Recognizing and Addressing Common Union Lies

Labor unions seem to have perfected the art of telling lies to employees and staying silent on topics that employees need to hear, like documented union corruption. Acknowledging the most common union lies or, at times, simply misconceptions, is critical to developing and sustaining a positive employee relations strategy among your organization. Engaging employees in a transparent, honest discussion about union lies by sharing labor union facts. It is one step in developing honest management and employee relations to stay union-free.

We’ll cover some of the most common misconceptions that we’ve seen arise in our experience in labor relations and in working closely with companies to maintain a union-free environment.

Fact-Checking Union “Statistics”

The AFL-CIO issues an annual report on executive pay in S&P 500 companies called the Executive Paywatch. The report says, “In 2019, CEOS of S&P 500 companies received, on average, $14.8 million in total compensation. The average S&P 500 company CEO-to-worker pay ratio was 264-1.” These impressive statistics are meant to convince employees that the organization’s management is greedy and underpaying the frontline workers.

Here’s the truth about these particular statistics. According to the American Enterprise Institute, the AFL-CIO manipulates the statistics, so they show what the union wants them to show. Scholar Mark Perry analyzed the union report’s details in 2017 and found a number of issues. One is that CEOs’ total compensation is compared to cash wages (no benefits) for employees working a mix of full-time and part-time hours. If the total hours for employees were used that are comparable to the hours a top executive works, the ratio significantly changes. 

That is just one example of how statistics can be manipulated. Perry also discusses the fallacy that one party can only gain at the expense of another. In his calculation, after confiscating all of the CEO compensation and redistributed it to workers, each rank-and-file employee would get an annual increase of $65 (3.7 cents per hour). 

Another issue per LaborPains is the fact the AFL-CIO cherry-picks CEOs running the largest companies to ensure the comparison of CEO pay to staff pay looks as bad as possible. When all Chief Executives are included, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found their average wages were $193,850, a far cry from $14.8 million. Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, earned $295,789, per a filing with the Department of Labor for 2017-2018.

common union lies

Common Union Lies and Misrepresentations

Here are statistics employers can believe: The number of certification elections roughly doubled every single month since the pandemic hit through June 2020 and continue to increase. The union win rate is up from 55 percent in June of 2019 to 76 percent in June of 2020. Businesses are more vulnerable to unionizing now than they have been in decades. 

Congressional Democrats have reintroduced the PRO Act, as expected. The new bill is almost identical to the original 2020 bill. The Democratic-controlled Congress and President Biden’s administration are moving fast to create a union-friendly government. The online newsletter “Join the Conversation” that Projections, Inc. publishes each Monday is filled with updates on increasing current union activity across the country. 

The Conversation newsletter is getting longer every week as unions ramp up their drive to grow their membership in collaboration with a union-friendly government and while employees remain in a state of turmoil initiated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic’s impact on the workforce has already been profound and will be long-term. 

This is a good time to do a round-up of effective employer actions and responses to union lies or union bluffs discussed in various UnionProof blogs. We are “herding” these reminders up, so you continue to take effective steps to avoid unionization and stay on top of false statements and bluffs made by labor unions. UnionProof has discussed a variety of union bluffs, so we wanted to make it easy for you to find explanations and responses your leaders need.

Union Lie 1: Employees have a say in how their dues are spent, and they only go to improve employee lives.

The truth is that union dues once remitted to the union are spent however union leaders see fit. Unions don’t ask their members to approve a budget. Union dues go for political campaigns, lobby groups, union administrator and staff salaries and benefits, administration and operating expenses, and more. We suggest you read:

Where Do My Union Dues Go?

Union Lie 2: Unions always try to solve problems peacefully and avoid strikes and protests. 

Clearly, this is not true. In fact, unions have used strikes and protests to pressure employers since the days they first appeared, and they don’t worry about the financial impact on the business. Now, unions have found new ways to form strikes and protests by using the internet, which will continue and grow. We suggest you read:

How Unions Hurt Workers: The 2019 GM Strike

The Virtual Walkout: Picketing in a High-Tech World

2021 – Current Trends in Labor Relations

Union Lie 3: Union decisions impacting employees are always made democratically.

Employees forming a union do not vote on every decision the union makes. They vote on the union contract. It is the selected union representatives who consult with management over issues and make decisions. We suggest you read: 

7 Leadership Challenges to Meet in 2021 to Stay Union-Free

Why Your Employees Need Union History Education

Union Lie 4: Management is greedy and only interested in making a profit.

Labor unions consistently fail to mention that companies must make a profit in order to achieve business sustainability, which means ongoing employment for people. Unions try to make the word “profit” equate to “evil capitalism” that hurts workers. Companies that don’t make a profit will not stay in business very long. We suggest you read:

How to Talk to Employees About Collective Bargaining

9 Things You Must Communicate to Employees to Stay Union Free

Union Lie 5: Unions guarantee employees that, if they vote for a union, they will be paid more or get an increase in benefits or both.

A company cannot raise wages just because the labor union thinks it should because there are always economic consequences. For example, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour in increments between now and June 2025 could cost 1.4 million jobs. Unions are strong proponents of the increase. The National Restaurant Association that represents 15.6 million employees says the increase will create “insurmountable costs” for the restaurant industry. We suggest you read:

The Real Effect Unions have on Wages 

Five Things Unions Promise that Employees Already Have

Pay Secrecy – Do You Know the Law?

Union Lie 6: Joining a union means an employee can’t be terminated without the union’s permission. 

This is false. You can terminate an employee for a legitimate reason, whether or not employees belong to a union. We suggest you read: 

Union-Free Job Security: 5 Ways to Show Employees It Exists

Union Lie 7: Unions promote a collaborative culture.

This is not true because unions expect employees to work within their grade and only perform specific duties in the job description. In fact, unions try to get “jurisdictional restrictions” in union contracts that prohibit employees from working outside their department or unit. We suggest you read:

5 Traits of a Union Proof Culture

Disadvantages of Unions on Company Culture

addressing common union lies and misconceptions

Tackling Common Lies With Positive Employee Relations

The way to counter common union lies is with facts, a key element of developing positive employee relations. For refresher information on developing positive employee relations strategy and identifying issues in your organization, Projection’s suggests reading the articles:

The challenge of staying union-free is that it takes a well-defined strategy incorporated into the employee engagement effort. There is no easy, quick way to develop positive employee relations and strengthen employee engagement. There are many resources for employers already developed that ensure employees are basing their decision-making on the truth about unions.

Resources For Employers

  • a live “dark website” that explains why staying union-free benefits employees
  • an employee-focused FAQ webpage that encourages employees to ask questions about unions anonymously and get feedback
  • accessible videos in which management and employees discuss the benefits of working for the company and the open-door policy. (great for building positive employee relations too!)
  • accessible videos and podcasts that deliver updated information about unions and union activities, including their negative behaviors
  • enterprise social media posts containing relevant information (i.e., how a union strike at competitor harms employees)
  • union dues and strike calculators that drive home the net impact of joining a union on the paycheck
  • e-learning presentations on unions
  • Onboarding and new hire orientation videos presenting the company’s union-free perspective

Videos, websites, e-learning programs, and other resources like podcasts can communicate information about unions to employees. At the same time, this shares information that builds positive employee relations. 

Leaders Telling the Truth About Unions

The really critical element of achieving both goals – strong employee engagement and a union-proofed business – is to develop leadership able to meet the challenges of staying union-free. Suppose your executives, senior leaders, managers, and frontline supervisors are not knowledgeable of union lies and manipulated facts, or their ranks include weak links as communicators and are not familiar with employer and employee rights per the NLRA. In that case, it’s easy to make a simple statement that leads to an expensive grievance procedure. From there, you will likely find your company dealing with a union campaign.

Engaging employees and maintaining positive employee relations is not as easy now as it was just a decade ago. There is a new business normal. Many employees are working remotely, globally, or at various business locations. Unions are reaching out to employees through the internet, and you may never know until a union campaign starts. There is now an invite-only audio drop-in app (Clubhouse app) where people can listen to and join private discussions. Unions regularly push discord, dissatisfaction, and a variety of issues that take root among disengaged employees.

Don’t Let Unions Be the Only Voice Your Employees Hear

The message (especially now that the current Democratic administration is vigorously pursuing pro-union legislation) is to make leadership training, communication of union facts, and employee engagement top priorities. Don’t avoid talking about unions because that doesn’t educate your employees to recognize and be educated about some of the most common union lies.

Take advantage of the union-facing resources developed by experts, consult a labor relations specialist, strengthen your communication procedures, and stay on top of what’s happening in government, with unions, competitors, and the general marketplace. Make developing positive employee relations your proactive defense against unionization because “let’s wait-and-see” what happens is no defense at all.

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.