How to Lose a Union Free Election - Part 3 - Cheating
We have two core beliefs all of our consultants agree to follow.
First, we treat union free campaigns as a teaching event.
We treat voters with respect and know our job is to help them learn about unions and make their own decision about what is best for them.
Our second core principle is that we don't cheat.
By cheating I mean violating the National Labor Relations Act rules on how to conduct a free and fair election.
Unions may not believe that we follow these beliefs, but we take them very seriously.
As a lawyer I want my clients stay well within the ground rules of the Act.
This is not just good legal practice.
It's also the best way to win.
There are some consultants who like to "push the envelope" during union free elections.
There are "fuzzy" areas and some are tempted to push right to the edge.
Further, justice is slow.
Some companies - and unions - take advantage of this flaw in the process (that's right, I support changes to speed up the NLRB).
Some will drag out the process, hoping that by the time it is over that it will be too late.
We believe these "shortcuts" are unnecessary and counterproductive.
The primary focus of the union free campaign should be to heal the company and help improve the workplace.
It may take longer to turn things around, but this approach is much more long-lasting.
Illegal actions like threatening an employee or terminating someone may seem like a "quick fix" in a union campaign.
But in the long run if you rule through fear you will end up organized.
Instead you should work on improving the workplace and building trust.
Find and fix the issues.
In the end you will win the hearts and minds of your employees - not to mention winning your union free election.
Soon there will be even more pressure to "cheat.
" Unions are pressing for shortened elections (the so-called "free choice" act wants to get rid of elections).
Today companies have around 6 weeks to campaign.
Unions want to shrink that down to 14 or even 7 days.
If unions get their way companies won't be able to talk to employees about unions at all.
Some employers may think that given these impossible odds that it might be worth the risk to step over the line to win an election.
Play the hand you're dealt, even when the cards are stacked against you.
This is not just the legal and ethical way.
In the long run you are more likely to earn the privilege of a direct relationship by showing employees - through behavior and not just words - that you respect them.
If they realize they made a mistake they are much more likely to fix it if they trust you.
The key legal restrictions during union elections are mostly common sense, but they are worth repeating here.
An employer or its representative (supervisor, manager, consultant or attorney) cannot:
- Threaten employees (or take other actions like firing or disciplining) for exercising their rights under the Act;
- Interrogate or ask employees about whether they want a union;
- Promise employees some benefit in exchange for their opposition to the union; or
- Spy on employees in order to determine their union sympathy.
If you respect the rights of workers and look at the union campaign as a chance to teach, it is unlikely you will go anywhere near the line.
Encourage all employees to research the claims of both the union and the company.
Encourage them to go to meetings and figure out what is best for them and their families.
Persuasively give them your side of the story, but respect their search for the right answer for them.
If you don't cheat you accomplish a lot.
You're much more likely to win your election campaign.
You're going to save a boat load in legal fees.
And it's also a lot easier to sleep at night if you just follow the rules.