Leadership Communication Key to Stopping Manufacturing Unionization

SHRM (Society of Human Resource Management) reports that almost all employers are eligible for union organization—there is no minimum size or type of industry required for a union to represent employees. However, there are strategies employers can use to minimize the likelihood that a union would be accepted by employees. Employees join unions because of their dissatisfaction with how management treats employees and a belief that the union can make conditions in the workplace better. While pay and benefits are often hot topics in union organizing tactics, employees are most influenced to join a union when the company is perceived to be unfair, unresponsive or offering substandard working conditions to employees.

Employers that minimize employee dissatisfaction can also minimize employees’ desire for union representation. SHRM suggests strategies that help discourage union acceptance are fair and consistent policies and practices; open door management policies. Of course competitive pay and benefits must be part of the conversation along with employee trust and recognition.

A workplace that fosters good relationships between management and employees and addresses employee concerns is much less likely to force employees to union representation for assistance.

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) is the nation’s leading small-business advocacy association, with offices in Washington, D.C., and all 50 state capitals. NFIB’s powerful network of grassroots activists send their views directly to state and federal lawmakers through unique member-only ballot, thus playing a critical role in supporting America’s free enterprise system.

Dan Danner, NFIB President and CEO, suggested to manufacturing members with membership on the decline for decades, unions are scrambling to boost their numbers any way they can. More than ever before, unions are targeting small and independent businesses. Expedited election regulations, mandatory paid time off and expansion of the Family Medical Leave Act are big ticket items with which they hope to turn the tide back in their favor. NFIB believes manufacturers should be free to offer the policies and benefit plans that best suits each business and employee; they reject that one-size-fits-all employment policies work for small businesses.

Once a union organizing drive has begun, employers are not expected to sit idle as union representatives try to convince employees to support the union and eventually vote for representation in a secret election. Employers are given broad “free speech” rights under the law to express their views or opinions regarding the union and unionization in general. Thus, the law does not prevent employers from informing their employees of the reasons why a union is not necessary. Employers or their representatives may actively campaign against the union organization by providing factual statements or opinions to employees, including reasonable forecasts of the possible outcomes of collective bargaining.

Reviewing Working Conditions, Salaries, and Benefits

NFIB urged employers to explain that the bargaining process could result in no changes, increases, or even decreases of current salaries and benefits. In short, collective bargaining is a two-way street; it can go up, stay the same, and it can go down. Employers can discuss the company’s prior history of paying good wages, offering generous benefits, and providing excellent and safe working conditions to employees without needing a union to tell it to do so. Employers can explain to employees that the union cannot guarantee that they will have higher salaries, more benefits, or other improvements in working conditions. Unions might make this and other promises, but they cannot keep them.

Employers can tell employees that during a union drive the company is not permitted to alter any wages or benefits for any represented employee. All wage or benefit increases are frozen unless they were arranged prior to the union’s appearance.

Dickmeyer’s PDP Solutions are the cornerstone of manufacturers’ communication strategy. Leadership and management must be communicating consistently, frequently, on the plant floor and building cultures of teamwork, company loyalty to employees, and employee loyalty to the company. Union or not, the need for effective communication is not an option. This is an urgent pain point for any manufacturing business, especially those where unionization is on the table in 2015.


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