If you’re concerned about union organizing, you may think you’ll save money by not hiring a labor relations professional. But as Allied Medical Transport found out, that’s a myth. Allied faced multiple ULPs and had to pay remedies to make fired employees whole. Most importantly, they must now deal with the high cost of unionization for years. There’s no doubt the company also had to hire a labor attorney for the duration of the NLRB case. This one cautionary tale is a direct reflection of why you need a labor relations professional on your team.
There are many reasons to justify not hiring a labor relations professional. But rather than dwelling on the negative aspects of labor violations, let’s look at why you need to consider hiring your own labor relations professional.
Why You Need A Labor Relations Professional
1. There is not adequate staff to give the quality response that union organizing needs. This includes materials preparation and monitoring, meeting with employees, dealing with union representatives and the NLRB procedures, and responding to certain employee grievances. Union organizing requires the attention of managers, supervisors, and Human Resources staff. The staff must ensure they’re always prepared to legally respond to employee questions. They should only act and communicate in a way that labor law allows.
In the meantime, managers and supervisors must maintain day-to-day operations. A labor relations professional is crucial to the management’s ability to keep the business operating while successfully responding to union organizing. This saves the business thousands of dollars by working as needed.
2. Company leadership and Human Resources professionals don’t have the in-depth knowledge a labor relations professional has. This includes the law, NLRB board decisions and the real-world mistakes that other employers have made before, during and after union organizing.
3. A labor relations consultant can save time and money in various ways. One is the professional’s ability to respond to a variety of issues that are sure to arise during the union organizing campaign. Some issues can be anticipated. But some cannot. Each organizing campaign is unique to the business and its workforce.
4. Unions are experts at organizing employees. Over the decades they have developed a successful system for organizing. They know how to appeal to people who believe they are helpless in dealing with employers. Unions are very good at making people feel like victims, while making employers appear like unfeeling profit seekers. They are also now incorporating technology for more efficient and secretive communication with employees. You need an expert consultant to deal with union experts.
5. Unions have tried and true methods for overwhelming employers. One is burying the employer in charges of Unfair Labor Practices (ULPs) – violations of Section 8 of the NLRA – filed with the NLRB. Or they may make other legal claims intended to make the employer look as bad as possible in the eyes of employees.
6. Unions will try to trip up employers. They’ll gamble that employers don’t know the law, failed to coach their leaders and will back them into a legal corner with the wrong response. For example, the union presents authorization cards to the employer and demands recognition. Many people naturally and thoughtlessly acknowledge the cards, even if communicating a refusal to recognize the union at the same time. The right response is refusing to acknowledge or even look at the cards, followed by consulting with a labor relations professional.
7. The union’s corporate campaign can be a swift and even unexpected attack, if the employees and union representatives have managed to keep their organizing efforts a secret. In fact, what is referred to as the “Ambush Elections Rule” enables a quickie union election that gives employers a short amount of time to respond.
Business leaders at all levels are caught unprepared to answer employee questions, which can include a large variety of legal questions. Rapidly consulting with an experienced labor relations consultant is important to responding just as swiftly and with the correct reaction.
8. Employers who haven’t dealt with unions before often don’t understand how unions interfere with the employee-employer relationship. Unions have pre-prepared responses, many of them half-truths or outright lies, to every conceivable employer statement or action. The responses are designed to put the employer in the worst light possible.
It can be very distressing, leading managers and supervisors to say or do things in anger, shock or retribution. There are hundreds of NLRB cases in which employers spoke thoughtlessly, which violated labor law and influenced the outcome of the union vote.
9. Most employers don’t know how to formulate a response strategy. They need the assistance of someone who can provide guidance and suggest high-quality resources, like the tools available at UnionProof.com.
10. Reasonable employer actions can easily run afoul of the National Labor Relations Act and its many interpretations made through the NLRB and the courts. The potential gets much worse during union organizing.
For example, telling employees to stop standing around talking about their work schedules and to get back to work may violate the right of workers to protected concerted activity, depending on the circumstances. In the case example presented, a reasonable employer action – auditing driver fare collections – turned into anti-union behavior. These kinds of situations make it easy for the NLRB or courts to find an employer violated employee rights.
11. A labor relations consultant can assist with identifying potential problems that could inadvertently support union organizing. These could include things like policies and planned schedule changes. Getting an impartial perspective helps to keep the business union free.
12. Labor unions have experienced labor attorneys on staff. Therefore, they begin a union organizing campaign with an immediate advantage over employers who don’t utilize a labor relations professional.
13. Experienced labor relations consultants are usually familiar with the union leaders and typical tactics of different unions. They also know the correct way to respond when union representatives violate NLRA protected employer rights.
14. Labor relations professionals bring new perspectives. It’s easy for busy employers to get complacent about employee engagement, fail to keep current on labor laws and fail to modify policies and procedures that reflect new legal requirements. You may also not fully understand the attitude of the younger generations, especially millennials, concerning unions. They’re using new strategies to organize groups of employees.
15. Finally, union organizing is an event filled with emotions. It can make it difficult for employers to make decisions or to act rationally in terms of religiously adhering to the NLRA. A professional labor consultant is not emotional about unionizing efforts and brings a level-headed approach to an emotionally charged event.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” These are still relevant words of advice from a man who served as a consultant in one of his roles during the birth of a nation. The employer’s best course of action is to prepare in advance for a potential union organizing effort.
Advance preparation includes making sure your managers and supervisors are trained on the NLRA and how to recognize the signs of union organizing, using web, eLearning solutions and custom on-demand videos. You should develop a webpage that communicates the company culture and values. Your webpage should outline the advantages of working for the company and the corporate viewpoint on unions. You can also maintain a dark website that can go active as soon as union organizing starts. This allows you to quickly connect with employees.
Preparing ahead also includes regularly seeking the advice of labor relations specialists who can help you stop union organizing before it ever starts. It’s the ideal strategy for staying union free. Begin by communicating with employees regularly and utilizing custom communication wherever possible.