Dissatisfied employees may want to form a union due to certain situations: unions may be viewed as a solution when employees want to improve their working conditions, seek protection from layoffs, or earn higher wages. But unions aren’t always welcome in the workplace.
If you are an employer, how can you respond when employees want to form a union? You can take several steps before employees elect to unionize to potentially avoid the process. However, once employees choose to pursue unionization, employers are prohibited from taking a number of actions that could hinder the process and must comply with the federal labor laws administered by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The NLRB is an independent federal agency that safeguards employees’ rights to organize with or without a union to improve their wages and working conditions. In addition, the NLRB helps prevent and remedy unfair labor practices committed by private sector employers and unions.
Steps an Employer Can Take to Avoid Unionization
Before employees decide to unionize, an employer can take multiple actions that focus on creating a better working atmosphere. First, an employer can solicit feedback using surveys. This process gives employers insight into what is working well and what isn’t and provides an opportunity for them to improve their weaknesses. Further, employers should review existing policies and look for ways to improve their workplace atmosphere.
Another step that employers can take is benchmarking wages as well as benefits. Ensuring employees are paid commensurately with the market and their experience can help keep employees happy, create transparency, increase retention, and lessen stress in the work environment. Additionally, employers may also want to invest in training programs that focus on improving working relationships with employees.
What Not to Do When Employees Want to Unionize
Federal labor laws provide a wide range of protections for employees when they elect to unionize. Failure to comply with these protections can leave an employer vulnerable to legal action and can have a significant impact on a company’s long-term health.
For instance, when employees are considering unionization, an employer is not allowed to threaten anyone. This is a violation of federal labor laws, which prohibit employers from taking a range of retaliatory behaviors, including reducing pay, cutting benefits, and firing employees. Another action that is not allowed is making promises to employees in exchange for refusing to support unionizing. An example of this could be an employer who promises to give employees a raise in exchange for dropping their interest in creating a union.
In addition, employers are not allowed to spy on employees who are seeking to unionize. Instead, employers need to step aside and not interfere with unionization-related activities, such as meetings with union representatives. Employers are also prohibited from interrogating employees about unionizing.
Compliance Tips for Employers
When employees want to unionize, it is imperative for employers to avoid interfering with the process. They need to review their actions to make sure they are following the federal labor laws to remain in compliance.
The acronym “TIPS” makes it easy to remember what employers cannot do if a union shows up in the workplace:
- You can’t THREATEN to retaliate against employees.
- You can’t INTERROGATE employees about their activities.
- You can’t PROMISE any benefits to employees in exchange for not supporting unionization.
- You can’t SPY on union-related activities.
To learn more about the laws related to employee unionization and other federal labor laws, as well as posting requirements, visit the Poster Compliance Center website.