Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Union membership is on the rise in Ohio; is your business ready?

Union membership numbers for 2018 are out, and while most employers should be encouraged, Ohio employers might think otherwise.

In Ohio, the percentage of workers belonging to unions is at 12.6 percent, up 0.1 percent from 2017. Nationally, union membership sits at 10.5 percent, down ever so slightly from 2017. In other words, Ohio’s union representation is both greater than, and growing faster than, the national average.

Thus, in Ohio, employers must deal with the reality that union membership is up and outpaces the national average. And, with President Trump’s more business friendly NLRB continuing to roll back the legal advantages unions earned during the Obama era, we should expect unions to remain active and aggressive.

Is your business prepared for a union organizing campaign? The time to prepare is now. Once a union knocks on your business’s door, it is too late to start. Management's efforts to combat a labor union should start on the first day each employee walks in your door, with what your policies say about your philosophy of employee relations, and how you treat your employees day-to-day.

I have long advocated that employers adopt the TEAM approach to union avoidance.

          Train supervisors
          Educate employees
          Affirm the open door
          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. Affirm the open door. 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. No time is better than now to take a hard look at current policies. Do you have 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.

It is essential that employers address these issues proactively before a union talks to even one of your employees. Otherwise, it will likely be too late to mount a meaningful resistance.