Employee Relations Best Practices to Stay Union-Free

It’s no secret that to become an employer of choice, you must embrace positive employee relations. In addition to helping your workplace to remain union-free, this will also foster a strong sense of community and boost employee retention. The following excerpt from our book, “Union Proof: Creating Your Union-Free Strategy” provides the most vital areas to address when creating an environment in which unions are unnecessary.


Use extreme caution & do background checks. Be sure to always have more than one person interview each prospective hire if at all possible and be sure you know the legal “do’s & don’ts” of interviewing. Make sure all participants are not only trained on what they cannot ask, but also about what they should ask.


Always maintain supervisory involvement on all shifts – your first-line team makes or breaks a union-free facility. First line supervision “is” the organization to most employees; front line supervision must “sell” the organization’s party line at all times. Establish a core team of trained supervisors on all shifts, often known as part of your “Rapid Response” team, and use this team as a sounding board for policy changes, as communication conduits, to train weaker or new supervisors, and to communicate about unions in the event of card signing.


Communicate early, often, aggressively and as consistently as practical on all matters affecting the business, human resource matters or community related items. Never let the rumor mill be a suitable substitute for communications & never assume employees understand company policy, procedure, culture or benefits. As much as possible, involve the employees’ families.


Union avoidance training should be ongoing or at least bi-annual for all supervisors. Upper management should be involved. Get as sophisticated as possible with this training – the better armed supervisors are, the better they will be able to defend the facility. Use a combination of live training, video and eLearning to reach every supervisor on a regular basis and to keep them engaged.


Ensure that there is a network to report any and all unusual or suspected third party activities. A management-facing LaborLook. com website is an excellent tool for keeping an eye on union activity if you have multiple locations, allowing reporting of any activity in the local area as well. The core team of supervisors can be the conduit for such reporting and they should develop their own networks within their work areas to keep apprised of and report any activity. The reporting party should be thanked and not chastised for reporting seemingly insignificant items.


The representatives must walk the fine line of employee advocate and management defender. They should be very well versed in union avoidance/detection skills. They should have a presence on all shifts and “press the flesh” as much as possible. The absence of this presence will steer employees towards outside assistance, such as a labor union or government agency.


A true union-free culture should differentiate itself from unionized workers and product competitors by providing competitive wage and benefit structures. These items should be reviewed and adjusted on an annual basis, or more, if needed. Don’t let the competition get ahead, especially if they are a union shop.


Retention begins with hiring – consider a Pre-Hire Orientation video that honestly describes the company, the job and the expectations for the position. Crucial to any business is the retention of its workers. Care must be given to provide the proper wage, benefit, and career growth opportunities to all employees. Your onboarding of new hires should include an orientation video with the company’s union-free philosophy as a part of that consistent message.


Policies and procedures should always be tailored with keeping the third party at bay. Items like skip-level meetings, spontaneous employee recognition, general employee recognition, employee involvement, company sponsored community involvement, etc. should be developed, encouraged and fostered to the fullest extent possible.


Establish teams that empower employees to provide feedback, input, and suggestions. A UnionProof culture, when managed effectively, has proven to be a valuable extension of the management team, and can facilitate problem resolution and favorably impact on the bottom line.


Management visibility is essential in every union-free environment. Upper management’s visibility and accessibility is also a needed ingredient. Employees welcome the attention and sense that it is all part of management’s commitment to the company’s culture. The interactions must be genuine and sustained and cannot be perceived as the “car salesman.” approach or the “glad-handing politician.”

Positive employee relations can be the key to becoming a union-free workplace where unions simply aren’t necessary. Over 40 years of experience has taught us that connecting with employees is the clear path to creating successful companies that matter.

LaborWise Leadership

About “Union Proof – Creating Your Union-Free Strategy”

Today, organized labor is fighting for its very existence. They’re using every weapon at their disposal – including every channel of communication, running corporate campaigns, and influencing politics and legislation with large donations. Their foot soldiers are waging an all-out war against corporate America, and the spoils of victory are your employees.

In Union Proof: Creating Your Successful Union Free Strategy, Peter Bergeron, a 33- year veteran of labor relations and human resources, shares his experiences, offers advice and gives you the “best practices” that truly make a difference in remaining union-free. Far from a legal text, Peter provides the practical tools and advice that can help you make union representation irrelevant within your organization.

Whether you’re a Human Resources executive, thrown into the midst of a cardsigning campaign or a seasoned Labor Relations expert, Union Proof cuts right to the essentials with 11 areas to implement best practices, the 5 steps that prevent organizing drives, plus tips and sample communication plans that will help you craft your successful union free strategy. www.unionproof.com

About the Author

Walter Orechwa

Walter is Projections’ CEO and the founder of UnionProof & A Better Leader. As the creator of Union Proof Certification, Walter provides expert advice, highly effective employee communication resources and ongoing learning opportunities for Human Resources and Labor Relations professionals.