Smaller Employers Targeted by Unions More Than Ever

I’ve had employers say to me that they don’t need to worry about unions because they are “too small” for unions to worry about.

Well, I have some bad news about that.

In 2016, the median size of bargaining units sought in union representation petitions was just 22 people. For those of you who have forgetten your high school statistics class, that means that half of all union elections sought to represent fewer than 22 people. Too small is no longer applicable.

Part of the rationale for this is the NLRB’s approval of “micro-unions.” Another reason is that smaller employers are, frankly, more vulnerable to a union organizing initiative. A bargaining unit of just 10 people needs only three people to be interested in a union to file an election petition. From there, the union need only convince a few more people to elect the union. Once in place, it is very difficult to remove the union from the workplace.

Because of this, employers of all sizes need to be aware of the signs of union organizing and know how to respond. The NLRB has very clear prohibitions on some employer behavior, such as questioning employees as to whether they support the union, that can lead to unfair labor practice charges if an employer engages in such behavior. Because it is normally a first-line supervisor who engages in such behavior (sometimes before upper management is even aware of any union organizing), it is imperative to ensure that your managers and supervisors are trained in the do’s and don’ts in this area.

For assistance in training and for all of your labor and employment needs please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Labor and Employment Department: George Hlavac, Steve Hoffman, Jeff Stewart, Ed Easterly, or John Buckley.