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When You Can't Communicate to Your Employees - The Concept of Neutrality in Labor Relations....

We've covered the surreal piece of legislation called the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) in past weeks at The HR Capitalist, which would allow unions to organize workplaces without workers voting for unionization in elections with secret ballots. Instead, unions could use the "card check" system, and once a majority of a company's employees signs a card expressing consent, the union is automatically certified as the bargaining agent for all the workers.  If signed into law, employers lose the right to tell their side of the story ...Efca   Keep circling back to  Seth Borden, Carter Wood and Richard Hankins for all you need on the EFCA...

So the EFCA sounds dicey, right?  As nasty as it sounds, there's another concept that prevents employers from telling their side of the story as it relates to unionization.  The concept is called Neutrality, and it's a common bargaining chip in big Fortune 500-type companies with multiple divisions and lines of business.   Neutrality usually means that as part of some type of broad-based labor negotiation, a company has agreed to not fight an organizing campaign for any of it's non-union operations.  Should a organizing drive occur in a non-union operation, a company agreeing to Neutrality has agreed not to pursue any type of communications campaign to share with employees why a union may not be in their best interest.

The best example I can provide is the Regional Bell Companies before the massive consolidation of the last 5-10 years.  Those Regional Bells generally had a unionized workforce on the landline phone side (legacy of the Ma Bell days), but also had a thriving wireless business that originated in the mid to late 80's.  Most of the Regional Bells aggressively defended the wireless business from organizing attempts for years, but at some point gave in to the concept of Neutrality as they were negotiating their Union agreements on the landline side.   Simply put, they agreed to Neutrality in their wireless business in exchange for another bargaining chip they deemed important on the landline side of the business.  As a result, most wireless divisions were unionized 2-3 years after Neutrality was agreed to.

With no employer to champion the Union-Free cause, there's no protection for the individual employee who doesn't want a union.  As a result, the drive and subsequent election happen quickly, and the union is brought in - even if it's 20% of the employees who are pro-union in a division.

Why the primer on Neutrality?  Seth Borden of KMB reports that in addition to the EFCA, some states are crafting legislation that mandate a form of Neutrality in the public sector.  Seth's correct in his assessment of the "slippery slope", since if passed it's only a matter of time before you would see similar proposal for the private sector...

Which is worse - the EFCA or Neutrality?  Both are decidedly unfriendly to the employer and the HR Generalist and would result in the same outcome - a recognized Union and all the downside that goes with it for employees....

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