Nov 23 2022
Best Practices to Stay Union Free
Best Practices to Stay Union Free (or Attract One) … It’s Your Choice!
During my work life, I have worked in, and for, both organized and union-free companies. In some cases, we had some organized sites and others that were not. With all the labor organization efforts going on today, I thought I would share my best practices to stay union free. Plus, these are simply best practices for leading any workforce.
My perspective has always been that is if a company has a union in-house, at some point in time the company deserved one. Current management may lead in a much more positive way, but mental models from past negative interactions still exist. It is a challenge to undo twenty-plus years of bad management with just a few years of ‘good management’ attempts.
Like it or not, if you choose to continue to manage in a manner that could be perceived as even a bit authoritarian, entitled, non-inclusive, or unfair, a union could be in your future. I have learned that the following practices are effective in ANY workplace setting, organized or union-free.
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My First Two Experiences with Organized Workplaces
I can’t take all the credit for the best practices I share here, by any means. Each of my first two employers was organized, with one union being small and the other being the United Auto Workers (UAW). As a ‘fresh out of university’ Industrial Engineer, I saw little difference in terms of how the union’s presence affected the performances of a given site.
Both Locals would file the same flavor mix of grievances – working hours, safety concerns, wage rate versus seniority, bid job rights, etc. There did not seem to be any significant difference in work rules or work practices. People could be happy or unhappy. Such happiness seemed to be driven mainly by where they worked and who they worked for, not by the union’s presence.
Both sites had improvement teams, but only a small percentage of the workforce was involved. By the turn of the century, both companies were out of business. Most people simply came to work each day, did their jobs, and went home.
Learning How to Design Work to Stay Union Free
My third employer was not organized. Such a status did not figure in my job selection process, but the five years I spent in that environment dramatically affected my career path. On an annual basis, we would have a lawyer from back East come in and teach us about how to stay union free. It was all legit and legal from a labor relations standpoint. We made rubber roofing, in a part of the country that had a strong Un