Employers Should Be Prepared to Address Union Activity

It looks like the Senate may drop the controversial card check provision from the EFCA. With protection for the secret ballot in place, an amended EFCA may get pushed through faster than employers expected. (Although in the Ohio Employer’s Law Blog, Jon Hyman suggests that Senate democrats may have floated the story to the NY Times as a trial balloon to see whether enough moderates will bite.) If the card check provision is indeed dead, it is likely that organized labor will be placated in other ways. One possibility is faster union elections after the union presents authorization cards. Currently, elections take place within 40 – 45 days of the petition. Some suggest the time period may be shortened to 10 days, which would leave very little time for employers to present their view to employees.

We previously wrote about how employers are not entirely helpless in the face of union-friendly legislation; now it is imperative that employers are prepared to address organizing activity. To begin with, employers should be open about their views on unions and why they believe employees are better off without one. It is critical that supervisors are trained on what they can and cannot say, as they are the first line of defense. The ERC recently summed up what employers cannot do, using the acronym TIPS:

  • Threaten (e.g. to close the facility if union elected)
  • Interrogate
  • Promise (e.g. promising benefits to employees if they oppose)
  • Spy – no surveillance

Despite these limitations, employers can discuss facts, experiences and their opinion about unions:

  • A union will not guarantee better wages
  • Unions limit interaction between employees and management, requiring negotiation of even routine issues
  • Unions charge dues
  • Employees will lose the ability to deal one-on-one with management to resolve grievances
  • Actual experience with union (i.e. that wages actually decreased)

We recommend that any employer who could be vulnerable to organizing activity communicate its position on unions and train supervisors on how to deal with union efforts. Warren & Hays helps employers by developing union-free policies and training supervisors and managers on how to deal with union activity.

Secret Ballot