Let’s say upfront the cost to stop union organizing is much less than the cost of unionization. When an employer must contend with a union organizing drive, the response is almost always a counter-campaign to oppose the organizing. Though the law limits what employers can say and do during union organizing, they do have rights. It will cost the employer to stop union organizing, in terms of staff time spent on union-related issues, consulting fees for labor relations professionals, and production of a variety of employee and leadership information and training resources.
Get Ready to Respond Rapidly
If stopping the union organizing is the goal, it is crucial to invest the right amount of resources to reach that goal. Unions will attempt to keep the organizing drive secret as long as possible, so there’s a good chance you’ll need a rapid response.
Many companies quickly assemble a rapid response team with members from HR, executive-level staff, relevant managers or supervisors, an attorney, and one or more labor law consultants. The total cost of staff time for people taken away from their regular job responsibilities to stop union organizing depends on the number and level of people assigned to the response team.
The union has a head start in the union organizing process, meaning some employees have already signed union authorization cards and have possibly made up their mind to vote for the union. However, signing a union authorization card doesn’t commit the employee to vote a particular way in the event of an election. Now is the time to convince employees they don’t need a union, and that requires developing and presenting carefully crafted information about the advantages of working for the company and the legitimate reasons for not unionizing.
Cost of Maintaining Productivity
There are tangible and intangible costs to stopping union organizing. The first intangible cost concerns the divisiveness in the workforce that union organizing creates. Your employees have differing opinions about unions. The employees who resist signing union cards are under a lot of pressure to sign.
Employees are likely distracted, agitated, and spending personal time attending organizing meetings and meeting fellow employees who want to present their case for or against unionizing. The negativity, divisiveness, and distraction is likely to lead to low morale and lower productivity.
It is up to frontline supervisors and middle managers to devote the time needed to keep productivity at the right level and to monitor and address morale issues. Your supervisors’ time is better spent on more positive activities. Often, it is the supervisors and managers who end up working excessive hours to deal with the union organizing. Depending on the pay structure, your company can easily find its payroll costs increasing.
It is a cost the business is incurring that you may not even be aware of right away, and it’s important to immediately invest in the appropriate level of resources to counter the union organizing effort and its impact on your workforce.
Investment in leadership training cannot be emphasized enough. One of the steps in union organizing is the union organizing committee, consisting of employees who will adopt a platform of workplace issues. Being able to engage employees in conversations legally can make the difference between stopping union organizing and a union election being held, because it enables your leaders to learn about the issues early in the organizing effort to better address them.
Adding Up the Cost
When you discover union organizing is taking place, it is time to jump into action and exercise your employer’s rights. The potential costs of action include:
- Hiring a labor attorney or committing an internal legal professional to help the company adhere to the law while exercising employer rights
- Leadership time spent formulating a strategy (a rapid response team is instrumental) after learning as much as possible about the union and campaign issues
- Attorney/court fees should the company need to go to court to stop illegal union activities
- Reassigning tech staff or hiring a third-party consultant to develop and launch a webpage, like a dark site, to specifically address unionization and the cost to and impact on employees
- Developing or purchasing informational products specifically designed to help businesses legally stop union organizing
- Holding meetings and providing specialized training for supervisors and managers to ensure they understand what they can and can’t do and say per the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decisions
- Taking employees away from work to hold information sessions to correct union statements, i.e., unions cannot promise jobs or higher wages
- Leadership time spent addressing union-related issues throughout the day rather than focusing on meeting work goals
- Leadership time spent addressing the increasing number of formal employee grievances, (usually encouraged by the union to emphasize workplace problems)
- Human Resources time spent responding to union statements, executive/attorney inquiries, employee grievances and/or Unfair Labor Practices (ULPs) claims
- Printing costs for various information resources, like posters and flyers to hang throughout the business
- Public Relations or media staff time spent developing public responses to the union effort
- Print and television expenses to counter union accusations
- Paying a dedicated staff member to monitor social media (without interfering in employees’ rights to discuss working conditions)
Commit Adequate Resources
The bottom line is that you have to be willing to commit a lot of internal resources to stop union organizing. Now is not the time to try and save money. You can’t tell employees not to sign union authorization cards “or else.” You have to convince them by explaining the true consequences of unionizing (no threats allowed), your company’s perspective on unions and the reasoning behind it, and the facts about the company, i.e., fair compensation schedule, good benefits, career opportunities, and so on. Train your supervisors and managers, take advantage of available products, consult with labor specialists, and engage your employees.