Don't Believe the Hype

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The Employer’s Anti Union Campaign

Anytime employees express an interest in forming a union, it’s a pretty safe bet that their employer will start to spend significant amounts of money on an anti-union campaign. Sadly, the first thing they usually do is go out and hire an overpriced anti-union law firm and try to convince their employees it’s in their best interest to keep things just the way they are. Then come the lies, misleading statements and smear tactics. Oh yeah… and meetings… lots of meetings! 


We know this because it’s the playbook almost every company resorts to when they see their employees standing together for a better life. The bottom line is management’s anti-union campaign is meant to create a lot of noise and distract from the real reason people are joining together in a union—there are problems at the company that only a collectively negotiated contract can fix. 


In the coming weeks, we can expect management to rehash some of the same old tired topics union-busters have been harping on for years. Certainly, there are better ways they could spend their time and money. Respecting the workers who keep the company profitable and allowing them to exercise their right to choose for themselves without interference would be a start. However, since that is unlikely, we want to prepare you for what is likely to come during our campaign to form a Union. There will be some minor variations, but the method and the message will almost always be the same. 

Hire a Union Buster and Train Management:

Roughly 75% of companies whose workers look to form a union hire an anti-union consultant or lawyer. These individuals like to work in the shadows. Therefore, one of the first things they do is train management to be the front-line in the anti-union campaign. Since they have closer relationships with the workers, they are often seen as more effective messengers of the anti-union propaganda. Remember, supervisors and above are not protected by the National Labor Relations Act, so they are often stuck in the middle and have no choice but to carry out the directives of upper management.

Attempt to Cause Confusion Surrounding Authorization Cards:

One of the first things you can expect in an anti-union campaign is for management to try and misrepresent the true nature and purpose of the authorization card (a-card). They will probably tell you that by signing an a-card you are signing away your right to work with them “directly”. 


The A-card’s sole purpose is to show the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) there is sufficient interest in a union to hold a secret-ballot election. They are NOT membership applications and they are NOT shown to the company. 


So in reality, signing an a-card is the first step in gaining the legal rights and protections that allows you to bargain collectively with your employer.  If you don’t sign an a-card, you will not gain these rights.  So when management talks about dealing with you “directly” what they really mean is as an at-will individual who can be replaced at any time.  This dynamic always favors the employer. Signing an a-card is the first step in bringing some balance to the employee/employer relationship.

Town Halls and One-on-One Meetings:

The primary purpose of these meetings is for the company to disseminate false or misleading information meant to discredit the union. (Remember, it’s not illegal for a company to lie about the union.) Often, anti-union workers are planted and encouraged to ask leading questions and sow seeds of doubt. During many organizing drives, workers are required to attend isolated or even closed-door meetings with management. This can be used as an opportunity to pressure or intimidate union supporters. 

Promised or Token Improvements:

Many companies will likely try and rebuild trust by promising change is coming. They may start committees or even create new positions designed to address all their employees’ concerns.  They may even make unexpected improvements to your wages or benefits. The problem is without a legally binding union contract, these improvements that are made can be taken back anytime and anywhere. Then it is back to business as usual.


Information Overload:

Expect a barrage of emails, social media posts, letters to the home, leaflets and more. Most companies’ intentions are to not only spread lies and false rumors, they are trying to overwhelm you with so much information that you become tired of hearing from both sides. That’s because human nature is to resort to the status quo when you’ve become worn down. 

Employee Testimonials & Vote No Committees:

Management will pick favorites and make promises in order to secure vocal opposition to a union. They often recruit workers to form a “vote no” committee. That way they can circulate information that appears to be from the workers’ point of view. Just remember—it is usually management who is behind these efforts.

Whisper Campaigns:

These are concerted efforts to spread rumors throughout the workforce. Often no one knows where the information comes from ... but it spreads quickly. The aim is simple—plant seeds of fear, doubt and confusion. 


So What Can We Do About It?


Whenever we are presented with some of the above techniques it is always a good idea to take a step back and ask yourself: “From where is this information coming?  How does it make me feel? And who do these feelings serve?”  


You see, the anti-union campaign isn’t so much about facts as it is about emotions.  So when you feel the pressure, doubt, fear, etc. that an anti-union campaign is designed to make you feel, take a pause and consider why our efforts are being met with resistance.  Why should the decision to come together to form a union causes our employer so much concern?  After all, the employer doesn’t get to vote in this, it's our decision alone.  Can you think of other areas in your life where outside forces try to tell you how to use your rights?  It’s usually because whoever is doing the dissuading has something to gain from the status quo.


When faced with the anti-union campaign one of the best things we can do is support each other, know our rights, and be aware of what we are likely to experience.