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Top Five Employer To-Do Items in Todays Union Organizing Environment
Posted in Labor & Unions

Since the end of last year, we have been blogging about the rapidly-changing environment for labor relations and union organizing in light of new positions and rulings of the National Labor Relations Board.

As a follow-up to our recent posts (see here and here) I'm sharing my top-five list of preparation steps for employers. Of course, every employer has to assess its unique risks of union organizing activities and make reasonable choices about how much and where to invest in preparation and prevention. When you make that assessment and those choices, however, keep in mind that many, many employers are more than a little surprised to learn that a union representation petition has been filed with the NLRB.

As such, it makes business sense to invest at least some resources in prevention, assessment, and planning around union organizing issues. The new election rules and the new email ruling, among other actions of the NLRB, make this more urgently true than perhaps ever before.

As you think and plan, here are my TOP FIVE TO-DO priorities for employers:

  1. Position on Union Organizing. Develop and articulate (for internal management use) a position statement on unions and union organizing in your workforce. Take into careful consideration all your constituencies and the various interests of your business or organization. Your position should be well-tailored, with an understanding of what is lawful in this arena, so your managers have a clear understanding about legal do's and don'ts.
  2. Management Training. Train management on the labor law, union organizing, and collective bargaining rights and duties.
  3. Assess Your Employee Relationships. Assess the relationship between management and your workforce. Take action to build or improve communications and trust in labor relations. Trust goes a long way in disincentivizing organizing activity.
  4. Review & Revise Policies. Review employment policies and procedures for labor law compliance and make any necessary or advisable changes before there is organizing. At that point, it will be too late under the law to make changes.
  5. Design a Communications Plan. Prepare a plan for how (by whom and using what means) you will communicate with your employees about union organizing and related issues should the need arise.

The latest breaking news on Jan. 28 is that the Senate labor committee announced in a press release that U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the committee, have introduced the NLRB Reform Act. The purpose of the proposed Act is to to turn the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) from an advocate to an umpire and to keep the NLRB general counsel from operating as an activist for one side or the other.

The press release quotes McConnell as saying, The NLRBs politically motivated decisions and controversial regulations threaten the jobs of hardworking Americans who just want to provide for their families. So its time to restore balance and bipartisanship. The NLRB Reform Act would help turn the boards focus from ideological crusades that catch workers in the crossfire to the kind of common-sense, bipartisan solutions workers deserve.  (See the full press release here.)

Any such reform, however, is likely to be vetoed by President Obama and, in any event, is undoubtedly a long way off. Meanwhile, employers will have to continue to deal with the NLRB and the union organizing environment as it stands today. 

Toward that end, members of our labor law team this week presented a Breakfast Briefing and webinar on the topic Getting Union Organized for the New Year. (To download a free version, click here.) A primary theme was that employers at risk of organizing should proactively prepare. As my colleague included in wrote in her Dec. 30 post on NLRB's the new Quickie Election Rules: 

So what's the main take-away for employers? BE PREPARED! After implementation of the new rule, it is more important than ever to prepare for possible organizing activity and to respond immediately once a petition is filed. The new rule gives employers a very short window to gather employee information, formulate a position, raise issues, and communicate with employees.
The labor law is complex, nuanced, and ever-changing (or so, at least, it seems to most of our clients!). Our labor law team is available to help navigate the challenges you face in this arena.
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