What is the best way to guarantee your company will win a Union Election? Never have one.
You and your supervisors need to know and be able to recognize the early warning signs of Union activity. Your company should also have a strategy in place and be prepared to legally stop employees from signing union authorization cards before the union is able to gather the 30% support it needs to file a petition for an election.
Here are three important early warning signs to watch for:
Suddenly, employees who rarely interact are huddled together having an intent discussion in the breakroom or parking lot. This is one of the most obvious early warning signs as their new found common interest is usually the union. It becomes even more obvious, if they become quiet or disperse when a supervisor approaches. Additionally, supervisors may notice that employees who are usually friendly to them talk much less frequently. This could be because the union instructed them to be quiet or because they are involved with the union and feel guilty or embarrassed around supervisors.
Unions need information about your company and employee's jobs to identify issues that they can build a campaign around. Internal company union organizers will ask about wage schedules, vacation benefits, costs of medical insurance, etc. Most employees are actually ill-informed about the specifics of these things and will most likely go to management and ask for copies of employee handbooks or written policies to give the union the vital information it needs about your company. Additionally, unions will "cherry pick" their best contracts and selectively compare and contrast your employees' wages and benefits with unionized competitors. When this happens, it is likely supervisors will begin hearing questions such as, "Why are we capped at 3 personal days per year?" or "Can't the company afford to provide more PTO time?"
Because unions promise to provide an ideal workplace with limited tasks and narrowly defined duties, it is common to see employees begin to question job assignments and supervisory authority. This is a reaction to the union emphasizing this issue when talking to employees and developing a sense of dissatisfaction with the current status of job descriptions. Many times supervisors are surprised when a direct challenge comes from someone who has never been a problem employee before. It is likely that the union has designated them a leader for the internal union organizing campaign and given them responsibilities to gather information and strongly encourage them to actually get other employees to sign union authorization cards. This new "leader" may feel an increased need to exert their authority in the workplace to prove their worthiness for the position.
It is imperative that supervisors receive the proper training to spot these and other early warnings signs and report them to executive management immediately. If your company does not recognize and react quickly, it may be too late and you could be faced with a union petition filed with the National Labor Relations Board.
For a complimentary consultation regarding our union prevention and awareness training series, contact Labor Relations Services Inc. at firstname.lastname@example.org, or toll free at 1-877-892-1962.