News & Insights

Creating a Union-Free Environment
July 28, 2014
by Robert Conte


South Bend / Mishawaka, IN – The following information may not apply to your organization. If it does, read on. If it does not, you should read it anyway.

As previously reported, the National Labor Relations Board and the Department of Labor are ready to move forward in the second half of 2014, with controversial, employer unfriendly regulations. The opinion of MOL’s Labor and Employment Team and labor lawyers in general is that these changes could dramatically reshape the labor law landscape for employers. What are these unpopular rules you ask? They are the NLRB’s rule aimed at streamlining the election process by shortening the time period between the filing of an election petition and the election itself, cutting into an employer’s ability to make their case to workers about the benefits and pitfalls of unionization (a/k/a/ “ambush” or “quickie” election rules) and the DOL’s persuader rule. This rule would narrow the advice exemption to the Labor-Management Report and Disclosure Act, with the likely effect of saddling law firms with significant new reporting requirements. Included among the many reasons why the persuader rule is not good for attorneys and the employers they represent is its negative impact on the attorney-client privilege. The proposed rule is scheduled for issuance in December 2014.

MOL recommends that employers not sit back and wait for “bad” things to happen. To the contrary, being proactive in this area of labor law is the best way to lessen the harmful effects that these proposed regulations could have on your organization.

Unions gain momentum in a workplace when a group of employees feel that the employer has lost perspective, that employees are not important or are being treated unfairly. Such actions harm the workplace culture and diminish the effectiveness of the work environment. On one hand the fix is complicated, while on the other hand, it is simple.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Communicate with your employees. Do it now and do it often. To not do so creates a feeling of insecurity and mistrust. Regular communications with employees, through letters, bulletin board postings, and group meetings fosters a workplace atmosphere that keeps employees in the loop and makes them feel important to the organization.
  • Develop policies and rules that create a secure work environment. A fair and impartial discipline system and rules that are consistently applied go a long way in establishing a trustful work environment. Also having a regularly updated employee handbook, which sets out the rules of the workplace, further creates an atmosphere of trust and fairness. Employees want to know the rules and what is expected of them. It is a two-way street.
  • Training, Cannot say enough about it. An organization that regularly trains its managers, supervisors and employees regarding the rules of the workplace and treats its employees in a fair and honest manner, whether about union organizing or the workplace in general, will always be one step ahead. In doing so, a union organizing campaign can ever gain traction.

Employers who follow the above will create a healthy, productive and effective relationship with their employees which in turn will likely keep the organization union free. Start today; tomorrow may be too late.