So, you have labor union reps out in the parking lot trying to get your employees to cross over to the dark side huh?
You may not have much to worry about it if you’ve done your due diligence in creating a happy and engaged workforce and have fostered a culture of openness, teamwork, talent development and appreciation for the members of your organization (having a compensation package that’s competitive with other players in your industry doesn’t hurt either). But alas, many of us in retail are facing the reality that our businesses and the overall industry are asking us to do more with less. No one feels that demand more than your frontline workers, which is why it is easy for so many union organizers to catch the ear of workers who feel over-worked, underpaid, and forgotten as businesses move forward to stay ahead of the ever-changing economic horizon.
As an employer, HR pro, manager, etc…it falls on you to keep the pulse of those working under you. Communication is essential, but don’t wait till a union comes knocking on your door before you start to open up the lines of communication, this should have been (or better said: should be) a key behavior in your organization. If communication doesn’t have a strong foundation amongst your leadership team and your general population, well union organizers posting up in your parking lot shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.
For all intents and purposes; what should you do when you become aware of an organization campaign starting to form? First things first, consult with your legal team or hire legal experts to help kick-start your anti-unionization efforts. If your budget doesn’t allow for a legal team of experts, then your first step should be to understand who you are up against. Research the labor organization that is trying to organize your employees. In order for you to have a strong strategy to oppose the labor organization you must understand their strategy. Remember a good offense is a strong defense (pardon the cheesy sports reference…but it fits).
The next best course of action in most cases is to get in front of the situation and attempt to steer it towards a more favorable course for the employer. The best time to do so is during the organizing campaign. During this time, it becomes critical for the employer to take all the steps legally available to influence their employees toward a more anti-union approach. During the early onset of the campaign, it may behoove the employer to take a more subtle approach perhaps using an emotional call to action against unionization to establish a rapport with its employee population.
Once your have started your anti-unionization efforts, you will want to ensure that your leadership and management teams are aware of what they can and cannot say to employees during this time. Bringing your leadership team up to speed with this knowledge is an essential piece of your strategy. Another aspect why bringing your frontline managers up to speed is important; is because those managers will be the ones that will have the most exposure to the employees being courted and will be an essential venue of communication for your organization.
However, as times comes closer to the election day, the best course of action will be to take a more direct approach and advise employee’s of the gravity of their choices. Management has the right to highlight the protections afforded to the employer under the NLRA while at same time highlighting very real possibilities for employees who join a union. Yet, it remains critical for the employer to ensure that it does not engage in any prohibited activity during the campaign process such as: threatening retaliation, interrogating employees over union activities, making promises of increased wages or benefits, or engaging in surveillance activities. It is imperative that the organization refrain from committing any ULP’s during this time.
As labor organizations continue to see declining memberships, they will continue to step up their organizing efforts, and that means catching the ears of your employees. In conclusion, the best time to work on your anti-unionization campaign isn’t when you see organizers in your parking lot, it starts much before that; it starts with communicating with your employees, it starts by investing in their development, it starts by doing right by them from the get go.
Categories: Labor Relations