What if your company is the target of a union organizing campaign?

Objective employee assessment and education are keys to countering union promises

Defeating a union-organizing campaign boils down to understanding why the employees want to unionize and conducting a carefully planned information campaign. Employers should first seek to learn the motivation for the campaign. Is it economic, because wages or benefits are too low or not market rate? Are working conditions sub-par, such as abusive supervisors or broken, outdated equipment, and the like?

To counter promises by the union, employees must be given objective information about what voting for a union means, especially economically. It does not guarantee increases in wages or benefits, because a union cannot force an employer to pay more. Employers should point out the economic consequences of a strike. Generally, employees who go out on strike cannot collect state unemployment benefits, and union strike pay is limited and usually covers only a portion of workers' normal pay.

Another important message is that if the union is voted in, employees (in most states) who voted against the union will still get charged their "fair share"—much like union dues—for "riding the wave" of wage and benefit increases the union may negotiate.

It is also a powerful argument to remind employees that in an economic strike, the employer can permanently replace them in order to stay in business.

Employers need to be warned about restrictions imposed by federal labor laws when an election campaign is taking place. Many of them are common sense, such as not threatening repercussions, or offering raises or bonuses for voting against a union. Activities such as surveillance to identify union activists can have harsh legal consequences for an employer.

—Matthew T. Fitzsimmons