Thursday, November 29, 2007

What to do when a Union comes knocking at your door - Part 1

What to do when a Union Comes knocking - Part 1: Employee beware

In the spirit of my good pal, the Evil HR Lady, I am writing this post in response to questions I've been getting about Unions approaching employees in union-free companies.

Let's start out with a few very basic facts here; Unions can and often do serve a valuable role. Historically, Unions have helped shape the current state of the employment landscape. They have played a key role in the development of many important labor-friendly laws that have eliminated workplace hazards, provided excellent benefits and generally made the world a nicer place to work in.

Even though all of the above is true Unions are not perfect either. Unions survive on the dues that they extract from their members and some have a pretty bad reputation for not being good stewards of those funds. Further, some Unions have a great track record of forcing their way into companies where employees dont really want them through scare tactics and outright threats.

The first thing YOU need to do as an employee or manager is GET THE FACTS before you sign anything. Unions will almost invariably try to get you to sign a card, form or petition saying you want them to represent you. What most people miss out on here is the fact that electing a Union means that you are effectively making them your agent; you are turning over your power to negotiate your terms of employment to them. This is like signing a power of attorney. Imagine if some lawyer confronted you in the parking lot of your company and said "Hey, sign this form and I will get you a better deal" - would you sign it, just like that? Well, that's what the union is asking for when they come to organize.

The first time somebody swindled you out of your peanut butter and jelly sandwich for tuna fish on rye in third grade, you learned two valuable lessons - First, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And second, the grass is NOT greener on the other side (although that tuna fish probably was - yeech!) - That lesson will serve you well when a union comes to town.


HR Wench said...

Great post! I'm looking forward to part 2. :)

Scott said...

I think this is an increasingly important issue for organisations. I have seen a number of TUs act like teenagers in the face of hard facts, business need and employee benefit. Whilst I am not for a second claiming that all employers are fantastic, wouldn't it be a great boost for the economy if we could have TUs that did what they were supposed to do! Next in line are the lawyers! said...

Just saw your blog and added you to the EmployerReport blog link list. We write almost exclusively about unions and labor relations issues.

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