Reach out to employees before unionizing becomes an issue

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With labor making a bid to unionize the financial services sector, management should proceed with the utmost delicacy. The National Labor Relations Act is almost exclusively a list of “don’ts” applied to management with very few restrictions applied to union organizers. Management will be playing defense throughout the workplace organizing process. That’s just the way it is. 

Nothing has improved on the original defense against union organizing efforts pioneered by automobile magnate Henry Ford in the 1920s. Ford’s tactics were: pay your employees well (at least the industry standard, if not higher); provide them with good benefits and a safe work environment; and keep an ear open for any concerns they might have. Do those things and it is unlikely workers will see any need for a union.

It is important to do these things proactively. Be generous to workers when times are good and all appears well. Consider it a long-term investment in the stability of the company. It will also help attract and retain skilled workers. Don’t wait until reports of discontent start rearing their head. Make a point of regularly interacting with employees. Take the time to stroll around the workplace and chat them up.

An “open door” policy doesn’t help if the workers are uncertain if they truly can walk in and raise a concern with the boss at any time. A manager that is visible and engages them in casual conversation is much more likely to hear concerns before they metastasize into union-related issues. However, all of the above may not prevent an organizing bid from happening. One favorite tactic of unions is called “salting,” which is literally sending an undercover agent to apply for an open position at a workplace. Organizing of any sort is a protected activity under the NLRA, so firing a worker for that is a violation of the NLRA. The fact that the worker may have applied for the position in bad faith and had no intention of being a loyal employee is irrelevant in the eyes of the National Labor Relations Board. If the employer hired them, that’s all that matters. There has to be genuine discontent at a workplace for a salt to be an effective organizer, however.

Read the full article on American Banker.