6 Ways to Avoid Employee Labor Unions


More employees are trying to form labor unions at big companies, including Starbucks, Amazon, Nintendo, and Chipotle. HR leaders are well aware of the fact that employees have all the leverage at work during this time of labor shortage and the Great Reshuffling, known by others as the Great Resignation.

Yet, leadership continues to make errors that lead to more wins for union leaders and draw more employees down the path of organized labor. Unions become necessary when employees are treated poorly and unfairly. While employees have the right to organize and discuss complaints about the workplace in an effort to make meaningful change, employers can take practical steps to avoid unionization. HR leaders can lead the charge. 

WATCH: Employee Engagement and Experience 

Don’t Fire Organizers

Every employment lawyer on social media has been shouting about this tip. Employees have the right to organize, and their bosses cannot intimidate or fire them as retribution, according to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Employers will face legal consequences, but they will also likely push employees further into the arms of a union. 

Pay Fair Wages

The class divide in the United States is growing. The days when someone with a full-time job had a ticket into the middle or even upper-middle class are over. Some employers do not pay livable wages or the equity in pay among employees is unfair. Assessing payment structures and making appropriate adjustments can go a long way to improving relations with employees. Being transparent about pay structures is another smart move and one that is going mainstream and is even becoming part of the law in New York City

Provide Equity of Opportunities

In the Netflix documentary about Abercrombie and Fitch, viewers learn about the discrimination employees of color experienced. They were not put on schedules, and would end up having few or no hours, which meant not getting paid. This is a blatant example that led to the downfall of the company. Employers should learn from this lesson, however, and audit their process to ensure there is a fair way to distribute work and opportunities. 

READ: What Labor Union Progress Means for HR Leaders

Have an Employee Listening Plan

HR leaders are investing much time in regularly taking the pulse of employees. Some are even conducting brief surveys on a weekly basis. Communicating is key to an employee listening plan. Really hearing what employees are saying about their experience is the first step. The second one is taking action on what you can. 

Some complaints, like making the right lids available next to the disposable coffee cups, is an easy fix as Vishal Bhalla, SVP Chief Human Resources Officer and Chief Experience Officer at Atrium Health pointed out when getting interviewed for the Employee Engagement and Experience for the Post-COVID World report. These small gestures might seem insignificant but they add up and show employees that leadership cares enough to respond.

REPORT: Employee Engagement and Experience for the Post-COVID World

Empower Good Managers

Managers should be trained to check in frequently with workers, create fair processes, handle grievances, and treat people humanely. By giving managers the chance to do all the right things to engage employees and address any concerns they have, the leadership creates a positive work culture. 

READ: Your HR Guide to Unions

Be Proactive

Employment lawyers on LinkedIn remind companies that intimidation and anti-union rhetoric are not the proper ways to avoid unionization. Instead, companies should simply allow HR leaders to create a strong and effective employee engagement and experience plan that incorporates active listening and responsiveness to concerns.

They should be allowed to put together fair and comprehensive compensation and benefits packages. In addition, HR leaders should be able to create legal and binding work safety procedures and humane schedules with the appropriate number of breaks. If these things are already in place, employers remove the need for unionization. 

Continue the discussion about unions with HR Exchange Network on LinkedIn or Twitter.  

Photo by Martin Lopez for Pexels

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