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Are you a target for union organizing? 6 questions to ask

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in Employee Benefits Program,Employment Law,Firing,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills,Management Training

With the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) on the Congressional front-burner, organized labor is poised for rapid expansion.

The EFCA—which a Democratic-controlled Congress could decide to push for passage and President-elect Barack Obama supports—would make it far easier for unions to gain certification.

A union could be certified as a workplace’s exclusive collective bargaining representative as soon as it demonstrated that a simple majority of employees had signed union authorization cards—a so-called “card check.” It would mandate binding arbitration of initial union contracts if the union and the employer cannot reach a collective bargaining agreement within 90 days. And it would mandate significantly higher penalties for employers found to have violated the National Labor Relations Act.

For employers that don’t relish the thought of having a unionized workforce, now is the time to audit your vulnerability. How can you tell if workers might be eager to embrace union representation? Ask yourself these six questions:

1. Do employees feel insecure about their jobs or believe they don’t have opportunities for advancement?

2. Is there poor communication between management and employees?

3. Do you pay your employees less than your competitors do? Are your benefits worse than what other employers in your area or industry offer?

4. Do employees feel that favoritism is a factor in workplace decision making?

5. Are your supervisors poorly trained?

6. Do you lack performance standards and coherent ways for providing feedback to employees?

Many issues that make a company vulnerable to organizing deal with fairness. Unions sell the idea that a collective-bargaining agreement eliminates favoritism. It may or may not work out that way, but an employee who feels mistreated can easily be seduced by such an argument.

Employers should evaluate all aspects of employee relations. How do pay and benefits compare with the rest of your industry? Look at terminations, disciplines and lawsuits to see if certain practices or particular supervisors keep causing problems.

What if you're targeted? If you find yourself the target of an organizing effort, keep your head. Federal laws prohibit employers from discriminating against employees due to their participation in union activities.

Offering increased pay or benefits in return for a nonunion vote is forbidden, as is threatening or disciplining employees solely because of their union support. Employees are free to discuss union issues during nonworking hours and on breaks. You also can't punish an employee for wearing or displaying a union insignia. 

There’s no guarantee that the EFCA will become law next year, but it wouldn’t be smart to bet against it. Act now to make your office or plant a better place to work, and you may be able to keep union organizers at bay.


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