Updates From The Field
EIGHT THINGS EMPLOYERS DO TO BLOCK UNIONS
Union-busters follow a script — that's why it's easy for us to tell you what to expect from them. Here are a few common lies busters tell to try and dissuade workers from organizing.
“Having a union will ruin our ‘family’ work environment. Please give us another chance.”

Your employer might warn that with a union, there will be new rules and less flexibility. They might also play on workers’ emotions, making you think just talk about a union has made them realize there are problems and they should treat you better or institute “open-door” policies. They might even say they’ll do things similar to what unions do, like institute grievance procedures.

“Joining a union may involve you in violence.”

Your employer might circulate stories about violent incidents involving unions, even though they have nothing to do with CWA. They might also hire extra security guards  around the time of the union election to plant the idea that “there might be trouble.” Sometimes they even encourage someone to take acts of violence against the workplace and workers’ property — vandalism, tire-slashing — and blame it on the union.

“The union can force you to strike — but when you strike, they won’t support you.”

Your employer might suggest that soon after you vote for union representation, you’ll be forced out on strike whether you like it or not. They might try and scare you about how you’d survive on-strike, without your income.

“The union is only interested in your money — and you can’t afford union dues.”

Employers do things like distributing “documents” or news clippings that are supposed to show that the union needs your money to survive. They might also pass out phony checks with union dues “taken out” and bring in a bag of groceries with the label, “What you could buy with one year’s union dues.” 

“We won’t ever sign a union contract even if you vote for CWA.”

Here’s management starting to show their cards: They’re mad, and they simply don’t want to deal with a union. (It has nothing to do with their “worrying” a union will be bad for workers.) 

“When you sign a card for CWA, you sign your life away. They’ll control everything about your job.”

Management often tries to convince workers that they’ll start getting orders from “union bosses”; that union officials will control job assignments and working conditions, and that workers will lose the ability to talk directly to management.

“You will lose your job.”

Unbelievably, some employers go as far as to park empty moving vans near the job site just before the election — to give workers the idea that the company will leave if the union goes through. Companies also frequently hint at taking action against those who support the union.

ARE YOU READY?
TEST YOUR UNION-BUSTING KNOWLEDGE
How much do you know about union-busting tactics and things you might hear during an organizing campaign? Take this test and see if you're fighting fit.
1

Employers frequently try to play on the emotions of workers who are talking about organizing — either to make them feel bad about it or to scare them out of it.

  • TRUE

    CORRECT! Employers often tell workers they'll do better for them if given "another chance"; they've been known to talk about the company as a "family" and lament that a union will disrupt the company's "family-like environment — sometimes even tearfully. On the other hand, many times employers will use scare tactics, like parking moving trucks by entrances close to a union vote to make employees think their vote could cost them their job.

  • |
  • FALSE

    WRONG! Employers often tell workers they'll do better for them if given "another chance"; they've been known to talk about the company as a "family" and lament that a union will disrupt the company's "family-like environment — sometimes even tearfully. On the other hand, many times employers will use scare tactics, like parking moving trucks by entrances close to a union vote to make employees think their vote could cost them their job.

  • NEXT
2

“Union bosses” decide how and when there’s a strike; workers have no say in it.

  • TRUE

    WRONG! Only by majority vote of union members affected can a CWA strike be authorized.

  • |
  • FALSE

    CORRECT! Only by majority vote of union members affected can a CWA strike be authorized.

  • NEXT
3

If you become part of a union, you can no longer talk directly to your manager or supervisor.

  • TRUE

    WRONG! When you're part of a union, you are entitled to have union representation in any meeting with a manager or supervisor that you believe could impact your employment. But you don't have to. There are no union rules about whether or not you can talk to managers or supervisors.

  • |
  • FALSE

    CORRECT! When you're part of a union, you are entitled to have union representation in any meeting with a manager or supervisor that you believe could impact your employment. But you don't have to. There are no union rules about whether or not you can talk to managers or supervisors.

  • NEXT
4

It is legal to fire employees for union organizing activity.

  • TRUE

    WRONG! It is a violation of the National Labor Relations Act to fire employees for trying to organize a union.

  • |
  • FALSE

    CORRECT! It is a violation of the National Labor Relations Act to fire employees for trying to organize a union.

  • NEXT
5

Union workers make more money than non-union workers.

  • TRUE

    CORRECT! Nationwide, union workers are paid more than non-union workers.

  • |
  • FALSE

    WRONG! Nationwide, union workers are paid more than non-union workers.

  • NEXT
6

Employers that promise changes to policies and procedures and say they’ll give raises if workers abandon an organizing campaign generally keep their promises.

  • TRUE

    WRONG! Typically they do not. The make promises to head off the organizing effort, then find a way to claw back those gains, even if slyly -- e.g., by raising employee costs on something unrelated.

  • |
  • FALSE

    CORRECT! Typically they do not. The make promises to head off the organizing effort, then find a way to claw back those gains, even if slyly -- e.g., by raising employee costs on something unrelated.

  • NEXT
7

Unionization is risky because negotiations often result in workers getting less pay and benefits than they had before.

  • TRUE

    WRONG! If this were the case, employers would be clamoring for negotiations!

  • |
  • FALSE

    CORRECT! If this were the case, employers would be clamoring for negotiations!

  • NEXT
8

Union dues are offset by improvements in pay and benefits.

  • TRUE

    CORRECT! Union members get better healthcare benefits, retirement packages and pay.

  • |
  • FALSE

    WRONG! Union members get better healthcare benefits, retirement packages and pay.

  • NEXT
9

It was important to have unions back in the early 20th century, when things were really bad, but not anymore.

  • TRUE

    WRONG! It's true that things were really, really bad in the early 20th century. But there are still many abuses of workers in this country, and we need unions to ensure we don't go back to the way things used to be.

  • |
  • FALSE

    CORRECT! It's true that things were really, really bad in the early 20th century. But there are still many abuses of workers in this country, and we need unions to ensure we don't go back to the way things used to be.

  • NEXT
10

CWA is a strong union with the resources to support its workers and continue working for good middle-class jobs.

  • TRUE

    CORRECT! CWA is a strong union with the resources to support its workers and continue working for good middle-class jobs

  • |
  • FALSE

    WRONG! CWA is a strong union with the resources to support its workers and continue working for good middle-class jobs

  • NEXT
Check out this highlight reel of workers standing up to textbook union-busting tactics. Stay tuned, we’ll keep updating these with the latest and greatest stories.
highlight-reel-1
CASE STUDY 1: CABLEVISION WORKERS VOTE TO UNIONIZE.   On January 26th 282 Brooklyn Cablevision technicians and dispatchers in Brooklyn voted to join the Communications Workers of America (CWA), Lo...
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highlight-reel-2
CASE STUDY 2: SUPER SHUTTLE DRIVERS VOTE CWA. After a two-year fight for a union, Super Shuttle drivers at Denver International Airport voted overwhelmingly for CWA representation. Overcoming tw...
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Case Study 3: T-Mobile Connecticut Techs Form First US T-Mobile Union
CASE STUDY 3: T-MOBILE CONN. FORMS FIRST U.S. UNION T-Mobile technicians in Connecticut became the company's first U.S. workers with union representation, voting to join CWA-TU. Overcoming a...
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highlight-reel-4
CASE STUDY 4: STONY BROOK ASSISTANTS WIN CONTRACT Research assistants at Stony Brook University in New York stood tough for 10 years, organizing, mobilizing and calling out management for trying to...
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Agent; Bargaining Agent
A person acting for an employer or a union; a labor organization that is the exclusive representative of all employees in a bargaining unit, both union and non-union members.
Bargaining unit
A grouping of employees that a union represents or seeks to represent and that is "appropriate" (criteria include being a community of interest, not including supervisors) for collective bargaining purposes.
Captive-audience meeting
Meetings employers often force workers to attend during the workday with the express purposes of communicating anti-union propaganda.
Check-card neutrality, card-check election/authorization
Provision that an employer will recognize a union without an election if the majority of workers sign a petition or authorization cards indicating their support of the union.
Checkoff
A provision, generally found in the collective bargaining agreement, that allows union dues, assessments and initiation fees to be deducted from the pay of union members who decide to use the check off. The employer then transfers the payments to the union on a scheduled basis.
Collective bargaining; collective bargaining agreement (CBA)
A method of mutually determining wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment through negotiations between representatives of the employer and the union. The results of the bargaining are set forth in a collective bargaining agreement, or CBA.
Good-faith bargaining
The duty to approach negotiations with a sincere resolve to reach a collective bargaining agreement. This includes sending properly authorized representatives to bargaining sessions and meeting at reasonable times and places and as frequently as may be necessary to avoid major delays.
Goon
Derogatory term for a union activist.
Grievance, grievance procedures
A formal complaint usually lodged by an employee or the union alleging a misinterpretation or improper application of one or more terms in a collective bargaining contract. The method for dealing with grievances is through a grievance procedure negotiated in the union contract. If a grievance cannot be settled at the supervisory level, it can be appealed to higher levels of management, and finally to arbitration if so provided.
Landrum-Griffin Act
Passed by the U.S. Congress in 1959 and officially known as the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, it resulted from improper relationships between management leadership and labor leadership. The act provided for the regulation of internal union affairs, including the regulation and control of union funds; it also restricted certain external union activities and authorized states to process cases that fall outside the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board.
Lockout
Shutdown of a worksite by the employer to discourage union membership or activity or to force employees to meet the demands or economic terms of the employer.
Mediation
The attempt by an impartial third party to bring the parties in a dispute together and assist them in reaching settlement. The mediator, however, has no power to force or award a settlement but works instead to persuade the parties to reach agreement.
Mohawk Valley Formula
This is basically the union-busting template still in use today. Thought to have been used first by the by the Remington Rand corporation in Ilion, New York during a strike in 1936-1937, the plan includes discrediting union leaders, frightening the public with the threat of violence, using local police and vigilantes to intimidate strikers, forming puppet associations of "loyal employees" to influence debate, fortifying workplaces, employing large numbers of replacement workers, and threatening to close the plant if work is not resumed.
National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)/Wagner Act
A 1935 United States federal law that limits how employers may react to private-sector workers who work to organize unions, engage in collective bargaining and take part in other activities in support of their demands. The key principles are encouraging collective bargaining, protecting workers' exercise of freedom of association, self-organization, and designation of representatives of their own choosing for the purpose of negotiating the terms and conditions of their employment.
National Labor Relations Board (NLRB); NLRB election
The NLRB is an independent agency of the United States government charged with conducting elections for labor union representation and with investigating and remedying unfair labor practices.
Outsourcing, contracting out, sub-contracting
Sending jobs that used to be completed by employees of a company out to vendors for completion and/or using vendors overseas to do certain jobs rather than American workers.
Picket
A form of protest in which people congregate outside a place of work or location where an event is taking place to draw attention to a cause (sometimes called an informational picket) or dissuade others from going in.
Prevailing wage
The hourly wage, usual benefits and overtime, paid to the majority of workers, laborers, and mechanics within a particular area.
Prohibited practices
The NLRA established things employers may not do related to union organizing:
  • Interfere, restrain, or coerce employees against union or collective activity
  • Dominate the union
  • Discriminate against employees who take part in union or collective activities
  • Retaliate against employees who file unfair-labor-practice charges or cooperate with the NLRB
  • Refuse to bargain in good faith with union representatives
"Right to work"
Refers to laws in some states that allow non-union employees to work at unionized workplaces without joining the union or paying regular union dues. These employees sometimes, but not always, have to pay unions for the portion of dues spent representing them, such as pursuing grievances on their behalf.
Steward
Union representative of a group of fellow employees who carries out duties of the union within the workplace. The steward is usually either elected by other union members or appointed by higher union officials.
Strike
A work stoppage used as a last resort when labor and management cannot reach an agreement.
Taft-Hartley
The Taft-Hartley Act (also known as the Labor-Management Relations Act) was passed over then-President Truman's veto in 1947. The act limited employees' ability to unionize by putting additional requirements on them for doing so and forbidding certain kinds of support from other unions. It also forbade unions from contributing to political campaigns and enabled the U.S. Attorney General to prevent strikes if they believed one "imperiled the national health or safety."
Twenty-four hour rule
Employers and unions are prohibited from making election speeches on company time to massed assemblies of employees within 24 hours before the scheduled time for conducting an election.
Unfair labor practices (ULPs)
A violation of any of the provisions of the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute. The most common employer ULP violations are in the categories of "duty to bargain" (usually failure to give the union notice of proposed changes in conditions of employment and/or engage in certain types of bargaining), Weingarten ULPs (see below) and failure to provide information
Weingarten rights
The right of an employee to have union representation when being examined or investigated by their employer, under three conditions: 1) the examination is being conducted by a representative of the employer, 2) it could result in disciplinary action, and 3) the employee asks for such representation.
Wildcat strike
A spontaneously organized strike triggered by an incident, usually unauthorized by the union leadership and of short duration.