Read The Case of the Misguided Supervisors in Chapter 14 of your text book. Use the Argosy University online library for additional research, and do the following in a Word document:
In 1–2 paragraphs, summarize the case and your research that relates to the case.
In 2–3 pages, answer the following:
Why would an organization care whether its supervisors speak in favor of or against union representation? Explain and justify your answer.
How could the hospital in this example have prepared its supervisors to understand their proper role during an organizing campaign? Explain and justify your answer.
With your answers demonstrate that your understanding of the concepts is thorough and complete. Support your assertions with evidence, citing the appropriate sources.
Apply the APA current guidelines to your work and use at least three resources in your response.
Case of The Misguided Supervisor:
The Case of the Misguided Supervisors
Recently, when a union sought to organize the nurses at a California hospital, the nursing supervisors, called charge nurses, didn’t understand their proper role in the process. While the union was distributing cards for the nurses to indicate their desire for a representation election, several of the charge nurses participated in the union’s meetings and decided they wanted to join. Some of these charge nurses also encouraged nurses who reported to them to support the union as well.
One month before the election, the hospital discovered that charge nurses had supported the union even though their positions in the organization qualified them as supervisors. The charge nurses stopped advocating for the union, and some even encouraged nonsupervisory nurses to vote against representation. The election went ahead, and the union won representation.
The hospital challenged the election because of the pro-union activity by the nurses. However, the NLRB and the court both upheld the union.
1. Why would an organization care whether its supervisors speak in favor of or against union representation?
2. How could the hospital in this example have prepared its supervisors so they would have understood their proper role during the organizing campaign?
SOURCES: National Labor Relations Boards, “The NLRB Process,” http://www.nlrb.gov, accessed May 3, 2012; National Labor Relations Board, “NLRB Representation Case Amendments Take Effect Today,” news release, April 30, 2012, http://www.nlrb.gov; Duane Morris LLP, “Two NLRB Rules Effective April 30 Affect Most Private-Sector Employers,” Mondaq Business Briefing, April 20, 2012, http://galenet.galegroup.com.
If over half the employees sign an authorization card, the union may request that the employer voluntarily recognize the union. If the employer agrees, the NLRB certifies the union as the exclusive representative of employees. If the employer refuses, or if only 30% to 50% of employees signed cards, the NLRB conducts a secret-ballot election. The arrangements are made in one of two ways:
1.For a consent election, the employer and the union seeking representation arrive at an agreement stating the time and place of the election, the choices included on the ballot, and a way to determine who is eligible to vote.
2.For a stipulation election, the parties cannot agree on all of these terms, so the NLRB dictates the time and place, ballot choices, and method of determining eligibility. The NLRB has recently made changes streamlining this process, so employers have little time to make course corrections once an organizing effort is under way. Therefore, organizations—with or without unions—need to ensure supervisors are prepared to behave appropriately and avoid situations such as the one described in “HR Oops!”
On the ballot, workers vote for or against union representation, and they may also have a choice from among more than one union. If the union (or one of the unions on the ballot) wins a majority of votes, the NLRB certifies the union. If the ballot includes more than one union and neither gains a simple majority, the NLRB holds a runoff election.
As noted earlier, if the NLRB finds the election was not conducted fairly, it may set aside the results and call for a new election. Conduct that may lead to an election result’s being set aside includes the following examples:27
•Threats of loss of jobs or benefits by an employer or union to influence votes or organizing activities.
•A grant of benefits or a promise of benefits as a means of influencing votes or organizing activities.
•Campaign speeches by management or union representatives to assembled groups of employees on company time less than 24 hours before an election.
•The actual use or threat of physical force or violence to influence votes or organizing activities.
After certification, there are limits on future elections. Once the NLRB has certified a union as the exclusive representative of a group of employees, it will not permit additional elections for one year. Also, after the union and employer have finished negotiating a contract, an election cannot be held for the time of the contract period or for three years, whichever comes first. The parties to the contract may agree not to hold an election for longer than three years, but an outside party (another union) cannot be barred for more than three years. Note that both union certifications and union elections can be conducted online.
Sometimes an employer will recognize a union after a majority of employees have signed authorization cards. More often, there is a hotly contested election campaign. During the campaign, unions try to persuade employees that their wages, benefits, treatment by employers, and chances to influence workplace decisions are too poor or small and that the union will be able to obtain improvements in these areas. Management typically responds with its own messages providing an opposite point of view. Management messages say the organization has provided a valuable package of wages and benefits and has treated employees well. Management also argues that the union will not be able to keep its promises but will instead create costs for employees, such as union dues and lost income during strikes.
Employers use a variety of methods to oppose unions in organizing campaigns.28 Their efforts range from hiring consultants to distributing leaflets and letters to presenting the company’s viewpoint at meetings of employees. Some management efforts go beyond what the law permits, especially in the eyes of union organizers. Why would employers break the law? One explanation is that the consequences, such as reinstating workers with back pay, are small compared to the benefits.29 If coercing workers away from joining a union saves the company the higher wages, benefits, and other costs of a unionized workforce, management may feel an incentive to accept costs like back pay.
Supervisors have the most direct contact with employees. Thus, as Table 14.1 indicates, it is critical that they establish good relationships with employees even before there is any attempt at union organizing. Supervisors also must know what not to do if a union drive takes place. They should be trained in the legal principles discussed earlier in this chapter.
The traditional union organizing strategy has been for organizers to call or visit employees at home, when possible, to talk about issues like pay and job security. Local 130 UA of the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Association forms a committee of volunteers to comb through lists of journeyman plumbers within the local’s jurisdiction. The committee members cross off the names of union members to create a list of plumbers who are not represented by a union. The local mails organizing kits to these individuals, and then the volunteers follow up to arrange visits with interested individuals in their homes.30
What Supervisors Should and Should Not Do to Discourage Unions
WHAT TO DO:
Report any direct or indirect signs of union activity to a core management group.
Deal with employees by carefully stating the company’s response to pro-union arguments. These responses should be coordinated by the company to maintain consistency and to avoid threats or promises. Take away union issues by following effective management practices all the time:
Deliver recognition and appreciation.
Solve employee problems.
Protect employees from harassment or humiliation.
Provide business-related information.
Be consistent in treatment of different employees.
Accommodate special circumstances where appropriate.
Ensure due process in performance management.
Treat all employees with dignity and respect.
WHAT TO AVOID:
Threatening employees with harsher terms and conditions of employment or employment loss if they engage in union activity.
Interrogating employees about pro-union or anti-union sentiments that they or others may have or reviewing union authorization cards or pro-union petitions.
Promising employees that they will receive favorable terms or conditions of employment if they forgo union activity.
Spying on employees known to be, or suspected of being, engaged in pro-union activities.
SOURCE: Excerpted from J. A. Segal, “Unshackle Your Supervisors to Stay Union Free,” in HR Magazine, June 1998. Copyright © 1998, Society for Human Resource Management, Alexandria, VA. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
Beyond encouraging workers to sign authorization cards and vote for the union, organizers use some creative alternatives to traditional organizing activities. They sometimes offer workers associate union membership, which is not linked to an employee’s workplace and does not provide representation in collective bargaining. Rather, an associate member receives other services, such as discounts on health and life insurance or credit cards.31 In return for these benefits, the union receives membership dues and a broader base of support for its activities. Associate membership may be attractive to employees who wish to join a union but cannot because their workplace is not organized by a union.
Associate Union Membership
Alternative form of union membership in which members receive discounts on insurance and credit cards rather than representation in collective bargaining.
Another alternative to traditional organizing is to conduct corporate campaigns—bringing public, financial, or political pressure on employers during union organization and contract negotiation.32 The Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union (ACTWU) corporate campaign against textile maker J. P. Stevens during the late 1970s was one of the first successful corporate campaigns and served as a model for those that followed. The ACTWU organized a boycott of J. P. Stevens products and threatened to withdraw its pension funds from financial institutions where J. P. Stevens officers acted as directors. The company eventually agreed to a contract with ACTWU.33
Bringing public, financial, or political pressure on employers during union organization and contract negotiation.
Another winning union organizing strategy is to negotiate employer neutrality and card-check provisions into a contract. Under a neutrality provision, the employer pledges not to oppose organizing attempts elsewhere in the company. A card-check provision is an agreement that if a certain percentage—by law, at least a majority—of employees sign an authorization card, the employer will recognize their union representation. An impartial outside agency, such as the American Arbitration Association, counts the cards. Evidence suggests that this strategy can be very effective for unions.34