Labor unions today are “tech” savvy, using mobile app and other technology to grow and maintain their memberships.
According to a report in the Bloomberg Bureau of National Affairs Daily Labor Report (136 DLR C-1 July 18, 2016), a number of labor unions, including the International Association of Machinists, Communication Workers of America, and Service Employees International Union, are using app technology to inform members of union news, sign political action petitions, access video clips and pictures, read press releases, view union social media accounts, and report workplace violations, all with the goal of reaching and growing their memberships.
Since labor unions are not generally permitted on an employer’s property to organize, labor unions are attempting to reach more and more workers through the use of their smartphones by mobile app technology and social media platforms, including Facebook, Snapchat, dedicated websites for blogging and reporting alleged workplace misconduct and the like. The use of technology by labor unions coupled with the National Labor Relations Board’s focus on broadening employee rights through the use of technology requires employers to stay ahead of the game.
In recent years, the NLRB also has developed a website to publicize employer labor violations, permitted the use of electronic union authorization cards in order to establish a “showing of interest” in support of the union representation petition, and allowed workers to use an employer’s email system on non-working time to engage in union organizing and other Section 7 (of the NLRA) concerted protected activities. The NLRB also has developed its own app. According to Bloomberg BNA, once it is free of its budget constraints, the NLRB has plans to upgrade the app to allow “workers, employers, and unions to take action from anywhere,” according to NLRB chairman Mark Gaston Pearce.
The use of technology by labor organizations to address labor issues and beef up declining memberships undoubtedly will increase regardless of the industry, labor climate, and overall workplace demographics.
Because of these new techniques, more and more organizing can be done by unions without face-to-face contact with employees. That could make it easier for unions to “meet with” many more employees in a shorter period of time and more effectively. To persuade employees to sign authorization cards who become star struck by the union’s glossy and upbeat electronic organizing tools. Employers should consider taking a preventive approach and informing their employees about these organizing techniques and cautioning employees not to be persuaded by glossy, upbeat organizing tools.