Suffice it to say that many employers are not fond of labor unions, and some businesses will go to extreme (and sometimes illegal) efforts to prevent a union from being organized among their employees. These tactics range from the surprisingly subtle to the absurdly overt. Here are some of the most common tactics employers use to try to keep employees from organizing unions:
- Firing labor organizers and pro-union employees
- One of the more blatant responses that employers have towards labor organizers is to fire them outright. However, as Steven Sack notes in his book, Fired!, “The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) prohibits the firing of any employee because of involvement in union activity, filing charges, or testifying pursuant to the act.” For this reason, most employers trying to stop a union will not act this openly, and will not explicitly fire someone just for engaging in labor organizing.
- Misusing disciplinary measures or employee evaluations
- Instead of directly firing an employee for trying to organize a union, some employers will abuse their systems for evaluating or disciplining employees to justify firing them. Employees who try to organize a union may find their job evaluations getting gradually worse for no apparent reason, or face unusually harsh punishment for infractions that normally earn no worse than a slap on the wrist. This creates the pretext to justify punishing employees later on by reducing their pay, cutting their benefits, or simply firing them outright.
- Holding “captive audience” meetings
- Employers have an advantage over labor organizers in that they can force employees to listen to their side without any chance to talk back. In so-called “captive audience” meetings, employers force employees to be subjected to anti-union rhetoric as part of their job. These meetings are often mandatory, meaning employees may face professional repercussions if they fail to attend, including formal discipline and loss of pay or benefits.
- Monitoring employee communications
- When employers want to be more subtle, they may choose to use their control of email servers and other methods of communication to monitor employees. This gives them the ability to determine who might be thinking of unionizing, or who might be in favor of unions generally. This allows them to more effectively target labor organizers and stifle attempts at forming a union.
- Making false promises for better pay or working conditions
- When all else fails, employers may choose to use the carrot instead of the stick, and start promising better pay, working conditions, or benefits if employees will not unionize. Of course, many employers will simply choose not to follow through on those promises if a unionization attempt fails, or will only keep it in place temporarily. Only unions can force employers to consistently treat their employees better, even when it is not convenient to them.
Steven Mitchell Sack, the Employee’s Lawyer, is a New York employment lawyer with more than 41 years’ experience handling the many aspects of employment law. His new book, “Fired!: Protect Your Rights & FIGHT BACK If You’re Terminated, Laid Off, Downsized, Restructured, Forced to Resign or Quit,” is available in hardback, and contains valuable advice on dealing with employment and labor law issues. To purchase the book, feel free to contact Steven Sack at 917-371-8000 or visit the website at legalstratpub.com. To inquire about a legal matter, please feel free to contact attorney Steven Sack at 917-371-8000 or email@example.com.