Be Prepared: What to Do When Your Non-Union Organization is Facing Union Activity

Practical advise on facing a unionizing drive. Based on Canadian jurisdiction but many of the principles are universal.
BE PREPARED: WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR NON-UNION ORGANIZATION IS FACING UNION ACTIVITY

A Fairy Tale Beginning

In the beginning, capitalism was a new toy and those who had the wealth developed the golden rule: "He who has the gold, makes the rule." Most countries that were enjoying the ''benefits'' of the new industrial revolution passed legislation that called managers ''masters'' and employees ''servants''.

Capitalism works on the principle of ''more is better'' and ''more now is better than more later.'' Consequently, the masters grew powerful while the servants became subservient. With no clearly written rules on how to play the master-servant game, the masters (because they had the resources) continued to have a good winning streak.

Eventually all the people in the land came to realize that servants were working 16-18 hours per day, 6 days per week; children as young as 7 were working in factories and mines; and safety regulations did not exist. While mine cave-ins and factory fires killed hundreds of servants, no master was ever held accountable. Unable to persuade their governments to act on their concerns, the servants bonded together to form unions. (In some countries, like England, guilds revised their mandate and became unions.) A union was a pressure group that tried to influence the masters to create safety rules, a fair wage program and reasonable hours of work practices, etc. They wanted to take the subservient out of servant.

At the outset, unions were not very effective. They were new and did not know how to deal with the powerful masters. Violence frequently broke out in the workplace or on the picket line. With people getting hurt and sometimes killed, the government could not ignore these incidents. This prompted public inquiries, coroners'' inquiries and so on. Concurrently, unions began to realize that they had to: 1) become involved in the political process (elect people to parliament) and 2) withhold the labor of their members (the servants) in order to attract the attention of the masters.

In time, this situation became clearer. Governments agreed that unions were an expression of ''free association'' and servants were in fact citizens and had the right to withhold their services if they felt they were being unfairly treated. Unions gained the right to represent their members in discussions with employers regarding wages, benefits, workers'' compensation (including safety), and cases of discipline or discharge.

To encourage order and consistency, governments passed legislation to deal with the relationships between employers, employees and unions. In Canada, labor legislation is a provincial matter; hence there are 11 Labor Acts (including federally charter organizations). Both the US and the UK have one national Labor or Industrial Relations Act.

Protected by Labor law, English Common Law, and Charter Rights, unions began to grow in power, influence and size. And, not surprising, they became like other large organizations--bureaucratic and insular. The need to protect the union''s self interests became as important or more important than the need to protect the rights of any one union member. Unions didn''t always speak for the interests of their members as much as they did for the interests of the union and its executives (who, in the old days, were called ''masters'').

From the beginning, unions needed to fight for the right to be recognized as a viable institution. This need to fight would appear to be part of their culture. Collaboration, partnership and harmony are not words frequently used to describe union behavior. Nor do these words describe management behavior. Today, even with all the efforts to create industrial peace and workplace harmony, unions consistently take an adversarial role. The more they can get for their members the better, regardless of the consequences. And the consequences could be strikes, lock outs or facility closures. In no way could these be described as win-win situations.

And, while all the games are being played by unions and employers, employees are getting smarter. The bright ones, who understand ''self-responsibility'', are asking themselves, ''Why should I pay union dues when I can talk to my manager more easily and effectively than the union representative?''

From Employee Dissatisfaction to a Union Organizing Campaign

Today, unions organize employees by capitalizing on management''s mis-management. But unions rarely initiate the process from outside the enterprise. Most union campaigns are initiated internally by employees who seek out a third party because of poor management practices. When supervisors effectively carry out their people-management responsibilities and realistically examine and respond to problem areas, the need for employees to seek outside assistance is eliminated.

Although compensation is certainly one issue that creates employee dissatisfaction and makes unionization of interest, it is by no means the only issue. In fact, compensation is situated low on the list of reasons why employees join unions. Employee dissatisfaction can frequently be traced to other areas, such as problems that arise when employees perceive that their supervisors are unfair or disrespectful in the manner in which they handle discipline matters, recognition, and the performance management program. The most frequent employee relations topic that gives credence to unions is the poor handling of employee concerns and complaints by a supervisor. If employees feel they cannot openly bring complaints to your attention, they may well turn to a union to provide this service for them.

If there is talk of unionization in your company, your employees will weigh the benefits of unionization against the benefits of remaining union-free. A good history of employee relations will do much to weigh the balance in favor of remaining union-free. Therefore, the best strategy for avoiding unionization is to implement a policy of Positive Employee Relations before there are any indications of union activity in your organization.

However, even if you do not have a Positive Employee Relations program in place at the outset of union activity, there is much that can be done to retain an organization''s union-free status.

Indicators of Union Activity

The first step for management to take is to heighten awareness. Initially, union activity is likely to have an internal catalyst rather than external catalyst. It is more likely to start inside the organization with a group of dissatisfied employees than outside the organization with a group of union officials standing at the company''s parking lot handing out leaflets. And it is always easier for management to successfully counter union activities earlier rather than later. So it is important to be alert to the early signs.

At the earliest stage, managers may notice a behavioral change on the part of some employees. For example, employees may avoid direct eye contact, where in the past such eye contact took place routinely. Another early warning is that information that was previously shared from employee to leader is no longer being shared as freely. Such upward communication is now significantly diminished. Similarly, people who have never had any formal or informal leadership roles within their peer group now begin to take on informal leadership roles. They become opinion-setters because they are part of the internal organizing group. (And the reverse is also true.)

This ad-hoc organization of dissatisfied employees is now ripe for union involvement. Still, the union isn''t likely to make the initial contact. Usually, one of the dissatisfied employees will contact a union representative. Often this step is taken by a dissatisfied employee whose spouse or relative is a union member at a different organization. In any case, information about unions is freely available over the Internet or through the telephone directory.

Once a union has become involved, the communication from employees takes on a decidedly different flavor. Suddenly, the language used by employees will be infused with industrial or labor relations terms. Watch for the use of terms such as the following, which historically are not used in the day-to-day communications within a union-free environment:

Employees may demand to have their "representative" present during discussions with management, even if there is no union representative. All of this signals to management that a union organizer is active behind the scenes educating people as to their union rights.

The union will likely make its presence known through the distribution of its newsletter or information sheet. This may be mailed directly to employees'' homes if an "insider" has provided the union with an employee address list. Or it may be distributed just outside the company gate.

At this point the signs will begin to escalate. Complaints that in the past would have been brought forward by a single employee now appear as a written petition from a group of employees. The union will seize the opportunity to tailor its generic newsletter to address incidents or policies that are particularly relevant to this company. For example, if there is a safety issue on Monday, it will likely appear in the union''s newsletter by Tuesday. Or if a request is made to work overtime without advance notice, the union will almost certainly make this a lead article in their next newsletter.

When potential causes of discontent are being shared with the union organizers to the degree that they appear in the union''s newsletter, you know that the lines of communication are becoming very clear. This indicates that the communications within the company through the dissatisfied employees is reaching the union immediately. You can interpret the degree of union involvement by the speed at which such information is processed and presented back to the employees via the union''s communication vehicle. It is highly organized and most effective at the later stages of the organizing campaign, indicating that the union organizers have decided to invest the time and money in the process because they have determined that they have a good chance of running a successful certification campaign. Once they are poised to respond to management or employee incidents, you can be sure that they are on side, ready to move.

In particular, management should watch for these eight common signs that a union organizing drive is underway:

1. Reluctant or diminished eye contact with employees.

2. The information freely shared by employees begins to ''dry up.''

3. Tailored union literature appears on the premises or in the parking lot.

4. Employees talk in out-of-the-way places or disperse when you approach.

5. Employees use labor relations terms normally not heard in the workplace (e.g. "unfair labor practices," "demand for recognition," etc.)

6. Complaints are made by employee delegations and/or committees rather than the usual single employee approach.

7. Unusual questions are more frequently and aggressively asked at staff/departmental meetings.

8. Strangers appear to linger on company property or in work areas

9. Union organizers visit or write employees at their home.

Union Membership Cards: What Employees Should Be Told

In an organizing campaign unions seek to have employees sign union membership cards. These may be distributed by the internal organizers or attached to promotional union literature. A signed union membership card is a legal document through which employees assert that they want a particular union to be their agent in negotiating and managing a collective agreement.

The critical language in a typical union membership card reads as follows: "I hearby authorize [name of union] to represent me and, on my behalf, to negotiate and conclude any and all agreements as to wages, benefits, hours of work and other conditions of employment."

Employees usually do not know the legal implications of signing a union membership card. They do not realize that the signing of a card binds them contractually not only to the trade union but to each and every employee who has signed a card. In addition, once a union becomes the bargaining agent, it will legally require a "union security clause" which would require all employees to pay dues to the trade union or lose their jobs. Further, once employees become union members they may be subject to extensive contractual obligations, including the paying of dues, special assessment fees and fines.

Employees should be encouraged to read "the fine print" before signing a membership application form. Specifically, they should read the union''s Constitution and the by-laws of any local union that is organizing.

Union Certification

Signed membership cards are essential to the success of a union organizing drive. While the rules establishing the certification guidelines are implemented through different government agencies (usually Labor Boards or Tribunals) in different countries, there are generally three possible ways for a union to acquire the exclusive right to represent a group of employees as their bargaining agent.

1. If the membership cards are signed by a significant majority of employees in a bargaining unit, the union can apply to the appropriate government agency for a certification hearing without having the employees cast an individual ballot in a representation vote. At that time, if the union can establish that it represents a significant majority of employees in the appropriate bargaining unit, it will receive outright certification.

2. If the membership cards are signed by less than a majority of employees in a bargaining unit, the union may apply to the government agency for a representation vote to be taken among the employees in the bargaining unit to ascertain whether or not the union has sufficient support to obtain certification. If, on the taking of a representation vote, a simple majority vote in favor of the trade union, then a certificate as exclusive bargaining agent is granted to the union.

3. If the union is able to establish in a hearing before the agency that the employer has engaged in unfair practices during the organizing campaign to such a degree that the true wishes of employees cannot be ascertained by the taking of a representation vote, a certification will be granted to the trade union.

N.B. Since the guidelines affecting certification are frequently changed by the political persuasions of the government in power, I strongly recommend that you review the labor code or Act as it pertains to your particular jurisdiction.

What the Employer Can and Can''t Do

Specific laws may be relative to your state or province. However, it is safe to say that under no circumstances should the employer apply intimidation, threats, coercion or undue influence to counter union activities. If an organization engages in any of these activities, the union will file with its local labor board a complaint of unfair labor practice. If the accusation is proven to be correct, the organization will be penalized and the penalty will range from a warning or a fine to the union gaining the right to certification without a vote.

Employees cannot be disciplined or terminated for exercising their lawful right to join a trade union and to participate in its lawful activities, including signing up other people to membership. Employees are entitled to discuss union matters or hand out union literature when they are not scheduled to work. The interpretation of non-work time includes rest periods, lunch periods, washroom breaks or before/after work. Management is generally not allowed to prohibit this activity.

Employees are entitled to hand out union literature in non-work areas during their own (non-work) time. Such areas normally include parking areas, plant entrances, hallways, washrooms and cafeterias.

However, it is reasonable to expect that while at work, your employees will spend their time working. Accordingly, if you find that employees are engaging in canvassing and union organizing on company premises during work periods, you are entitled to stop them from doing that. You should indicate to such employees that they are not authorized to engage in union activities on company premises during their work period. Engaging in union activities includes oral communication about union matters, efforts to persuade employees to sign membership cards, and discussions about unionization. Such activities are generally permitted, however, when the employee is not working--i.e., during lunch or coffee breaks. But since this point varies significantly by jurisdiction, it should be checked before any action is taken.

It is also important to let employees know that they have the legal right to be left alone. Be prepared to inform employees of their right to privacy by pointing out to them that they are:

(a) Not required to talk to organizers, attend union meetings, or listen to union canvassing of any kind. They cannot lose their jobs for refusing to do so.

(b) Not required to allow union organizers to visit their homes.

(c) Not required to give anyone their names and addresses. If they do so, they should understand that this could result in a visit or a call from an organizer in their homes.

Employees may seek your advice about the union and whether they should sign a membership card. This provides an excellent opportunity to express management''s position with regard to unions. Such employees should be told that while it is their own decision whether to sign a membership card, if you were the employee you would not do so because:

(a) By doing so employees might unknowingly forfeit their valuable right to a secret ballot election;

(b) They would be obligated to abide by lengthy union Constitutions and by-laws whose violation may result in union fines or even dismissal from the union;

(c) They now enjoy competitive wages and benefits without the union. At present, their "take-home" pay is not subject to union initiation fees, dues, fines or assessments. Also it can''t be cut off for an undetermined period by a strike or lock-out.

(d) Signing a union card would be a commitment to the union before knowing the outcome of the negotiated contract.

If employees seek your advice about how to revoke union membership cards that they have already signed, you cannot, under any circumstances, provide them with information as to how to do so. The best thing to say would be, "Under our laws, I cannot give you that advice. I suggest that you contact the labor relation board or a labor lawyer/attorney for information."

Other Steps You Can Take

You can anticipate some degree of union mis-representation and take steps to counter it. False statements such as the following frequently circulate during an organizational drive:

By understanding and exposing the fallacy of such statements, you can help every employee to make an informed decision. It would be prudent to check with Human Resources before addressing these and other false statements, to make sure that you will not be engaging in unfair labor practices.

The identification and proper handling of visitors is extremely important during a union organizing campaign. If your company already has a no-trespassing rule in place, and it has been enforced on an on-going basis, you will find it easier to enforce in the event of a union organizing campaign. Make sure that the rule is enforced without exception. It must apply to all unauthorized visitors, not just union representatives. This would include, for example, unauthorized canvassers for community charity groups.

Communicating With Your Employees

Legislation not only protects your employees'' right to organize, but it also protects their right to oppose or refrain from union activities. Management has a responsibility to communicate facts about unions that will enable employees to evaluate intelligently whether to support, oppose or refrain from union activity. However, you must be careful in how you approach this subject in order to avoid accusations of unfair labor practices.

There should be nothing ad hoc about your communications during a union organizing campaign. It should be as carefully planned as a marketing or political campaign. You can bet that the union organizers are plotting their campaign that carefully! If you''re going to send out a series of letters to employees, then those letters should be connected by theme, tone and message, and each one should build on the previous one. The message should be clearly stated and restated that anything the union can provide to the employees, the company is already providing at no cost.

Again, it is helpful if your company has set a precedent for communicating information to employees on a regular basis. Normally, when an organizing campaign is underway, an employer is limited to practices that were in place prior to the organizing campaign. Salary increases would be out of the question. The launching of an employee newsletter may or may not be allowed, but even if it were, the problem is that the union organizers would point to it as an example of the positive effect that their presence at the company gates has on management. So the wise employer would open up the channels of communication on a regular basis before there were any stirrings of union activity. And then it would be a matter of continuing the channel of communication rather than initiating it.

Similarly, many companies conduct bi-annual employee attitude or opinion surveys. A more useful precedent would be set, however, by conducting such surveys more frequently--say, every six months. Since this would result in two surveys per year rather than one every two years, in the event of union activity it will be more likely that a survey will be scheduled to take place during a union campaign. The cost needn''t be much greater than that of the bi-annual survey because it isn''t necessary to canvass the entire employee population. Divide the employees into four groups and conduct a survey for one of the groups every six months. This sampling will provide you with the information you need to keep informed as to employee opinion in your organization.

An even more proactive approach would be to link supervisory training and communication by creating a 12-month communications schedule. Decide on 12 topics (such as Positive Employee Relations, employee counseling, benefit programs, grievance procedures, etc.) and then focus on one each month. Make that topic the theme for bulletin board material, letters to the employees (mailed or included in pay envelopes), and in-house newsletters.

To involve, educate and inform, send a summary of the topic to all supervisors so that they will be prepared to talk about it with their employees. Use it as the basis for the supervisory meeting at the beginning of each month and encourage supervisors to prepare questions on the topic. At this meeting, the supervisors'' input is combined with that of management, and the resulting information is compiled in the form of a newsletter that is distributed to all employees two weeks later. This reinforces the original material and shows supervisors that their ideas are valued.

The following Training and Communication Schedule can be adapted for use in your organization.

Month Supervisory Training Topic Employee Communication Topic
(Conducted 1st Monday of the Month) (Conducted 3rd Monday of the Month)
JANUARY Maintaining our union-free environment through Positive Employee Relations Individual employee relations policies and practices
FEBRUARY Performance Appraisal Guidelines for evaluating employee performance Employee performance reviews and self-development plans
MARCH Dynamics of Face-to-Face communications Our Employees are #1 with us!
APRIL Problem solving and grievance handling Encouraging you (the employee) to air your concerns
MAY Training and Coaching: Steps to improve performance How on-the-job training ensures job knowledge and skills, and provides employees with an opportunity for advancement within the company
JUNE Conducting effective meetings and conferences Department meetings and how they benefit employees and the company
JULY Wage and Salary Administration How wage/salary scales are developed, and the current year''s salary structure
AUGUST Benefit Plans, their design and administration What the company benefit plans mean to you and your family in cases of illness, accident, retirement and disability.
SEPTEMBER Conducting employee salary/merit reviews The new salary structure and your individual salary program.

The Key Message

When faced with an active union organizing campaign, it is management''s responsibility to provide employees with the information that they require for a balanced perspective. This includes: (1) the reasons why they have not needed a union in the past, and (2) some of the consequences of signing up for a union now.

The first issue reflects your company''s history of good employee relations. You should focus on all the positive things that your company has achieved and provided for its employees without the need for employees to incur the costs of union dues. These are the "benefits" of working for your organization, and are not limited to financial benefits. They should be detailed in the employee handbook, but it will be useful to remind employees of these benefits by presenting them in a concise, powerful and appealing manner.

The second issue focuses on the cost to employees of having a union. This usually averages out to 2 ½ hours of work a month times the hourly wage. It should be impressed on the employees that they would pay this fee to the union and that the union would gain the right to negotiate wages, benefits, working conditions and a grievance procedure on their behalf. Of course, if your company has a good history of Positive Employee Relations, then it will have taken care of these four areas of responsibility through its existing employee relations policies and practices and there will be no need for a union. It doesn''t hurt to point this out to your employees, especially in the midst of a union organizing campaign.

The importance of Positive Employee Relations cannot be overly stressed. You can''t buy commitment. Commitment is earned through what you give away freely to employees--your trust, your respect, and the integrity of your word. In short, the way you treat people. Of course, it is impossible to please everyone all of the time. All organizations will have some dissatisfied employees. But in an organization that practices Positive Employee Relations, their influence will be minimal, and they will probably leave of their own accord.

Avoid Going on the Defensive

The union organizers will certainly raise issues that will force management to respond, but there are ways that you can avoid going on the defensive.

If the issues raised by the union are false, management should present the facts to the employees as clearly and succinctly as possible and point out that the union''s misinformation is creating muddy waters. In other words, challenge the union with the facts.

If the union slanders or libels individuals, the union should be challenged and serious action taken. It is illegal to slander anyone or spread defamatory information.

If the union makes accusations that are founded, management should take immediate steps to rectify the situation. For example, if the union says that one of the supervisors has a terrible employee relations record and management knows that to be the case, management should arrange for a transfer or relocation of that person immediately. While doing so will give the union credibility, to continue to ignore it will be even more damaging. There is no justifiable reason why management should support or sanction a supervisor who has a track record of poor employee relations.

A Proactive Checklist

When faced with a union organizing campaign it would be folly not to double (and sometimes triple) check some of your practices. The expanded checklist that follows details steps to be taken to reduce your susceptibility during a union campaign. These steps should be part of any on going Positive Employee Relations program whether or not there is any obvious sign of union activity.

1. Human Resources Database

1. Computerized lists of employees'' names, addresses, phone numbers. Names of spouse/partner, children, etc.

2. Employees'' names by department, facility locations, shift, length of service, employee vs. supervisory/management status.

2. Wage and Salary Data Base

1. Computerize all wage and salary administrative plans. Make data available by job grade, salary range, employees'' names, etc.

2. Annually (more often if needed) review the compensation structure to ensure competitiveness in the marketplace. Make adjustments when needed.

3. Document, in employee-friendly language, all policies and procedures related to pay practices, e.g. overtime, call-in-pay, cost-of-living adjustments, merit pay, etc.

4. Review database to ensure that there are no inequities that could become opportunities for union organizers.

3. Market Your Benefits

1. Record and publish all of the organization''s benefit programs. Regularly market the benefits to your employees (and possibly their spouse/partner). Consider installing computerized kiosks to provide employees with instant, personalized benefits information.

2. Clarify what you are required to pay in your jurisdiction vs. what you are actually providing. For example, employer contributions may be required to support a national social insurance/security program. A retirement or pension plan can be built on top of the national program; such a retirement plan is a benefit and should be marketed accordingly.

3. Including all your benefits means going beyond insurance-type programs. Include social and recreational activities, educational/tuition assistance, subsidized cafeteria or food service, etc.

4. It is not uncommon to see that the cost of all the benefit programs, as a percentage of wages, can amount to 25% plus. This is a substantial amount and the organization''s marketing efforts should show that for every $10 in direct wages, there is another $2.50 or more in indirect costs to support the employee and his/her family.

4. Survey Your Labor Market

1. Annually participate in local and industry wage and benefit surveys. Determine how current and competitive your programs are. Address deficiencies promptly.

2. If there is no survey conducted in your geographic area, initiate one. Have a locally based management consultant or Human Resource professor conduct the survey to ensure confidentiality and correct data-reporting practices.

3. Be aware that wage and benefit deficiencies will be used by union organizers to illustrate the organizations'' unfairness or worse, its greed.

5. Seek Employee Feedback

The two most frequently used processes are Employee Opinion Surveys and Focus Groups. For either method to be successful, use the following guidelines:

1. Include employee input when developing the questions.

2. Ask how employees would like to receive the feedback. (If possible, avoid distributing printed copies of the results package).

3. Involve employees in following through on changes that result from the feedback..

4. Collect feedback data by department so that action plans can be initiated in the appropriate work areas.

5. Do not require employees to sign the Surveys. Surveys should be completed, at work, in areas that can be supervised. This ensures that you know who actually completed each Survey, while ensuring anonymity regarding who completed which Survey.

6. DO NOT conduct any form of employee feedback process unless the organization is willing to address each and every issue. In addressing an issue there are at least three options:

(i) yes, we can and will correct this by . . .

(ii) no, that cannot be corrected because . . .

(iii) we don''t know, but will get back to you in three weeks.

6. Know The Opposition

1. Participate in, or initiate, a bi-monthly meeting of senior managers (e.g. Human Resource Manager, Plant/Factory Manager, etc.) to discuss union activity in your labor market (the geographic base from which you draw employees) and in your industry.

2. Union data is frequently made available by the national government and/or provincial/state Labor departments/agencies, from manufactures/business/trade associations, and from Human Resource associations. A key manager should be in the ''network'' to receive all this information, then report back at regular management meetings.

3. The more ''intelligence'' you have about the union movement, particularly in your industry and geographic area, the better. No one, to my knowledge, lost a union organizing campaign because they had too much information about the specific union and the personalities involved.

7. Consistent and Fair Policies

The organization''s value system becomes the basis for all Human Resource practices. This is the only reasonable way to achieve respect, fairness and consistence in the workplace. (This assumes that these beliefs are part of your organization''s value system.)

The number one cause of unionization is the untrained supervisor, who, if given all his/her options, would likely not be a supervisor. Either provide meaningful training that results in participative and collaborative leadership behavior from each supervisor/manager or find them employment elsewhere. To state that the management team embraces Positive Employee Relations and knowingly leaves unqualified supervisors or managers in charge of the company''s Human Resources is nothing less than a dereliction of responsibilities.

All literature that is meant for the employee group (Employee Handbook, Bulletin Board announcements, letters to the home, newsletters, etc.) should be written in straightforward, clean, and uncomplicated language. Have a business communicator review and edit these documents to make them easy to read.

Certain key policies and procedures require special attention to ensure clarity, not only for employees, but for supervisors who use them as the ground rules. These critical policies address the following topics:

Ensure that each of the above policies has a training program attached to them. Each supervisor understands the ''why'' and ''how'' of each policy''s application. Supervisors who do not adhere to these policies, in their leadership of employees, should be subject to the Corrective Action program. Also, leadership behaviors should be included in the supervisors'' Performance Management program. If there is no reward for taking the extra effort to be a good leader, supervisors will quickly learn that this is not an important issue.

8. Communicate, Then Communicate Again

Make employees aware why the organization sees little or no value in unions. The "why" is most important. Because two-way communication is always better then three-way communications. However, we should never lose sight of the reality that joining a union (or not joining) is a Charter or Constitutional right for every employee.

Consistently support the no-solicitation rule. Don''t set a precedent by allowing some solicitation (e.g. selling of lottery tickets) and then try to enforce no-solicitation during a union organizing campaign.

Union organizing activity is not allowed on private property but it is on public property (e.g. sidewalks, public pathways, roads, etc.). Do not be compromised - post signs that clearly state: PRIVATE PROPERTY - PRIVATE USE ONLY.

Let every employee know the importance of securing the physical facility. No unescorted people on the site or in the building(s). Everyone must sign-in and wear a "visitors" badge.

Employees, particularly those newly hired, are most receptive to messages from the organization. Invest in a great orientation program. Make an impact - but be prepared to live up to the ''message'' in the day-to-day work life. If you use a "buddy system" to supplement the orientation program, make certain you know what the buddy will say when confronted with questions such as:

At the other end of the time line, is the exit interview. This interview is to seek information and advice from those employees who decide to leave the organization. Their reason for leaving is not relevant. What is relevant are their perceptions of the organization. Did supervisors/managers behave in accordance with the values? Please give examples. Was this a good company to work for? Why? What went on in your department that your manager really did not understand, etc. With answers to these and similar questions, a competent interviewer can get a good picture of the company as seen through the eyes of an employee who has voluntarily quit (or who has terminated the employer).

An organizing campaign always heightens emotions and frequently brings out the worst in people. To calm the waters, management often begins to send out bulletins, newsletters, special video presentations about the company, etc. Though this may be a good tactic, it is not a good strategy. Why? Because the union organizer gets the credit for causing all this communication just by his/her presence on the scene. So the message is clear: do not allow a union to give impetus to your communication plans and initiatives. ENGAGE YOUR EMPLOYEES NOW BECAUSE IT''S THE RIGHT THING TO DO. IT''S AN EXPRESSION OF YOUR VALUES.

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