If you run a business that employs union workers, you need to take extra care when hiring and managing them. For the sake of your sanity, your business’s success, and your employees’ overall experience, the best decision you can make is to handle union employees with consistent, solid solutions based on the recommendations of union experts and knowledgeable legal counsel. The National Labor Relations Act is a federal law that protects the rights of most private sector workers to form labor unions, and to take part in collective bargaining, labor strikes, and other actions to support their demands.
The top three things to know about hiring and managing union workers:
1. Find out your state’s status regarding the “Right to Work” issue.
2. Consult with employment or legal professionals before handling any union issue.
3. Hire an attorney who specializes in assisting employers in resisting unwelcome labor union organizing drives, or in handling union mediation/arbitration activities.
Utilize state resources for labor questions
Your first stop in dealing with the dos and don’ts of hiring and managing union employees is to learn your state’s laws and requirements. If your state is a Right to Work state, then the employees have the right to decide for themselves whether or not to join or financially support a union, which makes it illegal for unions to require membership as a condition of employment. In non-Right to Work states, employees may be required to join unions in order to keep their employment with some businesses (whether or not they have opposing political/religious beliefs).
U.S. Department of Labor’s State Labor Offices
and click on your state’s name for your state’s labor office website, phone number, address, and the name of the director (or commissioner). Then go to your local office website for resources and information about labor relations, the state board of mediation/arbitration, and state-specific regulations. The Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (LMRDA) covers United States unions, officers and employees of unions, union members, employees who work under collective bargaining agreements, and others – check out the specifics at the Office of Labor – Management Standards (OLMS)
. Visit the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation for a map of Right-to-Work states.
Seek assistance from the pros in union employee management
Hiring and managing union employees is a horse of a very, very different color compared to hiring and managing non-union employees, so don’t make moves without getting expert and/or legal advice. Dealing with unions, arbitrations, and grievances can be incredibly expensive – especially for the small business owner – so learn all you can, and then tread carefully.
Design an employee handbook
Make sure you develop an employee handbook that protects you and your business legally and provides specific employee standards and regulations.
National Labor Relations Board
to learn more about this federal agency, which administers the NLRA through holding elections to determine if employees want union representation, and by investigating/remedying unfair labor practices by either unions or employers. Then check out “The National Labor Relations Board and YOU: Unfair Labor Practices” [PDF link]
before designing your employee handbook/policy manual.
Learn from the unions specific to your industry
When hiring a union employee, make sure each employee understands that he is covered by a union’s collective bargaining agreement, and tell him that a union representative will contact him directly to review membership information and union dues. If you have any questions, contact your attorney (we recommend finding one who specializes in labor law issues).
- You must negotiate the rights of all workers in a bargaining unit with the labor unions (whether your employee is a union member or not).
- Never promise employees benefits to discourage their involvement with a union.
- You cannot threaten to fire – or actually fire – someone because of his union involvement.
- Remember that your independent contractor workers are not covered by your employees’ union.