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Union Campaign: Steps, Process & Perspectives

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  • 0:04 What Are Union Campaigns?
  • 0:34 Union Campaign Steps & Process
  • 2:39 Perspectives and Actions
  • 5:46 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Martin Gibbs

Martin has 15 years experience in Human Resources Information Systems and has a PhD in Information Technology Management

During a union organizing campaign, employees, management, and union leaders all have a perspective on the campaign. This lesson will discuss the steps of an organizing campaign, and the perspectives of the parties involved.

What Are Union Campaigns?

Nervous tension has set in at the leadership meeting. Employees are suddenly quiet, but there is a hushed expectation in the air. Your company is about to experience a union campaign. Employees are organizing into a union. Instead of allowing panic to take over the organization, let's first review the steps and process of a union campaign. Then we'll examine the campaign from the perspective of the employer, the union, and impacted employees.

Union Campaign Steps & Processes

Before leadership got wind of the organizing activity, union leaders and employees had already been planning to organize. Let's now take a look at the individual steps taken during an organizing campaign:

Step Description
1. Discussion Phase Those who wish to form a union will begin discussions with co-workers; union organizers by now have had private discussions with employees to engage them in organizing.
2. Contact Contacts with the national union, such as Teamsters or AFL/CIO, are made to get their backing.
3. Information Phase Union organizers provide the broader union with information about employees and managers, names, departments, shifts, contact information, etc. The union organizers will have provided the larger union with a wealth of information about the place of business: work locations, products/services, customer details, vendor information, partnerships, financial information, competitors, etc.
4. Issue Identification Organizers will find out what the issues are, and who cares about them. For example, safer working conditions might be a hot-button issue for employees. The organizers seize this issue and develop their communication plan targeted to this subject.
5. Sign Up The union organizers will go around to employees and ask them to sign cards or statements that they intend to join the union. They will try to collect enough cards so that they can be confident of a majority when the election phase begins.
6. Union Election This is where the rubber meets the road. Union organizers take the signed papers or cards to the federal labor board. The labor board decides who can actually vote in the election. When the election date is established, the union will actively recruit members, and management will present its side to employees and union members.
7. Negotiation If the employees vote to form a union, then the union will negotiate a labor contract with management.

Perspectives and Actions

With the campaign under way, let's look at how management, union leaders, and employees perceive this organizing action.

In most cases, management would prefer that the entire organizing campaign go away or that employees vote to not unionize.

The union has spent considerable effort and money to educate employees about the unionizing effort, and leadership will want to present its side of the issue. A common approach is to stress the positives of the company, and to reaffirm an open-door policy between employees and management. One thing management cannot do is to prevent the organizing, or threaten or coerce employees. Other statements that management will present to employees can include the following:

  • Highlight the union's strike record, and how every day spent on strike is a day in which the employee isn't earning money
  • Describe abuse or corruption the union has been involved in, or threatening activity the union would engage in
  • Union dues and cost of membership
  • Statements that the union may not fulfill its promises of higher wages or better benefits

In our example of workplace safety, management would develop a campaign to prove it is improving workplace safety. Management cannot lie, threaten, coerce, or terminate employees from their jobs. Union campaigns cost time and money for all sides. Management may need to hire legal services and devote employee and managerial resources in order to develop their plan of action and strategy in response to the union campaign.

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