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Beware anti-Labor comments if taking over unionized operation

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in Employment Law,Hiring,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

When W&M Properties took over management of an office complex, it immediately set about changing the staffing model under which building engineers would work. Managers began interviewing the seven incumbent engineers—all members of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE)—for positions under the new structure. Outside, nonunion candidates were considered as well.

At some point during the interviews, a hiring manager let it be known that the company did not want a unionized work force. He asked all candidates about their union membership. Eventually, only two incumbent engineers received job offers, although one turned it down.

Now fully staffed, W&M refused to bargain with the union. It reasoned that since there was only one union member, and no one else had expressed interest in joining a union, it didn’t have to.

The IUOE and the former employees complained to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which ruled that W&M indeed had broken the law by attempting to manipulate the hiring process to curb the union’s influence. It ordered the company to reinstate the union, rehire all former engineers and restore all back pay and benefits. An appeals court upheld the NLRB decision. (W&M Properties v. NLRB, No. 06-1365, DC Circuit Court of Appeals, 2008)

If your organization is considering acquiring a business with a unionized work force, warn managers to take care when deciding which employees to keep. Poorly chosen words about not wanting a union can backfire.

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