The National Labor Relations Board topped off 2014 with several jabs to employers, including its recent decision in Purple Communications, where the Board held that employees have a presumptive right to use email for non-work-related messages. The Board’s final blow to employers came December 15, with the issuance of new Quickie Election Rules for union representation cases. The new Rules, discussed in detail here, (1) dramatically shrink the period of time between the filing of a representation and the union election date, (2) require employers to give petitioners more information about their employees, and (3) severely limit the legal issues management can raise before an election.
In the wake of the new Rules, employers should re-think their union-avoidance strategies in 2015. Because union elections will occur quickly, gone are the days of relying on post-petition, anti-union campaigns. With the expedited election process, it is imperative that employers develop and maintain “perpetual” anti-union campaigns.
First, develop and maintain ongoing positive relationships between employees and management. Communication is key. Employees must feel as if they are in the loop and that their concerns are respected by the company. For example:
- Create and publicize an open-door policy that promotes employee-management communication. Train management to: (1) listen to employee concerns, (2) communicate that they will follow up on those concerns, (3) actually take steps to resolve the concerns, and (4) communicate the steps taken to the employee.
- Remind employees about the “hidden” benefits they receive from the company, including insurance costs, payroll taxes and other employer-provided benefits. Employees often do not understand that the “cost of an employee” to an employer is much higher than the employees’ wages.
- Meet harsh decisions head-on. If you are forced to make seemingly harsh corporate decisions, communicate the reasons for the decisions and how they will ultimately help the company thrive and grow.
Second, prepare now to combat a union campaign tomorrow. Train supervisors and managers on the do’s and don’ts of union avoidance. Continually monitor employee morale and search for the early signs of a union organizing attempt. This way, you will be well positioned to respond to any organizing efforts that arise.