Nothing in business life is free, and that includes preventing union organizing. Quite honestly, some employers ask what it costs to prevent union organizing because they sincerely want to commit the right amount of business resources to remain union-free, and want an idea of what to anticipate in terms of cost and options. Though it’s not encouraged, other employers believe it’s better to wait and see if a union campaign gets serious before investing too much time and effort in preventing union organizing. Either way, the decision to make or not make a proactive effort to remain union-free should be based on facts.
At UnionProof, we strongly believe that you shouldn’t wait until a union campaign arises to take action. We feel that you should build a strong foundation for a union-free culture where unions simply aren’t necessary. Of course, this isn’t the path every organization wants to take, so we’ll discuss some of the costs associated with the prevention of union organizing.
Two Cost Buckets
First, it is vital to understand that the cost of preventing union organizing falls into two buckets. One is the expense for things like employee and leader training time, website development, training materials, revision of orientation materials, printing posters and newsletters, and so on. The second bucket is the cost to the organization of not being proactive in preventing union organizing. The truth is that many of the resources put into staying union-free are the identical resources needed to promote employee engagement, create a positive organizational culture, and develop effective leadership.
For example, an effective leader is a good communicator, so training managers and supervisors on skills around listening and providing feedback to employees will also enable them to have a productive and non-emotional dialogue about unions. In another example, establishing a dispute resolution process is crucial to giving employees a clear way to bring issues to management’s attention, knowing there will a review and response. When your employees have a way to resolve their concerns directly with management, they don’t need unions.
Another key strategy to prevent union organizing is ensuring new-hire onboarding or orientation conveys the company mission, perspectives on unions, benefits, and advantages of working for the organization. Making the employee feel included from day one is crucial to getting employee engagement off on the right foot, and employee engagement is the secret sauce of preventing unionization.
Cost of Doing Union-Free Business
Whether or not unionization is a concern, organizational leaders can also do things like implementing an employee recognition system and making sure talent-centered policies and procedures are fair and consistent. A potential expense is having a labor professional (or labor law attorney) review company policies and procedures to make sure they have remained current with legal requirements and National Labor Relations Board decisions.
Do you need to review the compensation schedule to ensure it is competitive and fair? Are benefits competitive? Do you invest in regular employee surveys to give employees a chance to express what they like and don’t like about the company? Surveys are an excellent tool for finding out what employees are thinking and perhaps not saying out loud. You may need to adjust your compensation schedule, add some benefits (i.e., family coverage option or dental insurance), and purchase survey products.
Businesses with high employee engagement levels are probably not going to have a workforce that wants to join a union. However, many of the actions and strategies previously mentioned should include discussing unions. For example, there is the cost of developing a website or webpage that explains the company’s perspective on unions. It should explain why the employees don’t need to unionize and what it will cost them in the long run, i.e., union dues, fixed compensation schedule, seniority promotion policy, etc. A company may decide to have a dark website ready for rapid deployment in the event union organizing becomes known. You will need to pay a company like UnionProof or a staff member to upgrade the onboarding resources to make the company’s stand on unions clear from day one.
Invest in Educating and Training All Employees
Some of the higher costs are usually the costs of training leaders and employees. Training includes helping managers/supervisors develop leadership skills for improving employee engagement, learn labor law basics, and the rights of employees and the employer, how to respond to employee questions about unions, get adept at handling employee issues, recognize signs of union activity, and much more.
You can purchase training products prepared by experts like those at UnionProof and A Better Leader or other companies specializing in workforce and leadership training. The products purchased and the time leaders spend training are costs, but a good investment. The bottom line is, your supervisors are the people who have the greatest influence on keeping unions out of your business.
Stopping card signing is treacherous because it’s easy to overstep legal boundaries. If your company hasn’t consistently enforced HR policies on not conducting personal business while working, or not using the break room to conduct non-work business, or not allowing visitors from outside the workplace, it is harder to suddenly “lay down the law”. The cost of consulting a labor relations professional is well worth the money if card signing is in progress.
Rather than getting yourself into legal trouble and incurring the expense of defending the company against an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) claim, invest in the tools to educate your employees on the truth about unions and your managers on the appropriate responses to union authorization card signing. At UnionProof, we developed a host of tools for responding to evidence of card signing, like the “Little Card, Big Trouble” video. The video is informational, and can be used before unions make an appearance or at the first evidence of union organizing. Chances are, your employees don’t have all the information they need to make an informed decision.
Spend Now to Train, Inform, Educate and Save Later
Employee training can also be delivered in a variety of ways, so the amount you spend depends on the options chosen. They include videos, eLearning programs, and websites. Companies also have the option of continuing to offer in-person sessions when feasible, but can also set up webinars and virtual meetings for remote workers. Instead of focusing on costs, consider the ROI of staying union-free.
In summary, the activities to engage employees and train leaders to prevent union organizing include the following costs:
- Employee and leadership time spent in training
- Buying or developing training and informational resources
- The expense of hiring a labor relations consultant or labor law attorney to review talent processes and Human Resources policies and procedures, within the context of labor law and NLRB decisions
- Cost of adding the business perspective on unions to onboarding programs and existing company websites
- Dark website building and maintenance
- Developing and holding employee workshops or seminars
- Upgrading technology to improve employee communication systems or to add employee recognition software
- Developing and publishing the facts of unionizing in newsletters, posters, etc.
There is a lot an employer can do to prevent a union from organizing, and some activities mean incurring additional costs, and your current staff can handle others. The ideal strategy is to adopt employee engagement practices to develop a positive organizational culture so that employees see no need for unions. The investment you make now to engage employees and educate them on unions is always less than what unionizing costs the business in terms of morale, culture, employee-employer relationships, and productivity.
It’s a matter of perspective. You have the option to spend some money now to save a lot of money later. You can also decide to wait to take action until there is talk of union organizing in your workplace. At Unionproof, we believe it is important to create an atmosphere where unions aren’t necessary. We strive to help your workplace become an employer of choice and make sure your employees are educated on the cost of unionization. If you’d like to take the next steps to ensure your organization remains union-free, we’re here to help.