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Employers Beware: A New Push for Unionization

With the appointment of Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board, unions are likely to attempt to gain power and make labor organizing easier.

March 2011
(page 2 of 2)
Free Choice Act Failure
The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) would have allowed unions to organize employees by merely obtaining "authorization cards" from a majority of a company's workers with no secret ballot election. Although the House of Representatives passed EFCA, the Democratic Senate offered some compromises due to stiff opposition. These called for "quickie" elections to be held within five to 10 days after filing a petition.

Businesses objected strongly. They said quick elections would prevent them from presenting their cases to employees. They wanted the opportunity to notify employees of the high cost of negotiating labor contracts, restrictive work rules that result in wasteful practices, and the rigid union contracts that block timely reactions to changing market conditions. These factors hurt all employers - and the job security of their employees.

Since Becker's appointment, the NLRB has become more pro-union. The NLRB is currently:
• Revisiting the 2007 Dana case, which requires a secret ballot election if employees petition for it, even if their employers have agreed to card-check unionization without a vote. Overturning decisions like Dana makes union organizers' jobs easier.
• Proposing that employers be required to post one-sided notices informing employees of their right to unionize. Failing to post notices will count against employers in any subsequent proceedings before the NLRB.
• Considering permitting union organizers to campaign on employer property.
• Allowing unions to continue "salting" the companies in which they wish to organize with disruptive new hires, then filing unfair labor charges when the disruptive workers are fired.
• Considering how to speed up elections and whether the law requires secret ballot elections - in short, card-check unionization.

Ask Area Development

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Avoid Problems and Expenses
Most executives understand that treating employees so they don't want to unionize is the best way to avoid these hassles. They know that money is not the real reason their workers seek unionization. Rather, employees want unions because they say they are not being treated fairly, openly, and honestly, without partiality or favoritism.

Some executives are shocked when they receive an NLRB letter stating that a union has filed an election petition for their workers. These executives have misread employee attitudes because they have not taken the time to obtain an expert assessment of their plant floor sentiments.

To avoid such unpleasant surprises, first test the temperature on the plant floor. This cannot be done simply with a paper-and-pencil audit. Those surveys rarely uncover the nuances of employees' thoughts.

The best way to understand employee attitudes is through face-to-face interviews with expert, outside interviewers. Workers will speak more openly to an outsider than to management for fear of retribution. And the ability to discern what employees really mean by what they say is critical and requires the experience and knowledge of an industry's practices.

Next, eliminate irritants to employee morale. This often requires supervisory training tailored to the problems of a particular company. Canned training purchased online is inexpensive, but typically ineffective.

The Great Recession has affected nearly every business across the world. Since consumers remain hesitant to spend, only the most efficient companies with the best employee morale, productivity, and lowest costs will survive.

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