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Union resurgence means employers must stay aware

A recent Gallup poll found that union approval is at the highest rate it has been since 1965, with 68% of Americans saying they approve of labor unions.

From October 2021 through March 2022, the National Labor Relations Board reported that union representation petitions were up by 57% and unfair labor practice charges increased 14%.

In addition, strikes by manufacturing employees seeking better conditions are on the rise.

Since 1969, in most cases an employer has been able to require an election by refusing to recognize a union solely based on an alleged majority of union authorization cards signed by employees.

However, in April 2022, the General Counsel of the NLRB argued in the case of Cemex Construction Materials Pacific v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters that employers must show “good faith doubt” related to the validity of union authorization cards to avoid bargaining with a union. There are outstanding questions as to what qualifies as “good faith doubt.”

The current environment means that employers need to pay attention to the new ways unions are organizing at the grass-roots level.

For example, unions are using social media platforms to seek out support, including from high-profile people such as politicians. Some unions are bolstering their arguments by focusing on the negative ways in which the pandemic has affected safety and staffing challenges.

Here are some other ways employers affected by unions can protect themselves:

  • Pay attention to working conditions. Be aware that employees are likely to join together to fight against unsafe working conditions and unfair compensation, among other things.
  • Create a process to hear employees concerns. Employees who feel heard and experience open communication with their employer are less likely to unionize.
  • Provide training for supervisors. Supervisors at all levels should be trained in listening to employees and communicating policies in an effective manner.
  • Speak carefully about union organizing. Think about careful ways to explain the benefits of not unionizing while addressing staff concerns, instead of taking a strong, hardline stance against unions.
  • Evaluate job classifications in your company. A micro-bargaining unit in a company is created when a small group of employees bands together to bargain with an employer. It might be possible to avoid that if employees’ jobs are more differentiated from each other.

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