Special from BLR's Advanced Employment Issues Symposium

In a previous article, attorney Kevin McCormick briefed us on new union tactics and the new NLRB aggressiveness; today, his 7 steps to get ready for union organizers plus an introduction to a unique guide just for small, or even one-person, HR departments.

McCormick, a partner at Whiteford, Taylor, and Preston LLP in Baltimore, Maryland offered his tips at BLR's Advanced Employment Issues Symposium, held recently Nashville, Tennessee.

McCormick suggests that employers review their social media policies to make sure they are "narrowly tailored" and include a disclaimer that the policy does not apply to the employee's Section 7 rights.

McCormick offers seven steps that employers should take now to better prepare for and defend against the new union threats:

  1. Educate your workforce about labor relations matters ... now. Especially since NLRB seems poised to speed up elections, it's important to start fighting now.
  2. Train your employees and your supervisors about union organizing. Clarify your supervisors' position with regard to membership in the union.
  3. Review your employment policies and practices that effect union organizing. See what might be bothering employees or what the union might point to -- there's usually an irritant, says McCormick.
  4. Consider instituting policies and programs that unions might promise. For example, if you don't have a grievance procedure, institute one.
  5. Train employees and managers about social media issues. For example, managers need to know that they can't retaliate against an employee who says something negative about them on the employee's Facebook page.
  6. Develop an action plan to deal with union organizing in your workplace. Who is going to take case of training, etc.?
  7. Organize a SWAT team to be ready if necessary. Identity the players who need to be ready if there is a sudden organizing effort. What preparation do team members need?
  8. Establish good relations in the community ... now!

Employers Get the Union They Deserve

It's a tired axiom, but McCormick finds truth in the phrase, "employers get the union they deserve." If you don't treat your employee right, he says, they're going to be open to listening to union organizers.

Finally, says McCormick, remember that the question is not whether unions will attempt to organize your workplace -- it's a question of when.

Union avoidance -- a critical HR task, but really, just one of what, a dozen challenges that will cross your desk today?  We're talking about intermittent leave challenges; accommodation headaches; investigation woes; training, interviewing, and attendance; to name just a few. In HR, if it's not one thing, it's another. And in a small department, it's just that much tougher.