New Union Strategies: How to Protect Yourself

December 10, 2007

WARNING!

Whether its a buried power line, bad weather, or a hidden clause in a construction contract, advance warning can often mean the difference between disaster or survival . . . complete failure or unparalleled success. For this reason, Contractors must now be on the alert for powerful, new union strategies aimed at union-free ("open shops") and unionized Contractors alike.

New radicals have taken charge of the AFL-CIO and many of its member unions. They seek new power over all employers . . . including Contractors. Advance warning of how to respond to their radical new ways is the key to keeping control over your business. The purpose of this article is to provide you with this advance warning.

The "Corporate Campaign." The most dangerous of the new union tactics is known as a "Corporate Campaign." This name comes more from the union's approach, than from any single method of exerting pressure on an employer. In a "Corporate Campaign," the union attacks everywhere that the employer may be vulnerable. The purpose of a "Corporate Campaign" is to destroy the employer's business, if the employer does not agree to the union's demands.

"Corporate Campaign" tactics may range from attacking the employer's source of financing to slandering its owners in the newspaper. Originally directed at large employers in the manufacturing and service industries, now "Corporate Campaign" tactics are being pointed at Contractors. Recently, one union announced that it will use "Corporate Campaign" tactics in a dispute with a contractor in Kentucky.

Since "Corporate Campaign" tactics can take many forms, it is impossible to address them all. The most common tactics, however, are described below together with some tips on how to respond to them.

UNION "CORPORATE" CAMPAIGNS WHAT CAN HAPPEN: Libel and Slander

The union may make false and/or misleading statements about you to customers, financial institutions, regulations and/or the news media. Your work quality, financial condition, safety record, and your treatment of your employees may be maligned. Often, the union uses a front organization to create the false impression that its charges are made as a public service, rather than as a weapon in a labor dispute.
 
WHAT TO DO: 
_ Protection - Build a reservoir of goodwill before the union attacks. Cultivate your relationships with everyone who your business touches, and support the AGC's efforts to do the same. It is easy to believe a bad report about a stranger, but we are quick to defend our friends. Be a "friend" in the communities in which you work and build. Then, union slander will be met with skepticism.
 
_ Reaction - Get the true facts out FAST! Explain the union's real motives. Use a "rifle" not a "shotgun." If the union directs its slander to customers, do not direct your response to the media. Avoid repeating the union's charges to persons who have never heard them.
_ Avoid Litigation - Suing the union for slander is usually a mistake. The news media will pick up on your suit and the news story will only repeat the union's charges. A defamation lawsuit, also, allows the union to use legal "discovery" to pry into your business to try to find "evidence" to support its claims.

WHAT CAN HAPPEN: Abuse of Laws and Regulations
The union may initiate OSHA, EEOC, Prevailing Wage or similar complaints. The union may even "instigate" lawsuits against you. The union's purpose is not to protect workers or the public, but to harass you until you "give in."
 
WHAT TO DO:
_ Protection - "Set your house in order" in advance. Unions can always find something to complaint about . . . but, if the Regulators find a high degree of compliance, they will more quickly tire of the union's "calling wolf."
 
_ Reaction - In extreme cases, an "abuse of process" lawsuit, challenging the union's ulterior motives may be warranted. Such litigation gives the union "something to lose" and may stop continued harassment.
_ Limit Exposure - Limit your exposure to union abuse of regulatory agencies by disclosing to the agencies only information required by law. You must assume that any information given to an agency will fall into the hands of the union. Defend agency charges aggressively so regulators will know it will mean a lot of work for them to pursue the union's claims. Point out to regulators that they are being used as a tool of harassment by the union.

WHAT CAN HAPPEN: Abuse of NLRB.

Unions have long manipulated NLRB procedures and rules to pressure employers. Yet, the current NLRB is the most "union friendly" NLRB in decades. Future articles will address the union's new use of its traditional tools. For now, be aware that the Union's old tools are often used in conjunction with these new methods of attack.

WHAT TO DO:

_ Protection - Know the rules (National Labor Relations Act) before the "game" begins. For example, any time employees join together to protest wages, hours, or working conditions, they are protected by the NLRA - even if they are not union members.

_ Reaction - Get legal advice before responding to any joint ("concerted") employee action or union activity on your job sites. Any "wrong move" is likely to play into the union's "hands."

For decades, AGC of Kentucky has fought to protect Contractors from the hazards that threaten your business and profits. If you face a union Corporate Campaign, this may be your greatest "hour of need" for AGC. AGC should be your first call for help in making a quick and effective response to variety of attacks that may hit you at once with a union's Corporate Campaign.

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