Scenes from the Office: I. “The Pitfalls Facing Management”
Vol. 10, No. 1, 1988, p. 9
Editor’s note: The following memo was circulated by the corporate legal department of a large Atlanta business through all levels of management in 1987. The employee who provided Southern Changes a copy of this memo requested that neither his/her name nor that of the company be mentioned.
Procedure Where Labor Union Official Contacts Management Representative of [Company Name] for Recognition or Negotiation
Over the past several years, unions have made unsuccessful efforts to organize employees in several of our offices. Under the provisions of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 (Taft-Hartley), employees have a legal right to organize if they wish, however, an employer is also guaranteed certain rights in connection with union organization attempts. In order to insure that our Company does not forfeit established legal rights, it is necessary and desirable that the following procedure be followed in the event a union representative or anyone claiming to speak for employees contacts one of our offices relative to recognition of a union, a group of employees, or for any other purpose.
1. As soon as you become aware of the slightest organizational activity among your employees, promptly leave your office and go where you can phone your Division Vice President privately who will then make immediate telephone contact with his officer in the Home Office. After consultation with the proper people, you will be advised of what you should and should not do.
2. If a union representative contacts you by telephone or personal visit, carefully listen to what he has to say and be able to report the conversation in detail, together with the name of the union representative and the organization which he purports to represent. Do not allow yourself to be drawn into any discussion of union representation, grievances, or any other phase of employee relations. Simply advise the union representative that you do not have authority to discuss these matters with him and that you will have to pass along his statements to higher authority in the Company and will communicate with him later. The conversation should be kept as brief as possible, and no agreements or commitments should be made with the union representative. Your attitude should be polite and businesslike, without being overly friendly or hostile. Report such calls at once so that the matter can be immediately brought to the attention of the Home Office.
A. Caution: A special danger area exists where the union agent offers to show Management cards allegedly signed by employees designating the union as representative. Under no circumstances should these cards be accepted, handled, examined, or counted by a Management representative, nor should there be any agreement to examine or count these cards at a later date. If the union agent proffers such cards, you should decline to accept them and tell him that you do not have any authority to examine the cards or to make any agreement for a card check, but that you will advise your superiors and will contact him within the next several days. (The Company has no sure way of knowing whether the signatures on the cards are authentic, whether the cards were legally obtained, or whether coercion or intimidation were used in obtaining the signature, and if you fail to follow the instructions above, your words or acts could deprive our employees and our Company of the right to challenge the validity of these cards or to have an election at a later date.)
3. If the union representative contacts you by letter, discuss it immediately with your Division Vice President who will immediately telephone the contents of the letter to the Home Office. You will receive instructions on how to handle the letter.
4. If a representative of the National Labor Relations Board calls by telephone or in person to state that a petition for representation has been filed by the union, or for any other purpose, tell him you have no authority in such matters and obtain his name, address, and listen politely and carefully to his statements as to the purpose of the call. Then advise him that you would appreciate his withholding his questions until you can communicate with your superiors and arrange for an appropriate person in the Company to communicate with him. Then immediately report such conversation by telephone to your Division Vice President and to the Home Office. If any written communication is received from the National Labor Relations Board, withhold a reply and promptly report the matter to your Division Vice President and to the Home Office by telephone. In either case, the Home Office will direct all responses to the NLRB representative.
5. If you learn of union or organizational activity from an employee, who comes to you to tell you about it, do a lot of listening and avoid any conversation on the pros and cons of unionism. On the other hand, if you are asked for your views, you must make a positive response to the employee who asks you. Your response should simply be that in your opinion a union is not needed in your office, that you feel strongly that we can solve our own problems without outsiders coming in, and that you feel a union would do far more harm than good. Confine your remarks to the individual who asked for your views. Do not make any speeches to any employee group. Remember, your first step is to alert your Division Vice President and then wait for advice and direction.
A. Caution: If a group of employees (more than one) asks to meet with you to discuss wages, hours, or working conditions decline to do so. You can agree to meet with each employee individually and listen to what each has to say. Afterwards, alert your Division Vice President and then wait for advice and direction.
There are many pitfalls facing members of Management during the initial stages of a union campaign. It is necessary that you follow the given instructions in order to insure that our handling of such matters is consistent with the laws and Company policies and procedures.
-Corporate Legal Department