HR Policies & Procedures

8 Steps to Keep Your Workplace Union-Free

Yesterday’s Advisor covered what employers can’t do when fighting off unions; today, eight steps you can take, plus an introduction to an extraordinary program prepared especially for smaller—or even one-person—HR departments.

Once again, we turn to BLR’s managing editor of HR.BLR.com, attorney Patricia Trainor, SPHR for advice.

In addition to communicating with employees about unions, Trainor says, it is critical that employers take steps to establish a workplace that is not vulnerable to unionization. It’s most important that employers take steps to maintain their union-free status now, before a union targets your workplace.

If an employer suddenly changes its policies and/or practices when a union campaign begins, it’s likely to be accused of an unfair labor practice, and that could be hard to defend against.

For example, after a unionizing drive starts, you suddenly announce that you’re going to institute a grievance process. Suspicious timing to say the least. Institute your grievance process now and let it start working, Then there’s one less thing for the union to promise and no unfair labor practice charge.

To maintain a nonunionized workforce, employers should:

  • Start at the beginning. From the very beginning of the employment relationship, let your employees know your opinion on unions and why a union would not be right for your organization. Include a union position statement with orientation materials and in the employee handbook.
  • Be pro-worker, not anti-union. If employees feel that they have a voice at work, they are unlikely to look to an outsider (i.e., union) to provide them with one. Supervisors and managers should have an open-door policy so that employees feel that they can raise issues and concerns without fear of retaliation.

Remember the Golden Rule. We all want to feel that our work is valued. Make sure that your company has competitive pay practices in place, and that you recognize employees for doing a good job.


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  • Run a safe, secure, and fair workplace. Survey your employees to learn how they feel about these issues, and respond to employee concerns.
  • Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Have an interactive communication system in place. Give your employees a voice in decisions that affect them.
  • Explain unpopular decisions. Discuss with employees decisions that are unpopular. Explain why they are important to the company.
  • Be responsible. Take responsibility for your decisions—the good and the bad.
  • Have an effective grievance procedure in place. Make sure employees know how to file a complaint and raise issues of concern. If employees feel that their concerns are heard, they are less likely to turn to a third party, i.e., a union, to be their voice with management.

Again, take these steps now and don’t hesitate to candidly discuss unions with your employees.

Impending union organizing, one of, what, a dozen critical challenges on your desk? From hiring to firing, HR’s never easy, and in a small department, it’s just that much tougher.

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