Answers to Employee Questions During a Union Salting Campaign

By Michael L. Fortney

Contents


Background

Union salting campaigns have intimidated and crippled many non-union contractors into signing a union contract or by forcing the contractor to spend money and waste time defending unfair labor practice charges before the NLRB. During a union salting campaign, employees will have many questions. Contractors need to answer the questions.

In answering employee questions about union salting activity, the answers set forth below are only guidelines - you should feel free to use your own language in making these points.

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Why haven't you become a union contractor?

There are many reasons. Some of the things we don't like are: 

  1. we hire people who we think will be good and productive workers; we don't want to base the decision on whether people are union members or not; 
  2. we do not want to require that all of our employees belong to the union or that they have to pay union dues; 
  3. we think we will lose some of our current employees if we have to have to abide by the union contract; and 
  4. the wages and benefits will hurt our ability to get contracts in our current market.

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If I don't vote the union in, can the Company fire me because of the union activity which is going on? Shouldn't I vote for the union in order to protect my job?

Absolutely not. You have our absolute word and guarantee that no one will be fired for having signed a union card or having engaged in any union activity. Besides giving our word, we believe that the Company's record should speak for itself.

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If an employee signs a union card, can he change his mind?

Yes, he can still be against the union. It doesn't make any difference whether he signed a card. We know that sometimes employees sign cards because other employees pressure them to sign cards or they just do it as a favor to another employee.

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Some people think that if the union is voted in, employees will automatically be guaranteed the wages in the current union contract. Is this correct?

NO. The only thing the union wins if it gets voted in is the right to bargain with the Company. "Collective Bargaining" would start with the Union's demands. The Company would also have the right to present demands. There is no requirement that the Company sign the Union's current contract. The only requirement is that the Company and the union will have to bargain with each other in good faith.

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What will the union demand in negotiations?

The Company believes that the Union will demand that all of the Company's employee's become members of the union and maintain their membership. The union also will probably demand that its dues be automatically deducted from your paychecks. The union also would like the company to simply sign its current contract.

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Will the Company agree to these union's demands during negotiations.?

No.  The management of this Company would never agree to any union demand that would jeopardize our ability to bid work to the general contractors we deal with and to provide good service to our general contractors and other customers at a competitive cost.

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If the union is voted in, could we lose some of our wages or benefits?

Yes. During bargaining, all of your existing wages, benefits and working conditions, are subject to negotiation. The Union could agree to eliminate certain benefits or working conditions in exchange for something like a "union shop" (this would require all employees to join the Union, to pay its fees and dues, and be subject to its rules and regulations just to work here). Since, under the law, the Union would be certified to "represent" all employees, the Union has the right to trade off benefits and working conditions you have now for something the Union really wants.

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I thought the union would get us higher wages and better benefits?

In the first place, the union can't force the Company to do anything. Wages and benefits are subject to negotiation and the Company's ability and willingness to pay. What we can afford to pay depends largely on competition and our profits. Since everything is subject to negotiation, a union can really guarantee you nothing. The Company is committed to making this a good place to work. It's the Company's policy to continue to treat employees fairly and to pay competitive wages and benefits regardless of whether there is a union or not. Our ability to increase wages will depend on how well we work together as a team.

Anyone who says, "the Union would get us more money," or let's see what the union can get for us -- we have nothing to lose," either does not understand how bargaining works, or is simply not telling the truth. The fact is there is absolutely no guarantee that the Union would be able to keep what you now have. Collective bargaining is a two-way street, and no one can be certain where it will end up.

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Why won't the Company just sign the union's current contract?

Because there are a lot of things we don't like about the current contract. Some of the things we don't like are: 

  1. we hire people who we think will be good and productive workers; we don't want to base the decision on whether people are union members or not; 
  2. we do not want to require that all of our employees belong to the union or that they have to pay union dues; 
  3. we think we will lose some of our current employees if we have to abide by the union contract; and
  4. the wages and benefits will hurt our ability to get contracts in our current market.

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How long will it take for the Company and the union to agree on a new contract?

Sometimes it takes many months, even a year, for a first contract to be negotiated. If no agreement is reached, the Union's would either walk away or call a strike.

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What happens during a strike?

If you went on strike, you would not receive any wages or benefits, and you may not get unemployment compensation. The Company would be permitted to continue business by hiring permanent replacements for any employee on strike. Strikes are particularly more common when negotiating a first contract.

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Why would the union call a strike? Would the Company continue to operate during a strike?

Unions often call for strikes when they do not get what they want during negotiations.

The Company has a responsibility to perform the work for which it has a contract. .

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The union says that the Company can't permanently replace employees if we go out on strike. What's the truth?

If the union calls you out on strike over money or other benefits, you are an economic striker and can be permanently replaced on your job.

Unions rely on strikes a lot! You may have to strike whether you want to or not. Unions have only one "tool" to use in attempting to get "their way" ... the strike. When there is a strike, union members must either support it by leaving their jobs or risk paying fines for going against the union leadership.

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If the union is voted in and I am dissatisfied, can I deal directly with the Company?

No. Under the law, if the union is voted in, it becomes your exclusive bargaining agent and you lose your right to deal directly with the Company concerning your terms and conditions of employment.

Also, the program of wages and benefits agreed to at the outset of a labor contract would not be changed during the contract's term. Thus, a labor agreement eliminates any flexibility for the Company to change or otherwise improve wages or benefits during the contract's term. Instead, you would be "locked" into whatever the Company and the union negotiated under the contract.

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What if we don't like the contract agreed to by the union?

Once a contract exists, if employees aren't happy with it or the Union, there is no way they can get out from under either while the contract is in effect.

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Why is the Company opposed to the union?

We are more pro-employee than anti-union. The Company wants to treat you fairly regardless of whether there is a union or not. We don't think it is necessary to pay someone hundreds of dollars per year to represent you when you may get nothing in return. There are some downside in getting a union in. Things such as the union being a hindrance in our growth and tying our hands to old union practices. Our business has been growing and has been successful. We feel we can continue this without a union.

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Other employees for "union contractors" have good wages and benefits. Why shouldn't I support the union?

The employer is probably a member of the association that signed the standard union contract. We are not a member of that association and do not plan to join that association. I know how we treat people, and based on our record, I don't think that a union is necessary here.

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What will the Company do for us (or what improvements will the Company give to us) if the union doesn't get in?

First, you should understand that, under the law, the Company is not permitted to make promises as to what will happen in a union is not voted in. This could be considered a bribe in exchange for trying to get you to vote against the union. We refuse to do anything which will improperly influence you to vote against the union. We can promise you, however, that the Company is committed to providing its employees with competitive wages and benefits.

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Who does the Company submit bids to? Why has the Company been getting the work?

We usually bid work to contractors and owners that award to the lowest and best bidders.  We have been able to submit low bids due to our lower costs, and because we have been able to perform the work with our existing workforce.

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There is some work that is prevailing wage work, where the contractors have to pay "union rate", isn't there?

Yes there is. But it is shrinking. Now, Ohio school projects are not subject to the prevailing wage law.

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Couldn't the Company still get the same jobs paying "union rate"?

Probably not. Significant increases in wages would mean that our bids would have to increase. If our bids increased, general contractors would award contracts to lower bidders.

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Michael Fortney
Construction Law, Employment and Labor Law, Business Law, Litigation, Arbitration

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