You Need to Get Educated, To Get Vicious

Contributed by Beverly Alfon

A recurring question that I get from employers who find themselves targeted by a union is “how are these unions able to do what they do?”  My reaction is always the same.  That’s easy.  They’re well-trained. They have resources on a local level and a national level.  The result is that they are well-educated in what’s legal, what’s not legal, and what just may work if it’s done right…

What so many employers don’t realize is that the unions have had almost 80 years of practice at this game.  Like many professionals, the unions require their business agents and organizers to get continuing education.  They are often trained on a local level (those seasoned organizers have many tales to tell and lessons to teach) and a national level (e.g., AFL-CIO annual conferences that specifically address pickets, salting, unfair labor practices – the whole gamut).  These organizers and business agents also have the ear and advice of lawyers who they do not have to pay out-of-pocket. 

So now what?  This is when I trot out one of two quotes that I can deliver without laughing at myself:  “You need to get educated, to get vicious.”  Be sure that you get out there and do as the unions do.  Partner yourselves with other employers through trade associations and similar “knowledge sources.”  The established employer associations have rich resources for their members.  Know when to look for help and who to get it from – before trouble finds you. 

Staying on top of the laws that directly affect you and knowing what has worked and what has not worked for other employers, can only benefit you in the day-to-day decisions that you make for your company.  It just may prompt a union to ask, “how is that employer able to do what it does?”