Union organizers are recruiting at your business, and you want to prevent them from becoming a big problem. However, you don’t want to run afoul of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). After all, the bad press that comes with being found guilty of unfair labor practices can seriously damage your reputation, and violations can result in an automatic union win.
What can you do to educate your employees about the risks that come with union participation without violating the law?
Make the Most of Employee Meetings
Employers have a huge advantage when it comes to communicating with employees, because they are permitted to take time out of the workday to conduct meetings about unionization. Use this time to educate staff members about the downside of voting in a union. You can legally share the following information without violating NLRB regulations:
Rules for Organizing
- Explain to staff members that they have the right to refuse requests to sign a union card and decline union membership. Remind them that even if they sign a union authorization card or apply for union membership, they can still vote against unionization in an election.
- Make sure employees understand that they are not required to speak with union organizers, whether they are approached at work or at home.
- You can encourage employees to vote against unionization, and you can request (though not compel) that they ask co-workers to vote against unionization, too.
- Clarify any incorrect or misleading information promoted by union organizers. If there are factually incorrect statements, employers have every right (and even an obligation!) to tell the truth.
- Compare the benefits staff members already enjoy to the benefits offered by similar companies that have unionized, if this reflects positively on you.
- Ensure that employees understand the financial responsibilities that go along with union membership, such as initiation fees and dues.
- Explain that even though union organizers are making big promises about pay and benefits, they have no way of guaranteeing the actual outcome of contract negotiations.
- Remind employees that union membership often means concerns must go through the union steward. Staff members may no longer be able to solve their problems directly with their supervisors.
- Review the potential impact of a union-initiated economic strike: Employers can hire permanent replacements for all positions, and employees will only be considered for reinstatement when there is a job opening.
- Ensure that employees know the union can push them into getting involved in unrelated disputes, for example requiring them to picket other employers.
Any and all of these topics are helpful discussion points as you conduct your employee meetings. However, there are certain things you must avoid in order to comply with the law.
Avoid Unfair Labor Practices
Whether in staff meetings or while passing in the hallways, there are certain statements you cannot make, according to the NLRA. Ensure that all members of management have been trained to avoid these unfair labor practices.
- You cannot promise employees anything in return for voting against unionization. For example, you cannot offer a pay increase, a promotion or benefits in exchange for a “no” vote.
- Conversely, you cannot threaten employees for voting “yes” to unionization. While you can speak in general terms about how unionized companies’ benefits and pay differ from your company’s, you cannot tell employees that they will lose their jobs, have a reduction in wages, or be demoted for their pro-union vote.
While these tips are good for a crisis situation, consider including discussion points in regular conversations with employees. Through frequent information sharing, you can protect your company from union organizers before they approach a single team member.