How To Spy on Your Competitors To Stay Union-Free

union avoidance spies

You don’t have to be a spy to stay informed and ahead of union organizing

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently approved new rules that allow quickie or ambush union elections at businesses. The April 6, 2016 guidance Memorandum GC-15-06 essentially gives employees the power to hold union elections within two weeks after notifying the employer via a Petition for Election submitted to the NLRB. This leaves the employer inadequate time to respond to, and prepare for, an election. It is critical that employers exercise due diligence in staying informed of union-related activities within their own businesses, the businesses of competitors, local businesses and their industry.

An Early Warning System
Many employers may not realize that by the time a petition has been filed, a lot of organizing activity may have already taken place. The union will likely have measured the degree of employee interest in, as well as promoted support for, unionization prior to them taking any concrete action. But developing a sound strategy for monitoring union activity within your industry can help create an early warning system when activity picks up among competitors or in neighboring locations.

Set Up Google Alerts

Google Alerts is a free service that monitors the web for content based on keywords you choose, and delivers results to your email account or as an RSS update. Google monitors the news, blogs, web, videos, books, discussions (forums) and even finance developments for the keywords you set up.

Set Up the Account

It is easy to set up, especially if you already have a Google account. If not, first set a Google account up at The password you choose will get you into Google Alerts. It is not necessary to get a email address unless you want one.

Go to

Choose keywords and phrases, just like you would with any Google search, such as “labor unions,” “ {Competitor Name} + labor,” “Teamsters local 856,” you get the idea.

We always recommend also choosing keywords for your business name and website address to track potential online conversations about unions in which your own business might be mentioned.

Choose alert delivery preferences which include:

  • How often the alerts should be delivered
  • Sources of the alerts
  • Language
  • Region
  • How many alerts, i.e. only the best results or all results
  • Where the alerts should be delivered to – email account or RSS fee

Save the alert

Create additional alerts using different keywords, and go through the same process

After the options are entered, Google provides a preview of the alerts you’ve generated. Review the alert results to make sure the keywords you’ve chosen are producing the type of search results desired. If not, change or refine your keywords. You can of course update and add keywords at any time.

Optimize Results

To optimize the content tracking tool, take advantage of its customization options:

  • Use quotes around multiple words like “retail industry + union organizing” to limit the search to specific terms
  • Use “site:” (without the quotes) to limit the search to particular websites
  • Use a free online program, like Keyword Tool, to find the common keyword combinations people use as search terms

Create your alerts one at a time using keywords. If the alert needs editing after it is created, just click the pencil icon and modify the keyword and related options. If you want to access the Google Alerts on your cell phone, download the Projections mobile app to access your feed any time.

Alternatives to Google Alerts:
Apps to Monitor Social Media for Signs of Activity

Google Alerts are simple to set up but don’t provide a whole lot of depth. For that reason, not everyone likes Google Alerts, so fortunately there are some good alternatives.   These programs track activity in real time, enabling monitoring of online conversations about labor unions and extracting data connected to words indicating union organizing activity.

These programs monitor social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Tumblr, and blogs, in addition to the web and forums or discussions. They include the following:

  • Mention – The media monitoring app offers a free account or a premium account that charges a monthly fee. It has more features than Google Alerts like report generation, social media monitoring and team-sharing.
  • Talkwalker Alerts – The free service is very similar to Google Alerts. On the home page, enter the search query keyword and indicate whether you want to monitor news, blogs and discussions (forums), or everything to include social networks. Results can be delivered once a day or once a week to an email account or as an RSS feed. If you want to set up over 100 alerts or expand the search and monitoring results, it is necessary to pay for a service package.
  • Social Mention – This service performs real-time searches of over a 100 social media sites and delivers results as a single stream of information. It has an API feature that allows you to integrate aggregated search data into your business applications. You can do a free single search on the site’s landing page by entering a keyword, or you can pay a small fee for a commercial account to broaden use of the API feature.

These are just a sample of the alert services you can easily use to track competitors and possible union organizing activity. There are many other web monitoring services, and a simple web search will produce you with a variety of other tracking services.

Read All About It in Online Newsletters

Many companies offer free digital newsletters that are intended to be marketing and communication tools. Some also post employee information newsletters online in a move towards transparency. Sign up for these newsletters – they often deliver important information, such as an announcement of a general employee meeting with senior leaders to review the company’s position on unionization and to openly discuss employee issues.

If your industry competitors think a topic is important enough to connect with employees, you should likely consider incorporating it into your union avoidance strategy as well.

Similarly, subscribe to newsletters offered by the unions most likely to target your employees, as well as businesses that are unionized and labor sites like These newsletters provide insight into where and when organizing activity is taking place, as well as Corporate Campaigns, political lobbying, and other activities that can directly affect you.

Also be sure to follow your competitors and the unions most likely to organize in your industry on social media. Follow Twitter feeds and Facebook pages that are available from any union who might target your company. If you see that there are attempts to promote unionization at a competitor, it’s definitely time to take a hard look at your own union-proofing efforts.

It’s All About That Strategy

These are just a few suggestions for monitoring your industry, your locations, and your competitors to stay union-free. To get started crafting your Union Proof communication strategy, grab our FREE 5-day Labor Strategy Course. We’ll deliver a new and powerful technique each day that you can implement and move your company toward a true Union Proof culture, where unions are simply unnecessary.

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