EFCA may still be stalled in Congress, but that hasn’t stopped the Department of Labor (DOL) and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) from proposing major union friendly policy changes.
Why should employers be concerned? The proposed changes make it easier for unions to organize employees, and to get quick pro-labor contracts.
The most recent NLRB proposal shows the writing is on the wall for increased union organizing. Specifically, the proposed changes include:
- Shortened Timeframe Between Filing and the Election. The shortened timeframe would not leave employers with adequate time to prepare their educational materials, making it unlikely that employees will get full information about the pros and cons of unionization.
- Changes to the Statement of Position. The proposal requires employers to disclose their entire case theory in the statement and precludes employers from presenting evidence on any issue that the employer fails to include in the Statement, increasing the likelihood for litigation.
- Mandated Disclosure of Employee Information. Under the rule, employers would be required to turn over private employee information, including telephone numbers and e-mail addresses – creating potential privacy issues and workplace distraction for employees.
- Deferral of Representational Disputes. Under certain circumstances, the proposed rule defers litigation of representational disputes, such as the eligibility of voters, until after the election is held.
The DOL has also taken a seemingly pro-union stance, issuing a proposal requiring that employers report virtually all services regarding labor relations and union organizing. According to SHRM, “Taken together, the DOL and NLRB rules will severely inhibit employer free speech and have the effect of preventing employees from hearing both sides of the unionization debate.”
Employers need to take a holistic approach to this issue, striving to create great workplaces run by great managers. When employees feel respected and heard, and they like and trust their managers, they aren’t as vulnerable to union organizing. In essence, the best defense to unionization is a great offense.
And that includes training your managers, most of whom have absolutely no experience answering basic employee questions about unions, dealing with a union organizing campaign or working in a unionized environment – leaving a large and risk laden training gap. What mangers say and do, and how they treat employees has a huge impact on the organization as a whole. Employees join unions because of bad managers.
So what type of training makes a difference? Top employers are focusing on good employment practices and teaching managers about EEO compliance, harassment prevention, lawful hiring, effective performance management, complaint handling, and how to discipline and terminate employees properly. And they're adding general union awareness and union organizing training so their managers aren't caught totally off-guard if a union enters the picture.
It's not about "union avoidance" – it's about creating a positive workplace, respecting employee rights and ensuring compliance with key labor laws.