Can Employers Prevent & Combat Employee Unionization?

July 21, 2022

The United States is currently experiencing a major resurgence of labor unions. As more fully discussed in The Resurgence of Unions: Why Now?, this upward trend in unionization can primarily be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, a political atmosphere that encourages unionization and the significant media attention given to employees unionizing.

There is no indication that unionization rates will decline in the near future, so the question now becomes, how can employers combat this unionization trend? Luckily for employers, there are several business practices that companies can implement to both prevent and combat employee unionization:

1.) Effective System to Handle Complaints.

Employees often resent employers that ignore employee complaints and/or fail to resolve them quickly. Thus, employers should implement an effective and efficient system to handle employee complaints. Specifically, this system should provide employers with employee feedback on a regular basis, whether through frequent group meetings or surveys. If employees feel like they have the opportunity to be heard, then they are less likely to join a union.

2.) Well-Trained Supervisors.

Employers should ensure that supervisors are well-trained to effectively communicate with employees, especially concerning difficult subjects such as discipline and job performance. Supervisors should strive to foster positive employee relations and make their employees feel respected and valued.

3.) Workplace Safety.

Employers that preemptively address safety issues are better equipped to combat unions that promise a “safer” work environment. Because a culture of safety and smart behavior starts from the top down, employers should provide extensive safety training to managers and supervisors. In addition, employers should establish company rules and regulations regarding workplace safety.

4.) Fair and Competitive Wages.

Employers that provide fair and competitive wages are less vulnerable to unionization. To ensure wages are competitive in a particular location and industry, employers should participate in wage-benefit surveys. If an employer’s wages are not at the top of the pay scale, the employer should be prepared to explain why, including the nonmonetary advantages of working for the company.

5.) Clear Company Policies.

Employers should establish clear policies and regulations and ensure to follow them. All managers and supervisors should be trained and regularly updated on company policies and regulations. Failure to establish and follow clear policies often results in employers taking inconsistent disciplinary actions, causing employees to feel that they are being treated unfairly.

6.) Open-Door Policy.

Managers and supervisors should have an open-door policy so that employees feel comfortable raising issues without fear of retaliation. Employers should also encourage open communication between junior employees and their supervisors. It is critical that employees feel both comfortable walking into any manager or supervisor’s office to express concerns, and confident that their concerns will be appropriately addressed.

7.) Employee Recognition.

Employers should celebrate things like innovation, hard work, teamwork and company milestones. This can be achieved through bonuses, trips, extra vacation time, promotions or even through public recognition in the workplace. Employees that feel valued by their employers are less likely to join a union.

8.) Employee Engagement.

Employers should be open to feedback from employees and allow employees to participate in making important decisions. Employers can increase employee engagement using suggestion boxes, whistleblowing emails, open forums and employee engagement surveys. Employers should foster a work environment where employees always feel informed, respected, heard and appreciated.

For any questions or to discuss strategies to combat labor unions further, please contact KJK Labor and Employment Partner Rob Gilmore (RSG@kjk.com; 216.736.7240).