By now, nearly everyone in HR has heard of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). It is a union-advocated legislative initiative that would amend federal labor laws by eliminating the secret ballot employees currently use to select whether they want a labor representative.
Replacing it would be what’s known as card-check—a simple majority of signed union authorization cards. The EFCA would also mandate binding arbitration for first contracts between employers and unions.
Whether the EFCA will become law, and in what form, is very much up in the air. Democratic support for the measure is waning, and business organizations have united in an unprecedented level of opposition.
There’s no doubt that if the EFCA becomes law, unions will have a much easier time becoming certified. Yet, it is unclear whether unions even need the EFCA.
Union membership continues to rise, up 7.6% since 2003. Moreover, in 2007, unions won 60.1% of elections, compared to a mere 51.5% in 1997. In the first half of 2008, the number of elections won by unions increased to 66.8%.
The actions you take now – not in six months – will make the difference between staying union-free and answering to Local 123. Learn how to stay union free during this live, interactive training session on EFCA.
Because unions have become more aggressive and more successful at unionization even without the EFCA, I recommend that employers adopt the TEAM approach to keeping their workplaces union-free:
In a recent survey of corporate executives, 97% of CEOs reported that they believe their communication motivates employees. Yet when employees were asked the same question, almost the same percentage reported that they are much more inclined to be motivated by their first-line supervisors.
If a union is organizing, supervisors are likely to be the first people to know. They will also be the people that rank-and-file employees will come to with questions or concerns.
Thus, supervisors need to be trained how to report, monitor and legally respond to union activity. They also need training so they will be comfortable talking directly with employees about labor unions—their costs, the threat to workplace flexibility and efficiency, their penchant to favor sameness over fairness and the loss of direct communication between management and employees.
You can begin talking to employees about the disadvantages of unionization during the hiring process. Don’t tell employees that you’re anti-union. Tell them why you don’t believe they need a union to protect workers’ interests.
Discuss your competitive wages and benefits, your tradition of positive communication between management and employees, and your history of peaceful employee/management relations. Emphasize management’s willingness to listen to employees and handle their concerns without an intermediary. Address why you don’t want a third party to tell the company and employees how to do their jobs.
Management should play a key role in informing employees of their right to choose to join or not join a union. Explain what it means to sign a union card, and what questions to ask union organizers if approached.
Employers, business owners and HR professionals must prepare NOW for these radical changes. And to help, Business Management Daily is proud to present Beyond EFCA: Preparing for the New Era of Union Organizing.
Just like doctors keep abreast of their patients by conducting daily rounds of hospital wards, management should routinely make the rounds of the workplace to find out from employees what’s happening and what they are thinking. Management should walk the floor on a daily basis.
It should also hold regular meetings with employees, whether in small sessions with HR or large town-hall meetings.
Employers should also consider engaging employees in corporate decision-making. Good areas for employee involvement include programs that give employees a sense of contribution and control, such as safety committees and peer review processes that give employees a say in their own career paths.
In an ideal world, HR and management would annually review and update employee handbooks and other corporate policies. I’ve yet to come across a company that does so that frequently.
The threat of EFCA enactment is a perfect excuse to take a good, hard look at your current policies.
Do you have a written statement on unionization? An open-door policy? An issue resolution procedure? Peer review? An employee bulletin board? An electronic communications policy?
Most important, do you have a no-solicitation policy? That’s the single most important policy to help fight labor unions. Employers have broad latitude to draft and enforce no-solicitation policies (even addressing e-mail communications) to bar all nonwork-related solicitations. Enforcement of even the broadest policy is only a problem if it fails to clearly distinguish activities protected by the National Labor Relations Act.
No program is foolproof. No matter what steps you take, no matter how solid your employee relations, every company is at risk for a union-organizing campaign. Businesses should strive to become employers of choice for employees, and not an employer of opportunity for labor unions.
In this special 75-minute interactive webinar, a labor and employment expert will teach you:
Register now... Beyond EFCA: Preparing for the New Era of Union Organizing.
- How vulnerable YOUR organization is to union campaigns
- Big Labor’s newest organizing tactics – and how to counteract them (without violating the NLRA)
- What Obama and the Democratic Congress have promised the unions – and how they plan to follow through
- The current status of EFCA (in plain English!), and where it’s likely to end up
- What other pro-union bills you MUST be prepared for (RESPECT Act, Patriot Employers Act, etc.)
- The 10 early warning signs of union activity in your workplace
- The mistakes your managers are making RIGHT NOW that practically invite a union to step in
- Practical changes to your current HR practices to make employees not even think about wanting a union.