Dealing with union organizing efforts
How to handle the potential unionization of your workforce. November 7, 2000
I am anticipating being targeted by the local carpenters union. They are attempting to organize my labor force to unionize. Please advise.
Run to a labor attorney--do not take any action to discourage it until you talk to the attorney. You don't have a lot of rights in the discouragement process. Is this the shop or field personnel?
DON'T DO ANYTHING till you talk to an attorney. Also be sure to post "no trespassing" signs on your property. Otherwise there is nothing to stop them from posting hand bills on your employees' cars. If you can have your employees park in an inaccessible area they won't be able to get plate numbers. All of our employees recieved letters in the mail. This included our secretary's husband (car registered in his name). Be careful.
There is a shop I know with about 80 employees. When they unionized, they actually saved the shop about 400,000 a year as some of the benefits they had been getting weren't in the contract. Needless to say, now the employees are unhappy that they lost ground.
They have been hitting on us here in Indiana, too. The union rep has been by twice in the last couple of weeks. You know what this guy said? That the non-union GCs are ripping their carpenters off because they are charging something around $35 or $40 per hour and only paying their carpenters $18 or $20.
Contact your attorney. If he/she doesn't know much about labor law, find one who does. As mentioned, angels fear to tread here. Do not do anything to prohibit meetings, etc. off site. On-site is another matter. Post "No Trespassing" signs, also "No Solicitations Allowed" signs. This does give you some legal grounds.
If you do not have a section in your manual about unions and unionization, this may be a good time to review, and have the labor attorney write one.
If the shop goes union and you're required to pay union wages and benefits, some employees will have to go. This point could be brought out quietly as a simple economic fact. I'm not specifically anti-union, but sometimes they just cut off their nose to spite their face.
Another helpful tip is to classify as many key personnel as "management" as you can. Small raises to keep on doing the same job they're doing now will suffice. To my knowledge, management can not be unionized. In agreement with the others, "get an attorney".
The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).
Comment from contributor M:
Given the right situation, the Union and Management can have a very beneficial symbiotic relationship. If the employer has a little more concern for the employees and their families than their own pocket book, then the Union can help them in many ways to increase their profit. So many are stuck in the "unionization is taboo" mode that they don't have any discussions with an open mind, and things don't have to get messy. The Union only hears the message from the employees because in many cases the boss is too scared to talk to the union.