Additional Long-Range Preventive Policies - Part One in a Series: Employer Credibility

Employee discontent with wages and benefits, the desire for job security, and a perceived need for protection from the caprice of management and for a voice which can effectively advocate the employees’ point of view are the issues on which a union organizer focuses.  However, when employees are convinced that management accords them a fair deal, these union appeals are both unnecessary and ineffective.  Nothing frustrates and eliminates union organization efforts more effectively than employee contentment.  In such situations, the need for unions simply does not exist.  

An employer who establishes and maintains credibility with its employees will successfully preserve its non-union status.  In order to do this, an employer, among other things, must first have a disciplinary system which is administered in a fair and uniform manner.  Work rules should be easy to understand and should either be posted in a place where employees often congregate and/or be publicized in some other fashion to insure that all employees know the rules.  Disciplinary action should be corrective, rather than punitive.  When a rule is reasonably and fairly imposed, the employee who has knowingly violated the rule is less likely to protest or feel resentment.  This is particularly true when employees can participate with management in developing and defining the disciplinary rules.  I suggest at a minimum that management form employee Continuous Improvement Teams (CITs) to involve employees in suggesting to and/or formulating with management in the development of rules.

All levels of management should avoid appearing to favor some employees over others.  Once employees feel, with or without cause, that management does not treat everyone equally, the quality of work non-favorites perform can decline significantly.  Unionization will seem the only means of eliminating favoritism.  

Another element necessary to establish credibility is an adequate wage and benefit package.  The employer should investigate area standards - wages and benefits offered at comparable area plants/businesses.  An employer should compare its wage and benefits package with the area standards.  If it lags seriously behind, there is a strong likelihood for labor discontent.  Often, the best means of quelling dissatisfaction, is to inform employees of the company’s true financial state.  For example, one union organizer blatantly misrepresented a company’s financial status.  He claimed the company earned 13% on sales, with net profits in the millions, when the actual figures were 3%, or about $250,000.  The employees voted to organize.  A consistent policy of communication between management and its employees will usually quell rumors and instill trust among all levels of personnel.  

As mentioned above, a strategy I often recommend is to utilize CITs with regard to having employees along with management investigate the area standards.  Once these standards are obtained, management can hold meetings to explain the standards and how they compare with the company’s economic health both presently and as projected in the future.  Regular communications of this type and by having effective employee involvement in matters critical to employees, will significantly and positively improve credibility.

While this blog dealt with union organizational matters for non-union employers, I suggest strongly that they are applicable to unionized employers as well.  Whether one is a union or non-union employer, building credibility/trust and maintaining it is a key to being successful.

In addition to the ideas discussed above, creating a pro-active work environment should also include the components to be discussed in upcoming blogs as part of a comprehensive strategy. 

expert labor relations advice