August 29, 2014
If yours is a large manufacturing company you may well deal with a union. If not, you most likely have created a work environment in which the employees don’t feel the need to belong to a collective bargaining organization.
On the other hand, if yours is a small CNC machine shop, you may not give much thought to employee unions. You may even believe that, because of your small size, your employees can’t be unionized. That’s a mistake – potentially a big one.
According to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), it takes no more than 2 employees to form a bargaining unit to protect their rights in the workplace and collectively negotiate with their employer about salaries, benefits, and working conditions. Once two or more employees start down this path there is little the employer can do to stop the activity. Forming a union is protected by the NLRA so employees engaged in this venture cannot legally be disciplined or terminated.
Those engaged in forming a union must, of course, be direct employees of your company, not independent contractors. Supervisors, managers, and executives are usually excluded as well. However, you can’t simply give everyone a managerial title or declare them to be independent contractors to avoid unionization. The National Labor Relations Board and the IRS establishes criteria an employer must meet to classify workers in one of these categories.
If you don’t have a union in your shop and prefer not to see one formed, there are a few important steps you can take to minimize the risk:
Common sense and fair treatment of all employees, codified HR policies and procedures, and ethical behavioral standards clearly communicated to your workers can create an environment that makes unionizing unnecessary.