News & Articles

A Few Tips to Help Employers Avoid and Oppose Unionizing Efforts

Published on August 18, 2016

The National Labor Relations Board’s recent “Quickie Election Rule” highlights the importance of employer vigilance to avoid and oppose unionizing efforts.


The easiest way to stay union-free is to treat your employees fairly and maintain direct, open lines of communication.  Dissatisfied employees and festering workplace issues can lead to unionizing campaigns.  Once a union is involved, direct communications with your employees are limited.  So take advantage of your ability to speak directly to your employees.

  • Take your employees’ temperature. In group or individual meetings, ask them how they are doing and what you can do better.  Talk about their compensation, concerns, health and safety issues, and anything else important to them.  Then listen and respond.  If you ignore the concerns they raise, you may make the situation worse.
  • Treat your employees fairly. Provide competitive pay and benefits.  Treat them with respect.  Don’t play favorites.
  • Review non-solicitation policies. You should prohibit all types of solicitation of co-workers for any cause during working time, but not on breaks.  Prohibit employees from distributing any form of literature or other materials in their work area.  Non-employees are not allowed at any time to come upon your premises for the purpose of any form of solicitation or literature distribution.
  • Educate your managers and employees about unions. Even when no union is involved, you may not interfere with your employees’ “concerted activities” – discussions amongst each other about their employment terms and working conditions.  But you can discuss the benefits of being union-free.  Here are a few basic guidelines.

What you CAN do.

  • Hold voluntary meetings on company time to discuss your position. But NOT in a supervisor’s office or at an employee’s home.
  • Describe the advantages of working at your company and the benefits you provide.
  • Tell them they can bring their concerns directly to you now, but may not have that option if there is a union.
  • Tell them a union may require them to pay dues, initiation fees and fines.
  • Remind them that a union cannot guarantee better compensation or working conditions.
  • Remind them that they have the right to refuse to sign union cards and refuse to join a union.
  • Tell them they are free to join any organization they choose, but you hope they do not choose to be represented by a union.

What you CANNOT do.

  • Discriminate against employees who support a union.
  • Threaten job loss or any adverse action for supporting a union.
  • Promise better pay or working conditions if employees oppose a union.
  • Prohibit wearing union buttons or insignia.
  • Interrogate employees about union activities.
  • Engage in surveillance of employees.
  • Hold meetings in a supervisor’s office or an employee’s home.


If you do receive from the NLRB a Petition for a union election, the timelines are short and your obligations are technical. On average, you have only 23 days from the initial notice until the election.  It is critical to conduct an organized, efficient, truthful, convincing and consistent campaign without violating any of the many rules governing union election campaigns.  It’s important to GET HELP IMMEDIATELY from a qualified, experienced management consultant who can guide you around the pitfalls and help you mount an effective campaign to convince your employees to vote NO.

Rick Lentini is a Member in Ryan Swanson’s Employment, Rights & Benefits Group and he can be reached at

This message has been created by the Employment Rights, Benefits & Labor Group at Ryan, Swanson & Cleveland, PLLC to advise of recent developments in the law. Because each situation is different, this information is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice on any specific facts and circumstances. Ryan, Swanson & Cleveland, PLLC is a full-service law firm located in Seattle, Washington.

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