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How not to handle a union movement

by on
in HR Management,Human Resources

It’s natural to feel betrayed and up­set if you have an open-shop workplace and find out some employees have invited outsiders to help organize a union.

But if you handle the news badly, you may end up in the cross hairs of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) before a single union vote is cast.

Get expert legal guidance right away—and don’t launch into a spirited anti-union speech.

Recent case: Jeffrey worked as a welder for a locomotive maker for about 18 months until he was fired, allegedly for failing to wear steel-toed safety boots. A few months earlier, he had tried to arrange a meeting with the company CEO to discuss the attendance policy.

He was unsuccessful and contacted a labor union about organizing the em­­­­ployees. That’s when Jeffrey initiated an enthusiastic campaign to get fellow workers to sign union pledge cards.

Shortly after Jeffrey’s efforts started, the CEO called a meeting. He first asked several contractors who be­­longed to a union to leave the room. In an hour-long speech, the CEO said a union would mean layoffs and that current benefits would disappear when contract negotiations began from scratch. Jeffrey stood up when the CEO asked if anyone had any questions and requested a meeting on allowing the union in. The CEO told him to “shut up and sit down.”

Shortly after, Jeffrey was fired for the alleged safety violation. The NLRB sued, alleging unfair labor practices.

The court sided with the NLRB. It concluded that the threat to start over with benefits and firing Jeffrey were both unfair labor practices. (NLRB v. RELCO Locomotives, No. 12-2111, 8th Cir., 2013)

Advice: Let a qualified labor law expert guide you as soon as you hear that employees are talking about union organizing.

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