Federal Law > Handbooks - Policies > Union Election Campaigns -- Do's and Don'ts

Union Election Campaigns -- Do's and Don'ts

While there are a myriad of separate rules pertaining to the propriety of employer conduct during a union election campaign, the following list represents some of the major do's and don'ts for an employer involved in an election campaign:

Impermissible employer actions.
1. Defacing Board documents in such a way to suggest that the Board endorses a particular choice.2
2. Appeals to racial prejudice.
3. Misrepresentation concerning NLRB election processes.
4. Electioneering at the polls, interfering with an employees right to free choice.
5. Violence or threats of violence to prevent employees from voting.
6. Disciplining or threatening to discipline employees engaging in union activities during non-working time in non-working areas.
7. Threatening that the plant or department will be closed, moved or discontinued if the union is selected.
8. Promising employees rewards such as wage increases or benefit increases if the employees vote against the union.
9. Interrogating employees about their union sentiments and union activities.
10. Surveillance of employees in an effort to determine their union sentiments and activities.
11. Making house calls to employees to discuss their feelings about the union or calling individual employees into an office as captives to discuss union related issues.
12. Imposing discipline on employees who solicit or talk for the union during non-working time.
13. Limiting employees' rights to wear union buttons or insignias supportive of the union.
14. Changing conditions of employment after union organization activities become known, such as lowering wages or benefits, or granting increases as an inducement to vote against the union.
15. Telling employees that if the union wins, the company will refuse to bargain with the union or that the employees will be forced to go on strike if the union wins the election.

A quick and easy "rule of thumb" for employers in election campaigns is to avoid any conduct or statements which tend to (a) create the impression of spying or surveillance or (b) which threatens employees or (c) which promises benefits depending upon how employees vote in the union election.

Permissible employer actions. Despite the restrictions on management's right to engage in aggressive unilateral action, there are a number of permissible types of statements and actions which an employer can lawfully take in a union campaign, such as the following:

1. Remind the employees that the law guarantees their right to refrain from assisting or joining a union.
2. Informing employees of the disadvantages of belonging to unions such as the possibility of strikes, union fines, union assessments, serving on picket lines, union dues, and initiation fees, all of which come out of their pay.
3. Informing employees that no union can guarantee jobs or job security.
4. Reminding employees of the benefits they now enjoy and reminding them that they got these without a union and do not need a union to keep them or improve them.
5. Inform employees that no union can guarantee anything: The process of collective bargaining is one of "give and take" by both parties and the employer is not forced to agree to anything that it believes is not in the best interests of its business.
6. Inform employees that the union will step between employees and the employer on issues concerning wages, hours and working conditions, and the employer would prefer to continue to discuss these issues directly with employees.
7. Inform employees that even though they have signed a union card, this does not obligate them to vote for the union.
8. Inform employees of any untrue or misleading statements made by the union.
9. Inform employees about requirements in the union's constitution and bylaws which permit assessments and fines against union members.
10. Inform employees of the company's right to operate during a strike, including through the use of subcontractors or strike replacements, if necessary.

An employer must live with the legal restrictions on its statements and conduct during an election campaign. However, the company must, nonetheless, be aggressive in communicating its position about the union. The worst mistake an employer can make during an election campaign is to give the employees the impression that a union is "no big deal". Employees need to understand the company's position on the unionization question and they need to understand the negative aspects of union representation.
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