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Union Avoidance

What to Do When the Union Knocks on Your Door

Even with the most enlightened personnel policies, you will face problems when a union representative knocks on your door.  Undoubtedly, you’ll be on the defensive, at a loss, or simply not know what to do.  In that compromised positionyou may be forced into doing or saying something that will help the union.  While every specific situation will call for action, depending on the particular circumstances, there are a number of typical problems that arise in nearly every time a union comes knocking.

You represent the company to all the employees under you.  They will take your statements as the views of the company and the company may be responsible for your conduct, whether or not it’s been authorized.  While the company maintains a union free philosophy, it is important that you do not engage in any activity that could be considered an interference in the employees right to freely choose or reject the union.

Union organizers often attempt to have managers interfere in their unionizing activity in the attempt to get the company to commit an unfair labor practice.  The hope is that the National Labor Relations Board will step in on behalf of the Unionand make them appear to be the “hero”, arriving to protect employees rights to freely choose or reject the Union.

You should remember that unions attempt to appeal to employees at all levels, not just those with low wages.  High wages and good benefits are not enough to stop the Union from attempting to organize.  Most often, unions attempt to organize employees who are dissatisfied with the way they are being treated by the company.  More often than not, trouble arises when employees feel they are not being treated fairly or with respect.

The most basic rule of conduct in order to avoid a union organizing attempt is to maintain normal day-to-day operations and relations with your employees.  You should never use threatening or intimidating tactics or otherwise deviate from company rules.  Rather, you should attempt at all times to engage your employees in a meaningful dialogue about the workplace.  It is not simply “fluff” when we say that our employees are our most valuable assets—you should be seeking their advice and always welcome their recommendations.  Listening, as always, is one of your most valuable skills.  Effective use of this skill will not only make the company more productive, but assist us in remaining union free.

The following questions and answers provide a broad outline of the rules applicable during a union’s organizing attempt.  They are general guidelines and, therefore, you should view them as such.  Do not rely on these guidelines to provide specific answers to specific questions that you might face.  Instead, always seek guidance from the Human Resource Director in order to address any particular issue involving a union or an organizing campaign.

Do you have to talk to a union representative

No!  Only when the union has been duly authorized to act as the employees’ representative is the company required to bargain with the union.  Unless and until that happens, you should not speak with the union representative about any matters whatsoever dealing with the company or your employees.

What should you do if the union representative contact you

The first thing you should do is advise the union representative that he will have to refer any questions to the Human Resources Department.  You should then immediately contact upper management or the Human Resources Department and let them know that a union representative has contacted you.  You should also asked the union representative to leave the premises immediately.  If they fail or refuse to do so, contact security and apprise them of the situation.

In the event the union representative is particularly aggressive, take the representative to a private area and ask another company supervisor to join you.  Make sure to get the name of the representative and the union with which he is affiliated.  Ask him or her for a business card.

If the union representative says that he represents the majority of your employees, tell him that you do not believe it.  If the representative attempts to hand you what he calls “authorization cards”, do not accept them!  If the representative asks you to validate or otherwise check the cards, do not do it!

Do not let the representative leave the card with you or anywhere in your office.  If he does so, collect the cards, insert them into an envelope and mail them back to the union.  You should do this in the presence of your witness.

Are you required to give the union information about your employees

Union representatives often ask for a list of names and addresses of employees.  They may also ask for pay and benefit information as well.  You are not required to and should not provide this information to the union representative.  the company is only required to provide such information if and when the union becomes a designated bargaining agent for the employees.

Can you keep the union representative off the company’s property

Company policy limits access to its property to customers, vendors and employees.  Trespassers are not permitted on company property and will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.  Union representatives are not authorized to conduct business on company property and should be told to leave immediately.  If a trespasser refuses to leave company property, please contact security immediately apprise them of the situation.  Please also notify the Human Resources Department anytime a union representative is on company property, whether or not they agree to leave when told to do so.  Please remember that you should accompany the union representative as he or she exits the property.

What can you say to your employees

You and other supervisors, as representatives of the company, are free to express the company’s position and make comments regarding unions in general, so long as you do not threaten or punish employees with regard to any union activity or membership.  Likewise, you were not allowed to reward or promise employees any benefits to refrain from joining or supporting the union.  Finally, you should not interrogate any employee about their union activity, nor should you pull them about their union believes.

A simple acronym that you can remember regarding your interaction with employees is T.I.P.S.  “T” stands for threaten: you should not threaten employees regarding their union activity or membership.  “I” stands for interrogate: you should not interrogate employees about their union activity or membership.  “P” stands for punish: you should not punish employees with regard to their union activities or membership.  “S” stands for surveillance: you should not spy on employees with regard to their union activity or membership.

May you discipline an employee for engaging in union activity

You may discipline in employee if they are violating a company rule.  Accordingly, you may not discipline in employee for engaging in union related activity on his own time or when those activities are conducted off the company’s property.  Likewise, you cannot discipline in employee who was speaking to another employee about the union if both employees are off duty at the time, even if they are on the company’s property.

Any employee who engages in union activities during their working hours on the company’s property may be disciplined—because they are violating the company’s policies with respect to outside activities while on company time.  this prohibition applies to employees who pass out union literature on the company’s property to other employees while they are working.

It is important to remember that company policies regarding working time must be applied consistently.  Thus, it is not relevant that employees are engaging in union activity while on company time; rather, what is important is that the employees are not working when they are supposed to be working.  If you find an employee not working when they are supposed to be working, they should be disciplined in a manner consistent with the company’s policies.

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