Sunday, August 16, 2015

The business of being anti-union by Mark E Andersen

Writing about labor I end up on some pretty damn weird mailing lists. One would think that as a pro-labor writer I would not receive emails from decidedly anti-union forces. But I do, so as a public service, I am going to write about the email I just received.

First, the subject line—three ways businesses can protect themselves in pro-union times. Seriously? Pro-union times? We have seen right-to-work laws enacted in what had been states known for supporting unions in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana. We have seen Republican governor, and now presidential candidate, Scott Walker rip union rights away from public servants in Wisconsin. These are decidedly not pro-union times as the author of this email suggests:

With the makeup of the NLRB, the two questions are tightly entwined. Though unions comprise only 6.6 percent* of the workforce nationwide, today’s NLRB leans decidedly in the pro-union, pro-employee direction.
(I should note that according to the BLS, Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the author of the email is incorrect about the union percentage nationwide. It is 11.1 percent; the email is citing the private sector figure.)

The NLRB, National Relations Board, is according to their website:

The National Labor Relations Board is an independent federal agency that protects the rights of private sector employees to join together, with or without a union, to improve their wages and working conditions.
I would certainly hope that the NLRB leans in a pro-employee direction, especially seeing as they are supposed to protect the rights of private sector employees.

Head below the fold for more on this story.

The author then goes on to describe the ways an employer can "level the playing field" against the big union boogeyman. The first is what the author calls—The complication of “quickie elections”:

Employers facing an attempt to unionize have an added challenge commonly referred to as the “quickie election” rule. This year, the NLRB slashed the median time between the filing of an organizing petition and the vote by workers on whether to accept union representation from 38 days to 24. The tighter time frame favors unions by giving employers less time to educate employees about the issues and what it means to work in a unionized site.
Breaking this down, the author is whining that employers need that extra fourteen days to "educate" employees about unions. I think he used the wrong word there, I think he meant to use the words lie and spread anti-union propaganda. There is no reason for a union vote to take over a month. That extra time is not leveling the playing field, it is tilting it in favor of the employer.

The author also derides unions trying to create micro-units and states that today’s NLRB:

has flipped the scales, putting the burden on employers to demonstrate an “overwhelming community of interest” between the proposed micro-unit and the rest of the workforce. It’s a difficult case for employers to make, and it opens the door to unions snatching a small group of disgruntled employees to create a foothold in a broader workplace.
Wouldn't it just be easier to prevent your business from having disgruntled employees in the first place? Treat your employees right, compensate them well, and they will likely not be disgruntled to begin with.

Then we have the, "You have got to be kidding me," section of the email:

In most cases, supervisors and managers are the focal point for company communications during a union campaign. Know who they are ahead of time and don’t make assumptions. The last thing you want is a team member expected to communicate the company message becoming part of the potential bargaining unit.
Why wouldn't you know who your supervisors and managers are? If you don't know who they are, that is likely why your employees are attempting to unionize.

These are not "pro-union" times. Union membership in this country is down to 11.1 percent in 2014, extending a decades-long decline for the labor movement.

If we want this country to grow, if we want to have a strong middle class, then we do need a NLRB that leans toward the worker to level the playing field. Today, the field is tilted toward the employer. As workers we need to do all we can to tilt that field back to being level.

Aug 14, 2015 1:30pm PDT by Mark E Andersen

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