· Lie #1 – You Can’t Lose
The union organizers will try to make unionization sound like a no lose proposition. They promise improvements in pay and benefits with statements such as “the union would never agree to pay and benefit cuts so you can’t lose”.
The fact is bargaining is a game of GIVE and take. By law, unions cannot collect dues until they have a contract in place so it is common for unions to agree to concessions just to get the first contract and start taking money from your paycheck.
The first two items that unions negotiate for are closed shop and dues checkoff. Closed shop means you have to belong to the union in order to work at the company and dues checkoff is automatic payroll deduction of your dues, fines and assessments. Smart companies know that the union will not give up these two items so they force the union to give up something in exchange for closed shop and dues checkoff.
Once a union wins an election their first order of business is to lower the expectations of the employees. Often the union organizers have spent years making promises knowing that they can never be fulfilled. Now they must prepare the employees for reality.
Bargaining is a two way street. Some contract provisions will benefit the union (this does not necessarily mean it will benefit the employees) and some will cost the employees.
In our Edition 1 Newsletter we have coupons that can be given to a union organizer so they can sign them and guarantee the employees will have better pay, benefits and working conditions. Note: you will never get a union organizer to sign the coupons.
· Lie #2 – Just Try It, You Can Vote the Union Out if You Don’t Like It
Many union organizers will try to overcome an employee’s objections by telling them they can vote out the union in a year.
The truth is once a union is voted in they are there until someone takes the initiative to decertify the union. In order to decertify the union employees would have to wait 3 years and then they would only have a 30 day window in which to gather signatures for decertification. Unions will use harassment and intimidation to thwart decertification activities.
Decertification efforts are further complicated by the fact that many union constitutions prohibit decertification activity. Violating the union’s constitution can result in the employee being kicked-out of the union and subsequently fired (remember it’s closed shop – you have to belong to the union or you can’t work for the company). We discussed this in our Edition 1 Newsletter.
· Lie #3 – You Are the Union
When a union wins an election, it only wins the right to speak for employees for the purpose of collective bargaining.
The union (both the Local and the International) can legally do whatever it wants regardless of what the employees want. The NLRB has almost always sided with the union on this sometimes contentious point.
Organizers will often claim that “you will have a seat at the table when decisions are made”. What they don’t tell you is that you will be instructed to save your comments for caucus meetings that are held away from the table. You will be told that this is necessary so the union can present a “united front”.
Even if you are allowed to speak at the table, only the Local or International can approve a contract with your company.
If the UAW has a “seat at the table”, why did they allow the Detroit 3 to deteriorate to the point that GM and Chrysler flirted with bankruptcy and Ford had to go deeply in debt to stay alive? Why did the UAW negotiate concessions? Since they had a “seat at the table” shouldn’t they have prevented the financial meltdown and thus avoided the concessions?
To further illustrate this point think about your representatives in Washington DC. You may have voted for them but what about the day to day decisions they make? Do they agree with you on every issue? This exemplifies the type of voice you have with a union.
· Lie #4 – Respect
Another common pitch that organizers use is “United we stand, divided we beg”.
What the organizers are doing is confusing fear and respect. They are saying that the company would fear the union and would treat the employees with more respect.
What the company actually fears is the unions restrictive work rules and ridiculous bargaining and grievance resolution process will make the company uncompetitive in today’s ultra-competitive global economy. Even with wage and benefit concessions, unionized companies tend to get pulverized during difficult economic times. Due to UAW induced inefficiencies, the Detroit 3 even got hammered during good economic times.
If the union really wanted the respect of the company they would try to help the company become more efficient and profitable.
· Lie #5 – The Company’s Resistance is Proof
The UAW is trying to trick you with this argument. Basically they try to put unions in the same category as alcohol and drugs. Since your parents told you not to use alcohol and drugs, they must be cool. A parents opposition is seen as validation.
The reality is sometimes parents are right – alcohol, drugs and unions can be bad for you. Those who oppose the UAW are looking out for your best interests.
As we mentioned before, companies don’t fear huge wage and benefit increases. Companies only have to pay what they agree to pay. As long as a company holds firm they can negotiate just about anything into the contract.
What the company fears is the loss of flexibility. Companies must have the ability to response quickly to changing market conditions.
The negotiating process is often very adversarial and can take months or years. During the negotiating process the company is legally obligated not to change anything. Non-union competitors are not saddled with this burden and therefore can make changes quickly as the market demands. Flexibility can be the difference between profit and bankruptcy. Just look at what has happened to GM and Chrysler.
Customers also know the inherent problems with unions. They may look for alternative suppliers during contract negotiations to avoid disruptions to their business.
Many studies have determined that the “dead-weight” of a union costs the company 20% of productivity and profitability. This is not due to wage and benefit costs. When you account for regional and industry differences, the gap between union and non-union pay is small or even non-existent.
· Lie #6 – Protection
Creating fear of being fired is another common UAW lie. They will use terms such as “at-will”, meaning that you can be fired at any moment without just cause. The organizers do this in order to convince employees that they need protection.
The fact is employers today are very reluctant to fire anyone. Given the current legal environment, companies only fire employees after a series of other disciplinary actions have failed. This protects the company from EEOC complaints and lawsuits.
So what about union employees? Are they “protected” for being fired? No!
They have a grievance procedure but they forfeit their right to speak for themselves or to process their own case. This means that their fate may be decided by politics, connections or the good-ole-boy system.
Each year unions face thousands of unfair labor practice charges for not fairly representing their members during the grievance process. You can view the unfair labor charges against the UAW at www.DOL.gov.
· Lie #7 – Union Employees Have it Better
When union organizers are asked to explain how they lost several million more members they always refer you to the Bureau of Labor Statistics wage rate information. They will show you that union workers make 30% more than non-union members across the US.
If this were true then people would be beating down the door of the union hall in order to sign a card. A wise man once said “there are lies, damn lies and statistics”.
In reality the BLS statistics are not very reliable because they do not account for regional differences. Union membership tends to be higher in large metropolitan areas. These are the same areas where the cost of living is higher and therefore wage rates tend to be higher in these areas.
Another problem with BLS statistics is they lump everyone together. The statistics compare unionized NFL players with non-union McDonald’s workers.
People are not stupid. There is a reason that unions are dying and workers can see that unions do not bring about the positives they claim they will.
The bottom line is that having a union adds more bureaucracy, politics, costs and rules to your work environment. Unions also hurt the competitiveness of companies and make them less nimble to changing market conditions. All these factors make the company less profitable and put downward pressure on pay, benefits and employment levels.