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When the Unions Come Calling

How you handle an attempt at organization will affect relations with your employees for years to come -- whether you win or lose.

October 30, 2000
Related Topics: Unions, Labor Relations
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Much as we’ve been hearing about the death of unions, it seems they’vebeen prettyactive of late, at least in some industries. While the labor movement hasseen declining membership over the past 30 years (and that’s mostly a sign ofgood HR and smart business), there are areas that are being hit for the firsttime by the glare of unionization. Service industries, health-care industries,and even particular parts of the country are seeing a growth in union activity.If yours is one of the companies that is experiencing union flirtation, theinitial reaction may be to panic. Don’t.

How you handle an attempt at organization will affect relations with youremployees for years to come, no matter whether you win or lose the unionizationbattle. "If you get in a bloodbath and try to win at all costs, you’lllose either way," says Paul F. Clark, associate professor of labor studiesat Penn State University. "You’ll lose the election and have a union asmad as hornets when they come to the bargaining table. Or you’ll win theelection and have a workforce that’s mad as hell and disillusioned."

Indeed, the one thing these case examples of small (under 500 employees),medium (500-5,000), and large (5,000 plus) companies have in common is therealization that -- surprise -- people policies can make all the difference inthe world, union or not.

The examples here are composites, based on real companies’ experiences asrelatedby experts in the field. Companies contacted would not agree to talk abouttheir union experiences.

Workforce,November 2000, Vol. 79, No. 11, pp. 82-83 -- Subscribenow!

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