Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Do you know? Adopt the TEAM approach to fight unions

Whether the EFCA will become law, and in what form, is very much up in the air. Democratic support for the measuring is waning, and business organizations have united in an unprecedented level of opposition. There is no doubt that if card-check becomes law, labor unions will have a much easier time becoming certified in workplaces. Yet, it is unclear whether unions even need the EFCA. In 2007, unions won 60.1% of elections, compared to a mere 51.5% in 1997. In the first half of 2008, the number of elections won by unions increased to 66.8%.

Because unions have become increasingly aggressive, even without the EFCA, I recommend that employers adopt the T.E.A.M. approach to union avoidance:

Train supervisors
Educate employees
Modernize policies

1. Train Supervisors. If a union is organizing, supervisors are likely to be the first people to know. They will also be the people that rank-and-file employees will come to with questions or concerns. Thus, supervisors need to know how to report, monitor, and legally respond to union activity.

2. Educate Employees. Employees should not be told that the company is anti-union, but why it is anti-union – competitive wages and benefits; positive communication between management and employees; history of peaceful employee/management relations; management’s openness to listen to employees and handle their concerns without an intermediary; and an unwillingness to permit a third-party to tell the company and employees how to do their jobs.

3. Accessibility. Management should routinely round its employees to learn what is happening and what they are thinking. Management should walk the floor on a daily basis. It should also hold regular meetings with employees, whether in small sessions with HR or large town hall-style meeting.

4. Modernize Policies. In an ideal world, employee handbooks and other corporate policies should be reviewed and updated annually. I’ve yet to come across a company that does so this frequently. The threat of the EFCA is a perfect excuse to take a good, hard look at current policies. Do you have a written statement on unionization? An open door policy? An issue resolution procedure? Peer review? An employee bulletin board? An electronic communications policy? Most importantly, do you have a no solicitation policy? It is the single most important policy to help fight labor unions.
No program is foolproof. No matter what steps are taken, no matter the quality of employee relations, every company is at risk for a union organizing campaign. Businesses should strive to be an employer of choice for employees, and not an employer of opportunity for labor unions.