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. 

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

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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.

Promises

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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Creating a Pro-active Labor Relations Environment - Part Sixteen in a Series: Consequences of Employee Frustration and Dissatisfaction

Left unresolved, employee frustration often leads to unionization. Employee discontent, including a perceived need for protection from the caprice of management and for a voice which can effectively advocate the employee’s point of view are the issues on which the 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.

expert labor relations advice