enough to be a profit center for a union, you have to occasionally wonder, “Will I be next on their list of targets?”

You very well could be. Labor unions have played a key role in recent efforts for a $15 minimum wage. They are even expanding to nonunion sectors and white-collar workers such as attorneys and adjunct professors. Here are several risk factors to evaluate in order to determine if you’ll soon be the next target of an organizing campaign.

Employee Communication

Building a union-proof culture starts with opening up direct channels of communication with employees to clearly convey your organization’s union-free approach. Provide workers with an introductory video that is shown to both new hires just joining the company and current employees. The video breaks down the elements of basic labor relations and presents an unambiguous rationale behind your firm’s policy of union avoidance.

If you feel that communication is lacking within your company, you could easily be vulnerable to union organizing efforts. Minimize this area of risk by regularly connecting with your employees and your supervisors. Not just about being union free – although that should be a regular and open discussion too – but from orientation to the benefits the company provides. Remember that you can connect on the platform most likely to reach your unique workforce, including video, websites and eLearning.

Workforce Concerns

A simple but effective way to ward off tendencies toward unionization is to make your firm highly attractive to employees. Working to become an employer of choice is an excellent way to become union proof. Strive to resolve disputes between employees or employees & management  amicably and fairly. Swiftly address your employees’ concerns regarding not only wages, but other critical areas such as  health care and job security.

If you’re concerned that your employees wouldn’t view your company as an employer of choice – that is, a company they’d tell their friends is a great place to work, you can evaluate employee concerns through formal methods like surveys. You can also gain great information and outstanding perspective by informal methods such as ongoing conversations with direct supervisors. Think of it this way: The costs of unionization will be far greater than the time you spend diligently and consistently asking for feedback and keeping the lines of communication open.

Union History

One of the most important things you can know is the history of the union most likely to target your employees. Understanding how and when they act can provide you with tremendous insight into how you might be vulnerable. Do they trend toward Corporate campaigns? Worker centers? Underground card signing?

If you do not already have a grasp of the history of unions, the frequent incidences of corruption in their ranks, and the overly political nature of their structure, you’ll benefit by improving your self-education on these topics. History tends to repeat itself, and by studying how unions have acted, you’ll be better able to detect and defend against rising union activity in your industry.

Union Tactics

The popularity of unions has diminished nationwide. As a result, they have created new tactics to survive in the modern business world. Ambush elections, digital and mobile communications, and a recent 2016 reinterpretation of the persuader rule are all new tools in their toolbox. The persuader rule changes alone add significant additional reporting burdens for you and your legal team.

Additionally, you must be able to recognize different ways unions try to finagle their way into your company. Secret ballots, seeking “neutrality agreements,” and  online card signing are all tactics the unions will try to wear down your defenses and plant a flag for  unionization.

Your Employee Handbook

Take a fine-tooth comb through your employee handbook.  The National Labor Relations Board is aggressively going after companies that have any policies that may have a “chilling effect” on NLRA Section 7 rights.

If it’s possible that your handbook, including your solicitation and distribution policy, may be an area of vulnerability, review it with your labor attorney as soon as possible to make sure that it does not violate any area of the National Labor Relations Act. Review the most recent cases on this topic to be sure you have relevant precedent.

NLRB Employee Handbook
Your Local Situation

The propensity for unions to have success in different industries and companies often hinges on the local community. Make sure you fully understand the union locals that might try to infiltrate your organization. Get familiar with their  leadership, finances and any other information that can help you ward them off. Combined with your knowledge of union locals, understanding of your local political, religious and community leaders will help you overcome efforts to undermine your company’s reputation. Particularly important can be your relationship with the local press.

If your reputation in the community is less than stellar (or is simply nonexistent), begin involving your company in local charitable events, and develop a relationship with your local press.

Staying ahead of potential unionization efforts in your company requires constant vigilance. Unions will use any tactics and methods they feel will advance their cause. They are fighting for their survival and will have no qualms in infiltrating your company in the process.

union vulnerability assessment