Overview: If an employer wants to remain union-free, it should engage in employee relations practices to prevent a union from gaining support among its employees. The foundation for maintaining a nonunion workplace lies in making employees feel a sense of fairness and consistency as well as letting employees share in the business success, which can be done through the HR strategy process. Employers should regularly survey their workforce to determine the level of satisfaction among the employees and create an atmosphere that fosters open communication between employees and management. If the results demonstrate a significant level of dissatisfaction among the workforce, employers should strive to improve the working environment.
Employers can make their position on unionization known through a union avoidance position statement as well as a union avoidance policy. Union avoidance policies are permitted so long as that policy does not include conduct that violates the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). However, it is a balancing act for employers if they decide to institute such a policy. The employer must make it clear that the employer prefers to remain non-union and why, but must not communicate the message in any way that may appear threatening or coercive. If a policy is in place it should be communicated to employees at the commencement of employment and may be made part of an employee handbook which employees sign and acknowledge receipt of.
Whatever methods used, employers must be careful (in the absence of an organizing drive) to not express their opinions about unions to their employees as these comments may be used against them as evidence of anti-union bias if an employee claims he or she was terminated for supporting a union.
Trends: Employers are continuing to be effective in avoiding a unionized workplace by engaging in positive employee relations practices. Research has shown that repetition of communication is helpful in preventing unionization. Using several methods to communicate positive employee relations messages to employees helps ensure that everyone understands the employer's objective.
Author: Melissa Boyce, JD, Legal Editor
Updated to include law regarding union security clauses, effective April 12, 2019.
Updated to reflect an amendment regarding union dues, effective May 8, 2018.
Updated to reflect the NLRB reverting to the Browning-Ferris joint employer test.
This section of the XpertHR best practice manual discusses steps an employer may take to remain union-free, including developing a proactive union-avoidance strategy, identifying employee concerns, training supervisors and engaging in ongoing communications with employees.
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