All union elections today are ambush elections, taking only 23 days or less from start to finish. That doesn’t give an employer much time to develop a website to create meaningful communication with employees concerning the potential impact of not remaining a union-free workplace. It’s crucial to connect with employees immediately via a dedicated union campaign website to share the company’s unique voice, explain employee rights and reiterate the advantages of working for the company by staying union free.
The union campaign website can be live before, during and after a union campaign, or it can be a dark website that goes live only after the union campaign starts. A live website can be used as a full-time preventive tool to keep the company’s perspective on unions visible 24/7, during strikes, or during contract negotiations.
The key is to use a website developer familiar with labor relations challenges, who is able to include technical aspects that make the website flexible and scalable, like drop-in sections that can be quickly introduced as needed.
Given its importance as a union campaign communication tool, your employee website should have some specific options and features to ensure it delivers the greatest impact.
First, Understand the Emotional Side of What Drives Employees to Unions
Unions are powerful organizations with over a century of experience in organizing employees. They bring experience and a wealth of legal and other resources to the union organizing campaign. In August of 2019, the Competitive Enterprise Institute reported that unions were winning 77% of representation elections. Perhaps even more important is the fact that unions understand the psychological and emotional aspects of group-think, desire for belongingness and feeling powerless. It is a major reason the unions maintain online forums – to encourage employees to rage, complain and find other people who feel the same way.
The deep understanding of people gives unions a certain advantage. As any psychologist will tell you, thoughts drive feelings and feelings drive behavior. By using arguments based in emotions first, they are able to convince employees who really don’t have issues with your company to join “in solidarity.”
Presidential candidates intentionally choose to use words and terms like “solidarity” and “for all” and “struggles” and “my kind of people” to create a sense of unity and belonging. The intent is to appeal to the greater mass of people and make them believe that standing together benefits everyone. A union only succeeds when it creates a group of people with a collective identity who are willing to mobilize.
Of course, some employees believe they have real issues they’re powerless to solve. The list of common complaints include inadequate health benefits, too demanding work schedules, no voice in the decisions that impact them, managers who don’t care about employee well-being, not enough pay, or an inadequate grievance system. Companies that stay union-free are not taken by surprise with these complaints because they have a solid communication system in place for employees to bring workplace issues or grievances to management with the knowledge feedback is forthcoming.
Second, Understand the Purpose of the Employee Website
Employee communication rules! A union campaign website is a companion site to the company’s other forms of employee communication, but it has a specific purpose. That purpose is to stay union free by convincing employees they don’t need a union. The “convincing argument to remain union free or to decertify a union is based on facts and follows the relevant laws on employee and employer rights. It also helps companies avoid Unfair Labor Practice charges by offering consistent messaging.
Emotions run high during union campaigns, so the purpose of the union organizing website is to:
- Deliver consistent and legal employee communication
- Make it more likely company managers and supervisors won’t inadvertently break the law by saying or doing anything illegal or make false statements
- Give employees a forum for asking questions and getting accurate, honest feedback
- Enable easy updating as events unfold, keeping the website relevant
- Maintain contact with all employees
- Respond to false union claims about the company
- Help employees push back against the union by giving them information about their legal rights
- Strengthen the company brand as a union free organization
Live Or Dark?
You can have a general information dedicated employee website that reinforces management’s perspective on unions and the advantages of staying union free. The dark website is designed with a union campaign in mind. It’s called a dark website because some companies don’t go live until a union campaign starts, but you have the option to:
- Go live and stay live as a full-time preventive website
- Remain dark but ready to launch at any time
- Launch multiple union campaign websites and/or at multiple locations at one time
- Go live during the union campaign and then return to dark status
- Easily and quickly flip back and forth between dark and live as needed to be proactive
Selecting a Union Campaign Website Developer
When selecting a company to do union campaign website development, some things to look for include:
- Offers custom-created or ready-made websites
- Has already researched major unions, but can customize the website for any union
- Has the expertise and knowledge of unions that enables rapid development and launch in the event a union campaign has started
- Can mimic company branding
- Offers other language options for websites
- Can develop a dark website with open sections for quick addition of information related to a specific union or other relevant content
- Can create an employee website that appeals to the company’s specific demographics
- Has website launch package that promotes the website to encourage employee utilization
- Offers ongoing website maintenance and information updates
- Transparent about pricing for custom website development and updating
- Easy access to knowledgeable and helpful professionals
Tiffany Jackson is Projections’ Multimedia Architect, and works closely with clients to deliver the products that best fit their situation.
“The most common questions our clients ask me are, “How quickly can we get the website up and running?” “How quickly can changes be made to the website once it’s active?” and “Can I add customized information, like a company flyer?,” says Jackson. “Speed of website activation and employee usage are two major concerns once a union gets involved. Our team provides daily reports including metrics like website traffic and new page views, so the employer knows from day one the reach of the employee website.”
Critical Features of Effective Union Campaign Websites
What makes a union organizing website different from other employee communication media, like posters, newsletters, flyers, handouts and even social media? The most obvious difference is that it’s dedicated to the topic of unions and messaging is not lost in the large amount of information that constantly flows in every business.
The employee union campaign website is only about unions.
Critical features that make the union organizing website most effective are:
- Interactivity – The union campaign website offers calculators so each employee can get a realistic idea of:
- Foregone investment earnings from money directed to dues
- Cost of a strike
- Dues cost each paycheck, over a 12-month period and over the length of the union contract
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) – Employees can use an online form to ask anonymous questions and get quick responses that have been reviewed by your HR and Labor Relations team.
- Branding – The website uses company colors, logo and voice to strengthen the brand as union free.
- Easy to navigate – Employee should have no problem moving between webpages, finding desired information, filling out online forms, etc.
- Mobile ready – Employee can access the union organizing website on a smartphone and tablet, especially important now that unions use apps for organizing.
- Videos – Videos are a powerful and often preferred form of communication today. The website can include short (1-2 minutes) videos of managers discussing company advantages and impact of unionization, interviews with employees who are resisting unionization and explanations of unions. You can also post public domain videos of unhappy strikers or other factual union activities. A short video postcard posted on the company website/intranet can include a link to the larger union campaign website.
- Images – Pictures of satisfied employees at work, and public domain pictures of harmful union activity (strikes, protest, etc.) , are just two examples of pictures that can reinforce what your union campaign website says.
- General content – The content of an effective union organizing website will include information like the following:
- Company philosophy on unions
- Human Resources policies, open door management principle, benefits, community relations, etc.
- Top 10 reasons for not unionizing
- Reinforcement of employee rights which includes the importance of the employee signature – right to sign or not sign a paper or electronic union authorization card and to still vote “no” during the actual election, even if an authorization card was signed
- Anatomy of a union authorization card, pointing out the wording that explains employee rights
- Frequently asked questions webpage
- Interactive calculators
- What happens on the day of the election
- Webpage responding to union claims
- Glossary of union terms
- Links to additional resources, like government agencies (like the NLRB)
- Union specific content – Each major domestic and international union has specific tactics they commonly use, and the website should address them. If a small union is involved, the website developer can research the specific union local.
The information presented on multiple webpages, including in short videos, can discuss the facts of the union’s:
- Drop in membership
- Finances – how dues are spent with very little going to members
- Bargaining impacts – employee and employer rights lost, like the employee’s right to go directly to a supervisor with an issue and the employer’s right to promote the person based on qualifications and not seniority
- Union constitution conveying the basic principles of operation which are often violated
- Past union campaigns
- Past strikes and impact on employees, the company, customers and community relations
- Social media – The ability to meet employees where they already are means linking your website to Facebook and Twitter, or other social media where you know they hang out.
- Public vs private – You can also choose to go totally public with your union campaign website, or to limit access to your employees only by implementing a single username and password. No matter which you choose, be sure that family members are also encouraged to read and use the employee website – never underestimate the power of the secondary audience at home!
Of course, promoting your union campaign website can include a full Launch and Engagement Kit, including employee meetings, letters to employee homes, posters, flyers, social media, messages on paystubs and any other point of employee contact. The goal is to get maximum employee utilization of the website and ongoing reinforcement of the information.
Union Campaign Communication Shares the Facts
Staying union free takes an organized, knowledgeable and systematic approach to educating and communicating with employees. Unions are aggressive in their efforts to convince employees they need representation. The only legal way to combat union messaging and organizing efforts is to present the facts, ensure the truth is always in front of employees and give employees an easy way to communicate with the organization’s leaders.
It is important to use a qualified, experienced company like Projections for union campaign communication. Projections, through its brands Union Proof and UnionFree.com, has developed hundreds of union campaign websites and possesses deep knowledge of union organizing strategies. We have an experienced team of professionals and a wide network of resources, including labor relations attorneys and consultants.
The important fact to always keep in mind is that just one organizational misstep can turn a union free company into a unionized one.