Sunday, December 09, 2007

When a union comes knocking - part 2

Having already said that Unions are not necessarily all good or all bad, I am going to continue this topic on the premise that you do not feel that a Union is in the best interests of your company (if that's not the case for you, please tune out now)

There are so many things you can do when a Union tries to organize your workforce that we cannot explore them all - so I want to focus on a list of Do's and Dont's to help you understand what might work best for your company.

DO:
  • Openly acknowledge the presence of Union Organizers with your staff - both those the Union is trying to organize, and everyone else as well. They won't make their presence a secret and you will only look silly if you try to pretend they are not making a play.
  • Provide an open and retaliation free forum for employees to discuss their feelings and ask questions of management relating to the Union.
  • Be honest! Even if it hurts. If you have a track record of not being good (define that as you will) to your employees, own up to it. Acknowledge management mistakes and any sore issues that may be leveraged by the Union to sway the vote.
  • Hold open forum meetings on company time for ALL employees (not just those being approached by the Union) to explain pertinent information about both your business and the Union. Tell your people the facts about your business. Tell your people the facts about the Union. Most Unions will tell your people about how much your top Execs make (because it's normally on your official filings and is easy to find on the web), but the wont tell your people how much their leaders make! You can find out loads about any Union on sites like UnionFacts.
  • Make sure that your people understand that Unions can PROMISE anything, but that they can GUARANTEE nothing! If you want to get your employees to see how the Union really operates, suggest that your employees ask the union to guarantee the results they promise. Trust me, they wont!
  • Have your people ask what the employees who started the campaign are getting for supporting the union. Usually, the ring-leaders of a union campaign are granted special perks like union office or super-seniority (a guarantee that they will be the last union members laid off). Just like in any good spy movie, if you want to know what really motivates people, follow the money!
  • Get outside employment law advice to ensure you don't violate any laws!
DON'T:
  • Make threats of any kind, to anyone. Saying something like"If the union gets in, we'll have to lay some folks off" is a sure-fire way to ensure that the union will indeed get in!
  • Intimidate - don't make people feel pressured or frightened about how they will vote. Let them make up their own mind based on the facts alone.
  • Make promises. The union will sell that as you trying to buy the employees off cheap.
  • Spy on the union organization efforts. Your people have a right to meet privately with the union and go through whatever process they need to do come to the best decision for them. Spying on the organizing activity will erode all trust between you and your folks, and once that is gone, a union will be the only logical next step for them.
Finally, no matter how the campaign turns out, remember that you only have to do what is right for your people AND the business.

A good, quick primer on how to keep Unions from getting their foot in the door in the first place. Most of this is just common sense, but we know how uncommon that can be.

I'd love to hear your war stories on this - comments anyone??

Here's to a wonderful 2008!!!

2 comments:

Dan McCarthy said...

Patrick -
I’ve recently started a blog on leadership and leadership development called “Great Leadership”: http://greatleadershipbydan.blogspot.com/.
I’ve been a practitioner in the field of leadership development for over 20 years. I’m currently the Manager of Leadership and Management Development at a Fortune 500 company (and a “Best Place to Work” winner).
I just wrote a post as a tribute to HR bloggers and included your site on my list. Stop by and check it out.

Dan

Ankur said...

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