In an effort to not have this blog become solely a reporter of the current events surrounding labor law, Wednesdays will now be dedicated to discussing what if certain things in the world of labor happen to you. For instance, what to do if you are being picketed; what to do if your employees walk off the job; what to do if a union business agent shows up to your office with a box of authorization cards and says he now represents a majority of your employees.
Today we will start with the last example: what to do if a union business agent either calls you on the phone or shows up at your office with a stack of authorization cards claiming that he represents a majority of your employees.
For background perspective, if a union says that a majority of your employees have signed an authorization card, the union is probably telling the truth. Unions don’t bother going public that they have cards signed until they have well over a majority of the cards signed – usually near 80% of their defined bargaining unit. Why?
Simple. Once an organizing campaign begins, the support for the union deteriorates. So, unions build in a cushion knowing that they will lose support between the beginning a campaign and an election. The end goal for a union is 50% + 1 of those employees who show up to vote.
If the business agent simply calls you on the phone, you are under no obligation to speak with him. Simply tell him that you do not believe what he is telling you to be the truth, and hang up the phone. Just because the agent says he has a majority of cards signed, doesn’t mean he’s telling you the truth, and you have every right to hang up on him like you would anyone else who is harassing you at work.
If the agent shows up to your office, he will likely try to get you to hold the authorization cards. Don’t touch them. Don’t even look at them. By touching or looking at them you run the risk of seeing who signed them and then if you take any disciplinary action against any of those employees, even for legitimate reasons, the union will cry foul claiming that you disciplined that person because you knew he/she was a union supporter. Simply tell the business agent that you do not believe he has a majority of support and escort him out of the office making sure the agent takes all of the cards with him. If he refuses to leave, he is a trespasser like any other person refusing to leave your property; call the police if you feel threatened or if the agent further refuses to leave.
So why is it that I said unions will have about 80% of the cards signed before going public with the signatures, but you’re supposed to say you don’t believe the agent that he has those signatures? Because there is always room for interpretation as to whether the union has included the right people in the bargaining unit, or whether the unit should be more inclusive or less inclusive. Or, the signatures could be from people who no longer work at your company. But most importantly, if you recognize the union now, you forfeit your right to have an election (which EFCA is trying to forfeit anyway), you forfeit your right to tell your employees why they should not vote for the union, and you forfeit your right to appeal the outcome of an election.
I will continue this What To Do series every Wednesday. But, if you have a situation that you would like to see how to respond to, please e-mail me your thoughts. I will keep your contact information confidential when posting practical ways to respond to your question.
Here’s the disclaimer that I’m required to include: Nothing in this blog post creates an attorney-client relationship nor should it be considered legal advice.