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What can management do during a union campaign?

During a union campaign, employers are permitted to engage in activities that will not interfere with an employee's ability to make a free choice in a union election. If threats of reprisal, promises of benefits, or other actions would serve to coerce employees, an unfair labor practice (ULP) charge may be brought against the employer.

The "TIPS" rule reminds managers and supervisors of activity they cannot engage in during a union campaign: Threats, Interrogation, Promises and Surveillance. The NLRB provides the following examples of employer conduct that violates the law:
  • Threatening employees with loss of jobs or benefits if they join or vote for a union or engage in protected concerted activity.
  • Threatening to close the plant if employees select a union to represent them.
  • Questioning employees about their union sympathies or activities in circumstances that tend to interfere with, restrain or coerce employees in the exercise of their rights under the Act.
  • Promising benefits to employees to discourage their union support.
  • Spying on union gatherings or pretending to spy.
  • Granting wage increases deliberately timed to discourage employees from forming or joining a union.
  • Transferring, laying off, terminating, assigning employees more difficult work tasks, or otherwise punishing employees because they engaged in union or protected concerted activity.
  • Transferring, laying off, terminating, assigning employees more difficult work tasks, or otherwise punishing employees because they filed unfair labor practice charges or participated in an investigation conducted by NLRB.

There are certain things managers and supervisors can communicate during an organizing campaign. Follow the "FOE" rules – Facts, Opinions and Examples, such as the following:

  • Tell employees that the supervisors and the company are opposed to unionization.
  • Explain that the employees do not have to sign union cards and that the law says that they have the absolute right to refrain from joining a union.
  • Let employees know that they do not have to speak to union organizers or to admit organizers into their homes.
  • Share information about the benefits provided by the company and compare those benefits with those in unionized companies.
  • Inform employees that with a union they may have to bring their problems to a shop steward also known as a union representative instead of dealing with their supervisor.
  • Point out the costs of belonging to a union, such as the payment of dues and initiation fees and the possibility of fines and assessments.
  • Tell employees that, if they engage in an economic strike, they may be permanently replaced and will be reinstated only if an opening occurs.
  • Tell employees that they may be required to picket other employers, even when they are not on strike.
  • Point out that a union can always out-promise an employer, but the union can guarantee nothing.
  • Remind employees that merely signing a union authorization card or application for membership does not mean they must vote for the union in an election.
  • Tell employees about any untrue or misleading statements made through an organizer, by handbill, or through any union propaganda.

For additional information visit the NLRB website or review the Supervisor's Guide to Labor Relations available for purchase in the SHRM Store. 


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