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I understand that your first thought may be that this article has nothing to do with your business and you can skip it.
Please read before you disregard. Your employees will soon receive a union message! You have a short amount of time to decide if that message comes from your organization or if you will wait and your employees will learn all they need to know about unions from the Federal Task Force, whose very existence is to encourage unionizing.
I understand the desire to avoid the topic of unions as in my thirty years of working as an Employer Advocate, I’ve skimmed over union articles, and barely skimmed at that. Unions have never been a real issue for most Florida employers, unless you are Disney or a public service entity/municipality. Yes, we must work within the regulations and rules around Section 7 rights (protected concerted activity) of the National Labor Relations Act, but unions have never been a concern. Nationally, there has been a steady decline in union activity as the rights of employees have continued to expand. What is the threat now? Why does it matter to you?
Biden vowed to be “the most pro-union president you’ve ever seen” and he appears to be living up to that promise. His first order of business, day one in office, was to fire (and replace) the sitting General Counsel of the NLRB, even though his term was set to expire November 2021. This is the first time in history a President has fired the sitting General Counsel!
Biden nominated Marty Walsh to be our Secretary of Labor. Mr. Walsh has been confirmed by the Senate and is now the first union member in nearly 50 years to run the Department of Labor.
Biden’s most recent act to abide by the union promise was an Executive Order to create a task force to encourage worker organizing and collective bargaining.
VP Harris has been tapped to chair the Federal Task Force. The task force has no more than 180 days from the Executive Order to submit recommendations for actions to promote worker organizing and to increase union density.
Most business owners and HR professionals have no history in dealing with a partial workforce rebellion. This could happen in individual companies or it could be a wider industry movement in a city or region. Again, most of us have no history in dealing with unions or collective bargaining, so where do you start? What are you supposed to do and how?
You may wish to start with training your managers. They typically have the pulse of your employees and will be the first to know if organizing starts and will likely be the ones your employees go to with questions. Mostly importantly, they need to know how to report, monitor and legally respond to employees. A manager saying “They will shut this company down, before allowing a union in” is not an appropriate response and could cause you much bigger legal problems.
Next, you will want to talk with your employees. In our current environment, they need to be communicated with regularly, regardless of union activity. It seems, we have spent most of the past year with social media, news outlets and the government focused on dividing the country and our citizens. We’ve been divided by our race, gender, religion, political party, mask and/or COVID vaccine status, views on Second Amendment rights, sexual preference, or how you identify. The media has provided you with a multitude of options to cause division in your community. Wouldn’t it be nice if employees didn’t have to endure division at their place of employment?
Communicating with employees to remind them that they do not need an intermediary to speak with their manager or the company owner is a must! You want to stress that you have good open communication between managers and employees. Remind employees that you offer competitive wages and benefits. If any of this is not true, now is the time to fix it as it will be good for your company as a whole, even if the taskforce doesn’t target your industry. Union organizers will use any real (or imagined) crack in your company’s framework to convince employees of how much better they would be with a union on their side.
You may also consider modernizing your policies in regard to your position on unions, while stressing your company’s open door policy as well as a no solicitation policy.
Remember your people are the reason your company exists, and they need to be reminded and shown that they are valued and appreciated.
Being proactive now is one of the keys to your success when it comes to preventing a union from walking through your front door.Let us know if you would like any help with implementing a Union Avoidance management training program. With AAG on your side, we will help to ensure your team is prepared to answer employee questions.