Union salting campaigns

By Michael L. Fortney


The basics

Union salting campaign can intimidate or cripple a nonunion contractor. Union salts want to intimidate a contractor into signing a union contract. If the contractor refuses, union salting is designed to force the contractor to spend money and waste time defending unfair labor practice charges before the NLRB.

How does a company combat a salting campaign? Through carefully drafted hiring policies, by making good and non-discriminatory hiring decisions, through the publishing of and consistent application of work rules and other procedures, and through the support of its employees.

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Work rules and procedures

The company should have a handbook. The company should also have a written hiring policy. The hiring policy should provide that all applicants complete the employment application, and take the necessary tests, before being considered for hire. References should be checked before an applicant is hired.

It is important for all employees, and especially all supervisory employees, to be familiar with the handbook, and the work-rules contained in the handbook. Those rules should be applied consistently; to both union salts and non-union employees. If a non-union employee is forgiven for a rule violation, and a union salt is disciplined for the same rule violation, the prospect of prevailing on a ULP suffers.

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Garner employee support

Employees must be convinced that it is in their own best interest to work for the company as a non-union company.

Employees need to be reminded that:

  • The union would present an adversary relationship with management. 
  • Unions are political organization and often make a "show" and create problems in order to justify its existence. 
  • The energy and resources consumed in this "power" struggle would eventually steal the flexibility, productivity and profitability of your company. 
  • Union employees are frequently laid off, and union dues are used to finance salting campaigns and targeted jobs.There is a continuing general decline in the percentage of the total work force holding union membership. 
  • Because of their financial problems, unions are attempting to recruit as many new members as they can in order to survive. This is especially true in the construction industry locally, as the Ohio legislature recently repealed the prevailing wage applicability to school construction. 
  • What a union is interested in is your employees' money. The primary motive to organize your employees is purely and simply -- their dollars. Unions are big business.

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Communication is the key to defeating a salting campaign

The process of defeating a union organizing campaign hinges on communication. The most respected members of management must form a team as primary communicators. Only truthful information should be passed on to employees. Don't be timid! Take command of the situation and then stay in control.

Your supervisors have every right to listen and offer their opinion about anything that relates to it. Being accessible to employees so that they have an opportunity to discuss the matter is very important.

There are some key concepts that need to be communicated:

The employee's vote is not necessary. The union wants the company to sign the union contract. The union contract requires the company to employ only union members. The company's current employees are not union members. Get the picture?

The company does not have to sign a union contract. The company can "force" an election. In an election, the NLRB sets up and conducts a polling of the employees to determine if they want to have the union be the exclusive bargaining representative for the company's employees. Keep in mind that this rarely happens in the construction industry. In the construction industry, unions want the company to sign a contract without an election. In non-construction industries, such a practice would be unlawful.

Bargaining is a two-way street. If the union wins an election, an employer is obligated to bargain with the union. In bargaining, things can go up or down. It's possible to lose some things you have now.

Regardless of what the union organizer says, the union does not have the power to deliver on anything. It can only ask, and if the company says no, it can strike or back down. The union can guarantee nothing!

Tell your employees some of the things you don't like are about union: 

  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 employ only union carpenters; and 
  4. The wages and benefits unions seek will hurt our ability to get contracts in our current market.

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Management's mission

Remember that your employees will resist new things. Management's job is to let your employees see that it is in their best interest to resist the union.

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