Creating a Pro-active Labor Relations Environment - Part Twenty in a Series: Realistic Expectations About What a Union Can Give


There are many misconceptions about what a union can realistically provide.  Educating a workforce about these matters is a critical part of a pro-active labor relations plan.  Some of what a union can or will do are set forth below.


No union can obtain for employees anything management is not able or willing to give.  The company is not required to automatically sign a contract or agree to any benefits that are not in its best economic interests.

Possible decreases in benefits

The company is not required to continue its present wage and benefits if a union gets in.  Whatever wages and benefits the employees receive after the union gets in must be negotiated with the union.  The wages and benefits employees receive after the union gets in could be more than they now receive, or they could get LESS.

Employees likewise need to be educated about their rights as protected by federal law.  Some of these rights are:

[] Employees do not have to accept literature or home visits from any union representative.

[] Unions cannot threaten, coerce, or intimidate employees to join the union .

  • Representatives of a union may not threaten  an employee with job loss if  s/he refuses to sign a card.  They may not imply that an employee will be sorry if s/he does not immediately join the union.

[] Management cannot threaten, coerce, or intimidate employees as a result of union activities.

  • Employees are free to join or not join any organization without fear of reprisal from the company.

Further employee education should include what an employee needs to know about a union:

Authorization Cards

Employees should know that under certain conditions the National Labor Relations Board has ordered employers to bargain with unions without an election, solely on the basis of a sufficient number of signed authorization cards.  Thus, employees should think carefully before signing an authorization card or they might unknowingly “vote” in a union.

On the other hand, if employees have already signed a card and there is an election, they can still choose to vote against the union during that election.

Accurate information

Employees should always be told if there are any untrue or misleading statements made by an organizer, made in a handbill, or made in any other form of union communication.  Supervisors have a responsibility to provide employees with the correct facts and with an accurate picture of how unions operate.

An employer also needs to explain to its employees/associates why unions are not needed today the way they were in the past.  By and large the abuses unions were originally established to rectify are gone.  The improvements in working conditions fought for by unions have now become the law of the land, e.g.: minimum wages; safety and health regulations; equal opportunity employment; payments for overtime; provisions for unemployment insurance; and worker’s compensation.

A majority of companies today are run by informed and enlightened management who view labor as a valuable resource rather than a mere commodity.

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.


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