In the past when my non-union clients asked about the NLRB or union activity issues I told them there are bigger issues to worry about. I have often said that most lawsuits I see involve either wage-and-hour violations, or issues related to harassment/discrimination/retaliation. As long as supervisors are still talking about sex with their direct reports (or going to Coachella and hooking up with colleagues and bringing those issues back to the workplace), or payroll hasn’t figured out how to pay meal premium at the right darn rate, then I’d worry more about that versus a union campaign. I often advise to focus on the low hanging fruit first.
However, my tone is changing given all of the union activity in the headlines.
First there was the union election in Staten Island. There was a very informative podcast on the Daily about that one. Super interesting how the workers formed their own union and essentially mobilized a successful grass roots campaign by greeting workers daily at the bus-stop. Andrew MacDonald was quoted and provided insights about it here.
Then news that the NLRB’s General Counsel wants to limit an employer’s right to compel attendance at paid mandatory meetings where the employer can explain its perspective on the pros and cons of unionization. Robert Nagle wrote about that issue here. Bob also wrote about the possibility of union recognition based on card checks and without secret ballot elections. In labor lingo this is called the potential reversal of the Joy Silk doctrine.
Finally, there is lots of buzz about many more issues being considered “protected concerted activity” and employers getting complaints and charges about violating Section 8 of the NLRA even if they are not unionized.
So, in sum, lots of union issues in the news. What does that mean to California employers? Well, if you are perceived as unresponsive to employee grievances and concerns, then in addition to worrying about disgruntled workers finding an eager plaintiff’s attorney, those workers may also form (or organize) a union. All the more reason to train your managers on how to be responsive, empathetic, and to proactively address employee issues. Otherwise, union issues may soon move to the top of your list of issues to worry about.