Common management strategies and arguments

Strategies

It’s difficult to know how Whittier Street management might want to approach a union campaign.  They may be more conciliatory than expected, concerned about the negative publicity that a campaign could cause.  Or they could choose to go all out and try to stop a union, including (though it’s not legal) firing union organizers.  Below are some examples of some common strategies used during a campaign:

Hiring anti-union consultants

They offer such services as public relations, strategic planning, and training of managers.

Offering temporary improvements

Management sometimes temporarily improves conditions during a campaign, as if they were planning to roll them out all along, only to revert back to old ways later.

Recruiting some employees to fight the union

It of course wouldn’t be surprising to see some staff pressured to be vocally anti-union, whether the staff necessarily believe it or not, in exchange for rewards.  They may try to turn staff who aren’t being unionized against staff who are.  Supervisors will of course likely pressure staff.

Possible intimidation and firing of staff

As mentioned in the section on “How is the union campaign conducted?” it’s illegal, under federal labor law, for an employer to punish, retaliate against, or fire an employee for supporting or organizing a union, either during or after a union campaign.  That’s not to say that some organizations don’t break the law, claiming, for instance, that a union-related firing is actually due to poor workplace performance, or some other excuse.  The risk of firings at Whittier would likely be highest in the early stages of organizing and would probably decrease after authorization cards are signed by employees to certify the beginning of a union campaign.  After certification, a union election occurs automatically, and firings at that stage would likely provoke more sympathy votes for the union than management would gain from firings, and the firings wouldn’t keep an election from happening at that point in the campaign.

Management also risks paying a penalty if they fire workers.  SEIU provides complete legal support for any employee who is fired for union organizing, or supporting a union, and these cases are usually won, if the employee persists with the legal process.  Employers who illegally fire workers must pay back wages for the time that a worker is out and must re-instate them to their job once the case is won.

Mandatory staff meetings

Staff may be required to attend meetings to hear anti-union information.  They often try to keep pro-union staff away from the meetings.  Prepare to ask good questions.  

Stalling tactics

Management may try to find ways to postpone the union election, for instance by filing bogus objections with the NLRB, in order to frustrate and tire staff in the hope that they’ll lose interest in the campaign.

Last minute surprises

Surprises sometimes come up shortly before the union election, such as new charges coming out against the union, or anything else that might create doubt in employees’ minds about the union.  The hope is that it will be difficult for last minute charges to be successfully rebutted by the union before the election.

Arguments

A number of issues will likely surface during the campaign:

Workplace flexibility

Point:  With a union, there will be new rules and less flexibility.  It can be more difficult to improve issues at work because employees and management will become bogged down in union procedural rules.

Counterpoint:  With a union, new rules are up to us. When we negotiate a contract, we can agree to as much flexibility in rules — or any other working conditions — as we want.

Employee/management relations

Point:   Unions create divisiveness, stalemate, and bitterness between employees and management, leading to a difficult work environment.

Counterpoint:   After a union is formed, the atmosphere depends largely on management’s response to the employees’ new-found right to work with management to solve problems.  A union provides a structure that enables both sides to work peacefully together, replacing an arrangement that had previously been more one-sided.  And, after all, could it be worse than what we have now?
Strikes

Point:   Under a union, you’ll be forced to strike, whether you want to or not.  And with a strike will come a loss of income.

Counterpoint:   Only union members can decide whether or not to strike, by majority vote of the employees who would be directly involved.  Strikes in the field of health care are actually quite rare and, when they do occur, are usually brief and directed at increasing pressure on management to come to the table.  But, if our group decided to become one of the tiny percentage of cases that decided to strike, we would receive some income support though payments from the multi-million dollar parent union strike defense fund.
Union Dues

Point:   Union dues are exorbitant. For SEIU, the union that would be representing WSHC, dues are 2% of base salary, with a maximum of $100 per month.   That means that most professional workers would have to pay $1200 per year.

Counterpoint:   The leverage that unions provide for workers almost always allow them to negotiate a more fair salary and benefits package than was in place prior to the union.  The improvement in salary almost invariably more than compensates for the union dues.  Dues pay for all the resources that are needed to make unions possible, including the stategic, legal, and other help that unions provide.  And the dues don’t kick in until a contract is successfully signed with the health center.

Negotiating a contract

Point:   Election of a union will cause management to dig in its heels and refuse to sign a contract, wearing people down and ultimately not accomplishing much.

Counterpoint:   It’s illegal for management to say they won’t agree to a contract.  They are obligated under federal labor law to negotiate in good faith, and workers can petition the National Labor Relations Board to intervene if they’re not doing so.  Ultimately it’s in management’s interests to sign a contract, to keep employees satisfied so that work keeps flowing.  If employees are persistent, a contract will be enacted, as long as it’s satisfactory to the majority of members.