Due to a recent proliferation of union organizing efforts, more companies may be finding out what it means to have store employees unionizing. If you’re one of them, or if you want to be prepared in case your business is targeted, here are a few tips that should help orient you to the process.
1. Understand your rights
Employers have the right to carry on normal business operations. They have the right to state their opinion about a union, answer questions, clear up any misstatements, and explain the process. Employers cannot promise new terms or conditions if employees do not elect a union, threaten any current terms or conditions if they do, intimidate, interrogate or scrutinize staff who may be pro-union.
2. Understand the employees’ rights
Employees have the right to engage in any organizing activities on unpaid time. In addition, they have the right to engage in organizing activities on the clock if you allow for other similar activity on the clock. For example, talking to co-workers about the union on paid time is allowed if you allow employees to talk to each other about other non-work-related topics on paid time. They have the right to the same terms and conditions that existed before the union organizing effort, and to talk about these with their co-workers.
3. Keep to business as usual (so long as that doesn’t include any unfair labor practices)
If, prior to union organizing, you had a process of resolving employee grievances, continue to use your same process. “Soliciting grievances,” an unfair labor practice, can happen when employers start taking new or intimidating approaches to grilling employees as to why they feel a union is necessary, and then suddenly take steps to change those aspects of the business. Doing so can be seen as trying to block a union.
Similarly, refrain from bringing heightened scrutiny or new discipline for behaviors that were allowed previously, solely because they are now about the union or being engaged in by union supporters.
4. Remember, this is the employee’s decision
Employers have a right to balance the union perspective with their own about what they think is in the best interest of the employees and the business. However, in the end, it’s up to the employees to submit authorization cards and/or vote. If they elect the union, it is their choice to pay the union to represent them in negotiations with management, and you are bound to make good-faith efforts in reaching agreements with the union.
No matter what staff decide about having a union in your workplace, it’s good to remember that there are wildly successful business that are both unionized and non-unionized. Though it can be a difficult time as staff grapple with their decision, management focus should be on keeping the workplace running as smoothly and successfully as possible throughout the
organization effort and beyond.