Excerpts from Laborwatch, a monthly newsletter published by the Barens-Tate Consulting Group in Omaha, Nebraska:
Read the Signs: Unusual Activity Portends Union Organizing
Union organizing efforts come in all shapes, sizes—and degrees of stealth. Because unions vary strategies with employers, there is no one way to recognize when organizing is under way under your nose.
How can you tell if you’re a target? Many common behavioral patterns suggest organizational efforts. If you and any of these clues, you should strongly suspect union activity. Watch for:
- Unfriendly employees suddenly becoming unusually friendly to supervisors and managers.
- A sudden lack of communication between supervisors and normally friendly or conversant employees.
- New leaders emerging; different employees gaining recognition, attention, and increased status and support from coworkers.
- Employees asking unusual questions about the company’s structure, practices, and policies.
- Unusual activity among groups of employees either before or after normal working hours.
- Employees continually congregating in small groups during working hours.
- Small groups of employees going to the washroom together.
- Unusual excitement during break times among employees.
- Increased contact among employees at their homes, whether or not involving outsiders.
- Professions of exceptional loyalty by recently hired employees.
There is no excuse for a union’s organizing tactics to continue for very long without management’s knowledge. Do not allow important indications of union activity to go unnoticed or uninvestigated. Remember: If you expose organizational efforts, you can counter them!
Don’t Worry—Get Happy Employees to Ward Off Unions
Where do you rate on the union-tolerance scale? If you say “zero” then you need to zero in on ways to prevent your company form being a organizing target.
It’s no secret that one reason employees turn to unions is job dissatisfaction. When workers are unhappy with their jobs (and, as a result, management), unions become an attractive alternative. Although you can’t exert much control over unions, you can influence many “happiness” factors that lead to job satisfaction.
Supervisors who are unable to maintain positive relationships with subordinates will not gain the respect necessary to keep employees happy, productive and union free. We know that being a supervisor is hardly an easy task. Supervisors are stuck in between managers who demand and employees who question.
Your organization must provide necessary training to ensure that supervisors are effective. Train supervisors to demonstrate that they care, and that they will pass along employee concerns and ideas to management. This not only shows employees that someone is listening, but also gives management an ear to the ground.
If employees have the basic needs fulfilled that will make them happy in their jobs, usually they don’t care who does it—the company or a union. If you come in first with positive steps to fill workers’ happiness quotients, you can guess where that leaves unions on their “must have” scale (low).