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Unions Still On the Prowl

While it has not been a topic for a great amount of discussion, unions won more representational elections in NLRB monitored elections in the first half of calendar 2014 when compared to the same period in 2013. Unions have won a little over eight (8%) percent more elections in the first half of calendar 2014 when compared to the same period for 2013 (465 wins in 2014 versus 428 wins in 2013) and have also improved their "win rate" at approximately three point seven (3.7%) percent (428 wins out of 653 total elections in the first half of 2013 versus 465 wins out of a total of 671 elections in the first half of 2014).
While the unions have "improved" their number of representational election wins and their win rates, they have not drastically increased the number of new members unions have added to "union polls" through these elections. In fact, in the first half of 2013, approximately 65,860 new workers were added to the union roles arising out of these elections, but in the first half of 2014 only 25,750 new workers were unionized or a rather substantial decrease in "new members (i.e. a decrease of over sixty (60%) percent). This small number of organized employees, in the opinion of the author, is directly related to the increase in the number of "micro unions" sought by unions (i.e. small numbers of employees contained within a larger unit of employees employed by the same employer at the same locations). It is obvious that micro units are much easier to organize because there are a fewer number of employees from whom the unions need authorization cards and the peer group pressure that is excreted within "micro units" seems to be greater. All is not lost for the employer!
Unions have also substantially lost a greater number of decertification elections (elections in which employees voted on whether to remove the union as their representative) in the first half of 2014 when compared to the same period in 2013. In the first half of 2013, unions lost fifty nine point six (59.6%) percent of the decertification elections while in the first half of 2014, unions lost seventy point one (70.1%) percent of the elections.
Employers who are concerned about unionization must realize that over the next few years, the National Labor Relations Board, heavily staffed in appointed positions by the extremely liberal Obama administration (read this as very liberal Democrats) has made it easier for unions to organize a workforce. Regardless of this fact, every employer who wishes to remain union-free must take action to protect its employment venue. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Know who you want to be the supervisors and make absolutely certain that the supervisors know they are supervisors and meet the new board tests;
  2. Have legal no solicitation, no distribution, no access rules posted and enforced;
  3. Train your supervisors, not just lecture, on what you expect of them because they are the most important persons in winning a union election;
  4. Have and publish a clear union-free statement establishing that in your day to day operations unions are unnecessary;
  5. Clearly explain to employees your "union-free policy" and the use and meaning of union authorization cards;
  6. Have a credible dispute resolution system in effect and make sure that it works - you might want to make sure that the "employee gossip time" is aware of successful employee wins; and
  7. Have and pay competitive wages and benefits for your business!

While the demise of unions in the private sector has been talked about extensively (in calendar 2013, less than seven (7%) percent of the total private sector workforce was unionized), this does not mean that you, as an employer, are protected from unionization in the future. The wise employer prepares for the fight well prior to when union organizing is under way! 

Questions? Contact Walter J. Liszka in the Chicago office at waliszka@wesselssherman.com or by phone at (312) 629-9300. 

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