How to Navigate This Year’s ‘Hot Union Summer’

“Hot Union Summer” – you may have heard this term on the news or seen it floating around your social media channels, and that’s because it’s been a summer filled with strikes, fights, and wins for labor unions. While summer may be coming to a close, it doesn’t look like this trend is going away anytime soon, so we’re sharing our labor expertise to help you stay informed and understand how you can respond to ongoing union activity at your organization (or avoid it altogether).

What is Hot Union Summer?

Large corporations like Amazon and Starbucks, as well as organizations from a slew of other industries like film and television, hospitality, healthcare, logistics, higher education, automotive, and more are facing increased discontent among their workforces. Union organizers are taking to social media using hashtags like #HotUnionSummer, #RedHotLaborSummer, #OnStrikeSummer, and #SolidaritySummer to draw attention to their cause.

While California is a hot spot, especially with the increased media attention on the Hollywood strikes, this movement is spreading across the country. Regardless of location or industry, discontent among the workforce is a universal issue for employers right now. Issues range from more traditional organizing topics like pay and benefits, to post-COVID problems like return-to-work policies, and newly emerging challenges like how to use (or not use) AI in the workplace.

With all of this in mind, it’s important to be informed, stay alert, and take steps to be proactive.

Prevention Planning for Union Avoidance

Many organizations will wait until they see active union organizing (or have a union petition) to address employee concerns. That’s a mistake, as employers are significantly limited in what they can fix once a petition is filed.

Instead, prioritize a Labor Relations Readiness Assessment now. If implemented correctly, this can provide a strong foundation in employee relations and teach managers how to better engage with their teams on multiple topics, including unionization. Here is how to get started:

  • Plan – Identify your goals, determine your approach, understand your existing resources and infrastructure, and outline the actions needed to create and sustain a true state of readiness.
  • Educate – Give your C-suite, board and senior leaders, HR team, operational leaders and employees the tools and materials they need to understand the impact of unionization.
  • Assess Vulnerabilities – Prioritize vulnerability assessments, Digital Media Intelligence and company-wide, site-specific analysis of data gathered with recommendations for action steps.
  • Communicate – Build on expected and trusted channels to include a multi-media strategy that reaches every stakeholder where they are.
  • Develop Leaders – Create an understanding that maintaining a direct connection with employees is part of a leader’s job.
  • Engage Employees – Establish (or enhance) a clear and consistent feedback loop so employees know exactly where to go with questions/concerns and can feel confident they will hear back.

Remember – even if you’re not concerned about union activity right now, it’s never a bad idea to remind employees of what makes your organization a great place to work.

Rapid Response to Union Activity

On the other hand, maybe you suspect the start of—or currently are being affected by—this summer’s union activity. If you feel in over your head or like you don’t know how to respond, take a deep breath and consider the following action items: 

  • Readiness Response Team (RRT) - Create an RRT that is comprised of a multi-disciplinary group of leaders, trained to serve at the first sign of union activity.
  • Conduct initial awareness meetings and communications – Schedule meetings with your senior executive and leadership teams to gauge activity and discuss awareness talking points and responsibilities. 
  • Schedule training – Implement training for key internal stakeholders that focuses on understanding the union organizing process, early warning signs, communications rules, and the NLRB.
  • Conduct a communications audit – Conduct manager interviews and voter assessments and develop communications materials that are responsive to real-time developments.

If you’re even further down the road and are preparing for an election, consider contacting IRI Consultants to help you navigate the process. Having the assistance of a team of experts can help you focus on your employees, ensure they have what they need to make an informed decision, and start to build a stronger organization and culture, regardless of the outcome.

At IRI, we empower organizations to navigate workplace challenges, improve employee engagement and productivity, manage labor relations and implement effective communication strategies to achieve their business and advocacy goals. We believe every business is different, and each requires its own holistic and customized approach to communications. Whether you need an internal communications assessment, guidance in developing your internal communications strategy or social media strategy, digital media intelligence, crisis communications services, media relations, or media training, we have expert communications consultants who can quickly provide a specialized solution. Contact us using the chat on the right to discuss the next steps, or give us a call at (313) 965-0350.  

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