The Union Free Advantage
Positive employee relations can best be evidenced by being union free. You should manage your business to make unions unnecessary. Otherwise, employers often get the unions they deserve; employers managing a positive workplace don’t become unionized.
Union free workforces save their employers more than 30% in operating costs. Here are just a few extra costs of having a union: collecting union dues, paying labor attorneys during labor negotiations, grievances, whistleblowers, professional contract administration, higher benefit costs, and having to fire employees who don’t want to join the union. And, although there many other costs associated with having a union, many are difficult to quantify, among them:
- Loss of flexibility to quickly respond within a competitive and rapidly changing business environment.
- Inability to attract and retain the best workers. Many refuse to work in a union environment.
- Adversarial relationships between supervision and employees.
- Slanted employment communication controlled by union bosses.
- After a union is certified by the NLRB, it becomes an unfair labor practice for management to speak directly to employees about wages, benefits, and terms and conditions of employment. .
- Interruption of service or production due to strikes.
- Protection of the poorest performers under the grievance system.
- After a union is certified, your best workers are often forced to quit.
- Unions are typically resistant to operational changes, and file grievances.
A union free workforce is attained by effective leadership through programs and actions that recognize the dignity of the individual.
Leadership creates this workplace climate by:
- Treating employees with dignity, respect, and consistency.
- Guaranteeing job security through just cause employment and employee peer review of all termination cases.
- Encouraging employee participation in decisions that impact their work lives.
- Providing caring, thoughtful management that appropriately advocates for the individual and recognizes employees’ needs for an appropriate work/family balance.
- Communicating openly and honestly with employees.
- Resolving workplace concerns and issues in a timely and equitable manner.
- Paying wages that are competitive within the local labor market, and then awarding pay raises based on merit.
- Evaluating, recognizing and rewarding individual performance.
How to Maintain a Successful Union Free Workforce
Begin working on positive employee relations programs- before the union files for an election with the NLRB.
Do you have an updated employee handbook? If your current employee handbook is in direct violation of a State or Federal law, a union organizer will use violations to show why a union is needed at your business. Wage and Hour, Civil Rights, Safety, and concerted protected activity are frequently cited violations.
What management should do when confronted with a union organizational campaign:
Doing nothing is better than committing an unfair labor practice, but that is not your best strategy. You need a labor/employment attorney to help formulate an effective union-free strategy. Management should send a carefully drafted letter to every employee expressing its position regarding the union drive.
How does management first become aware of a union organizational drive? Management must be pro-active and become effective at listening to every employee.
Initial steps to be taken by management in the light of a union organizational effort. Meetings, letters, and training sessions.
The role and function of first-line management in response to a union organizational effort. Under the Labor Law, a first line supervisor can commit an unfair labor practice that will force management to recognize the union without an election.
Management do’s and don’ts:
Employers must know the legal requirements and prohibitions of the Labor Law. What to do when the union organizer knocks on your door. Union organizers are trained to have you respond in a way that gets union recognition without an NLRB election. Do you have a union free action plan? Send a letter to your employees. Establish a hotline to management.
Specific Tips to Maintain Union Free Employment
Progressive Leadership: Supervisors must be good communicators who inspire your employees to do their best.
Communications: Listen to your employees’ suggestions, complaints, and requests for help on personal problems. Provide updates on the economics of your business.
Job Security: Do not maintain an employment at will policy. Civil rights, veterans’ rights, disability and other state and federal laws can be used by plaintiff attorneys to sue employers anyhow. This policy offers you minimal protection from lawsuits and is a red flag to the union organizer- who will offer your employees job security through the arbitration clause of a collective bargaining agreement.
Just Cause Employment: Make a list of serious problems that are reasons for terminating employment. Have another list of relatively minor problems that can and should be corrected by disciplinary action not as serious a termination.
Employee Health and Safety: Focus on and improve the company safety record, housekeeping, and security.
Peer Review: Employers with internal dispute resolution committees avoid wrongful discharge litigation. This is a key element for establishing job security, which is more competitive than the union’s contractual arbitration clause.
Employee Turnover: Turnover statistics indicate how employers are doing. Keep monthly statistics. Ask employees why they are leaving at exit interviews. Find out what your competition is paying in wages.
Compensation: Conduct wage surveys. Be competitive.
Education and Training: Train your supervisors in positive leadership techniques.
New Employee Selection and Hiring: You can offer tests to identify those Best qualified for your jobs. Implement an employee orientation program.
Recognition: Offer bonus/incentive plans, such as- perfect attendance bonuses, quality incentives, safety awards, and group productivity bonuses.
Understand the Labor Law: Don’t commit an unfair labor practice. Establish your union free action plan with qualified legal counsel.