If you’re a human resources manager, you might be nervous if the term “union” is being used in your workplace. Rest assured, unions are not a bad thing. In fact, their purpose is to advance the interests of its members, meaning your valued employees, with respect to wages, benefits, and working conditions. It is possible for unions and workplaces, as well as union and non-union employees, to work in harmony. But, there are a few key do’s and don’ts.

The Don’ts

According to the National Labor Relations Board, here are some practices employers should not establish in their workplace if unionized employees are present.

  • Employers cannot close their facilities if their motive is to prevent unionism in their workplace. If workers would like to unionize, they should be allowed to do so according to the law.
  • Employers cannot refuse to hire a job applicant because they are pro-union, are a member of a union, or participate in union activities.
  • Employers may not terminate, suspend, deny employees access to work by a lock-out, permanently replace locked-out employees, lay off, fail to recall from layoff, demote, discipline, create a hostile environment to encourage employees to resign due to intolerable working conditions, or take any other unfavorable action against employees because they support a union, are a member of a union, or engage in union activities.
  • Employers may not engage in unlawful conduct that is permanently destructive of their employee’s rights. These actions may include harassment, such as offensive jokes, slurs, name calling, physical assaults or threats, ridicule, or insults that can interfere with work performance and create a hostile work environment. Discrimination against race, religion, gender, national origin, age, or disability is also unlawful.

The Do’s

According to Arte Nathan, a veteran human resources professional with more than 30 years of practicing HR, here are some practices employers should establish in their workplace if unionized employees are present.  

  • Treat all employees the same way, regardless of if they’re represented by a third-party or not, to ensure equality. As an employer, if you start giving special treatment to the employees who belong to the union because they have an additional third-party on their side, the employees who do not belong to the union will look at and react to you differently, perhaps not in a good way.
  • Equality among both types of employees in the workplace will lead to trust — and trust is an important aspect to have in the employer-employee relationship. For those who belong to a union, it’s best to have your employees feel comfortable talking to you about their concerns instead of a union representative. And, for those who don’t belong to a union, knowing that you’re playing for both teams will establish that you’re on their side, as well.
  • Review both non-union and union policies and procedures annually. This will ensure similarity between both groups of employees and will solidify equal treatment among union members and non-union members.
  • Unions work by a contract, so brush up on your employment law terms and best workplace practices before signing one. And, if you want to make any changes to the contract, you’ll have to get approval by the union first.

Incorporating the “do’s” and ridding yourselves of the “don’ts” is a positive way to promote a warm, safe, and diverse employee population that loves to work together with their employer.

Stephen Koppekin Consulting provides cost-effective and efficient consulting solutions in the areas of labor and employment.  With his expert ability to negotiate and his solution-based mindset, Stephen Koppekin shares his vast knowledge on his consulting website.