Unions may frighten some small-business owners. Unions are feared to raise salaries, hinder work during strikes, and hurt the bottom line. Several small business organizations are vocally anti-union. The National Federation of Independent Business opposes Congress’s stalled Employee Free Choice Act, or “Card-Check” Act. Which would allow employees to form unions by showing their employers that a majority of employees support union representation. Employers can require secret ballot elections.
Small business worries
Small businesses worry less than they used to. In 2019, 7.2 percent of private sector workers were union members, according to the BLS. In 2022, it was 9%. And 40 and 50 years ago, it was double-digit.
During the past several years, union membership increased in nondurable good manufacturing and management, administrative, and waste services. Experts say small enterprises are ideal grounds for unionization because they offer a more congenial environment to bring people together.
As a small business owner, you may never have to deal with a union, but here are some tips.
Unions: The Past
A union doesn’t always work to impede. Unions fought for many of the workplace safeguards we currently enjoy. Before workers demanded fair treatment and better working conditions. Some employers ignored important safeguards and worked employees to death.
In March 1911, 146 immigrant employees, mostly women, were killed at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City after owners locked the fire doors, preventing them from escaping.
The incident raised awareness of industrial safety and led to the 40-hour work week, child labor bans, and unemployment insurance.
In 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the National Labor Relations Act, which allowed workers to unionize and regulated employer-union relations.
Philip Dray, author of “There Is Power In A Union: The Epic Story of Labor In America,” says. “You have to cast your mind back to remember why we needed unions and what it was like for people back then.”
Declining unions influence
David R. Levinson, a Washington, D.C. employment law attorney, claims that unions’ declining influence is due to poor marketing rather than their ineffectiveness.
‘Honestly, many people don’t understand what a union accomplishes.” He argues they serve a useful service by giving employees legally enforceable rights rather than employment at will. Unions are an excellent tool for workers to have a say in their jobs.
Even if you don’t think your small business will unionize, you should know the legislation so you won’t make a mistake if your employees do.
The NLRB enforces the National Labor Relations Act, which prohibits employers from interfering with unionization. Unfair labor practice.
Threatening employees with termination or reduced benefits if they join, vote for, or form a union is another unfair labor practice. If workers unionize, employers cannot threaten closure.
Employers should not scrutinize union support or treat pro-union employees differently.
Talk to your lawyer if you hear union rumors.
Many employers have tried to prevent unionization, sometimes to their regret.
Minneapolis-based Regis Corp. operates 10,000 hair salons. The NLRB filed accusations against the company. Alleging that executives coerced employees to sign commitments not to sign union cards in the future under threat of blacklisting.
Managers and the CEO issued the warning via DVD. Case hearings are still pending.
The National Labor Relations Act prohibits unions from forcing employees to join or discriminating against members who criticize the union or refuse to join.
An employer has the right to verify that the union seeking recognition represents at least 30% of employees. Under existing legislation, employers can refuse to accept union cards and require a secret ballot election to prevent coercion.
Labor Unions and Small Businesses
Union Contract Negotiations
If a small-business owner recognizes the union immediately or after a secret ballot election, management and employees must negotiate a contract.
Wages, benefits, and working conditions must be negotiable by law.
However, union reps are now more likely to work with management to reach a mutually beneficial agreement. On working conditions and who does what work, in part because unions are less powerful.
Cornell University professor of industrial and labor relations Richard Hurd. Remarked, “Unions are becoming more flexible and willing to work with companies to create a better workplace.”
Remember that your union may be tiny and decentralized, depending on your industry. Eve Weinbaum, director and associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Labor Center, says union negotiations and contracts don’t have to be confrontational.
Weinbaum says, ‘People talk about unions as if it’s a monolithic thing. And it’s simply not accurate. Especially if you’re talking about small business. It’s vast. You and your employees can define a contract.
Contracts normally last three to five years, but upgrades can occur at any time.
Renegotiations are a ‘pretty normal process,’ according to Cornell’s Hurd. ‘With both sides examining what transpired under the old agreement and looking for locations where they might wish to make adjustments.’
Conflicts and grievances
In small businesses, conflicts and grievances are usually resolved informally by talking to the complainant, the union rep, and management.
Hurd believes management is ‘likely going to have some personal involvement with the representative. To find a way to work things out,’ especially with small firms.
Labor Unions Target Small Business
Unions: The Consequences
If a union approaches your small business, it may not be a bad thing. The expense of conducting business may rise. But you may be able to attract a new clientele: the broader union and union sympathizers.
Some small firms believe it’s worth the cost to keep staff happy and heard.
Weinbaum thinks unions usually lessen workplace strife.
The structure may assist management in clarifying roles and responsibilities.
Hurd thinks small-business owners may well become better at management. It makes them systematic. Unions are a burden, but they can also make businesses organize work more carefully.