Many organizations struggle to protect their business and employees from the often strong-arm tactics of union organizers and leaders. With 33 years of experience helping organizations remain union free, Peter Bergeron offers strategies and best practices based on successful techniques in his book, Union Proof: Creating Your Successful Union Free Strategy. Bergeron’s insight on union avoidance and straightforward, real-world examples make this book an invaluable tool for companies currently or potentially facing union organizing drives.
Throughout childhood, Bergeron watched his father struggle as a union member and employee in the local shipyard. Wishing a better life for his son, Bergeron’s father advised him to find a better job. Ignoring this advice, Bergeron took a job in the shipyard, where he was hired as a replacement for a striking worker. Immediately, he gained firsthand knowledge of the lengths that unions were willing to go to in order to achieve their goals. During his career, he has witnessed fights, harassment of people’s families, businesses closing, and even murder as union leaders attempt to achieve their goals. For these reasons, his professional life continues to focus on helping organizations defend themselves from union strategies and remain union free.
In Union Proof, Bergeron acknowledges that each organization’s approach to union avoidance is unique, but they all have one common theme: open communication. At the heart of his technique is the need for organizations to thoughtfully and strategically open the lines of communication throughout all levels of the business.
Union Proof discusses best practice methods to help organizations develop their union avoidance strategies throughout the stages of a union petition campaign. Bergeron outlines the four phases of unionization and notes that all organizations fit into one of these phases:
- Union-free maintenance
- Early whispers (pre-petition)
- Petition phase to election
- Post-election union-proofing
Not only should organizations assess which phase they are in, he also advises them to assess which type of organization they are in terms of size, location, culture, and industry. These factors directly impact the costs of unionization and are critical for understanding your company’s needs and choosing the most effective communication method(s).
Bergeron begins his discussion in the early whispers phase. This phase involves a tremendous amount of planning and assessment. During this time, he encourages organization leaders to look at the demographics of the company and begin determining who their employees are. He also recommends leadership to assemble a team, including legal counsel. This team should be comprised of organization-supporters who have strong relationships with employees and talk to them easily. As this team is put together, it is essential for each person to understand his or her role. Furthermore, the team should start deciding on vehicles for delivery of the message.
Next, Bergeron helps readers understand how to identify issues within their organization that union leaders might be creating or using to bolster support. Additionally, Bergeron suggests that leaders should look at pockets of vulnerability within the organization and the union.
After all of this assessment, it is time for organizations to decide on a communication plan. According to Bergeron, the communication plan should not target only the voting audience but that audience’s family as well. These communication vehicles can include company-wide meetings, face-to-face discussions, Web sites, and even custom videos. In fact, Bergeron discusses several custom videos and Web sites that he helped develop with Projections, Inc., a leader in developing employee communications that are designed to help organizations stay connected with their employees and union free. According to Bergeron, the ease of accessibility and straightforward manner of these communication tools were instrumental in helping him and his team keep union advances at bay.
As a union continues to advance in its organizing campaign, the organization should advance aggressively as well. Bergeron instructs organizations to create a plan that informs employees about the truth behind union organizing and potentially untrue statements made about the organization. He further encourages organizations to train managers and supervisors on openly and effectively communicating with employees.
Ultimately, Bergeron informs readers that a solid communication plan for union avoidance should not be treated as an isolated occurrence. Instead, open communication among management and employees should be woven into the company fabric and made an integral part of company culture. Organizations remain union free by having informed, satisfied employees, and consistent communication and attention to employees’ needs is the primary way to achieve this.
NOTE: “Union Proof” by Peter J. Bergeron is available through online retailers such as Amazon.com, and can be purchased through Projections, Inc. See www.unionproof.com for more information.