Friday, June 8, 2018

Unionization Counter Campaigns Are Alive and Well at United

Recently, the Chicago Tribune reported that the union Unite Here filed an unfair labor practice alleging that United Airlines was engaging in unlawful anti-union campaigning which amounted to intimidation, surveillance and threats of potential union members. Unite Here is in the midst of an organizing campaign for United’s kitchen workers.

Now, it’s nothing new during an organizing campaign for friction to develop between the union and the employer, especially when the employer is proactively mounting a counter campaign of its own. What is interesting is that United is taking advantage of their technology to deliver their message by broadcasting their union education information on television screens installed in their kitchen facilities, making the employees somewhat of a captive audience to their communications. I envision a message on unionization running every hour in the kitchens of United much like sitting in the dentist’s office and watching the recordings on gum disease. It’s good information, whether you want to see it or not.

United has obviously taken the concept of delivering the “other side of the story on unionization” to a different level, but the basics remain the same. United’s messages, including that employees will pay union dues that may reduce their overall take home pay from its current level, to the fact that current benefits and privileges of employment are not certain to stay the same once everything becomes subject to the bargaining process, are all factually true, which is the cornerstone of any employer counter campaign. Laws governing both public and private employers forbid employers from engaging in counter union activities that include threats, intimidation, promises or surveillance of potential union members (very often referred to as T.I.P.S. for employers during unionization campaigns).

While informational campaigns by employers which educate potential union members are sanctioned by law, they shouldn’t be done verbally. Messages can be misconstrued or remembered differently, causing claims and counterclaims of wrongful conduct. Employers are right to take advantage of their technology to deliver their information in a way that will be well received by their employees.