Layoffs are More Complicated than they Sound.
How Union Organizing Can Make Managers Change Their Minds About Cutting Payroll.
Union organizing can make the process of laying off or outsourcing employees much more complex, much more expensive, and much riskier from a legal standpoint.
Once only used as a last resort by most companies, layoffs, staff cuts and outsourcing have become standard business practices for companies looking for a short term boost in their numbers. Can’t quite make those targets? Cut payroll.
It may sound simple, but there are real legal and monetary risks associated with layoffs and outsourcing. Some of these risks simply cannot be mitigated. For example, employees that survive the job cuts will never forgive or forget; morale can take years to recover. Your best people will immediately start looking elsewhere for serious career-building.
And, importantly, if a union organizing drive was underway when the layoffs happened, that campaign will be much harder to defeat after your company has outsourced or laid off employees.
Staffing Cuts are Complicated, and Can be Risky.
Any time staff reductions are considered, they must be considered very carefully. Especially if your employees are talking about forming together into a union. Simply put, unionized workers can be very difficult to outsource. Most of the time, employers are finding that trying to execute mass terminations of union workers is simply not worth the effort.
The IAM (Machinists Union) represents more unified airline workers than any other labor union on earth. These airline and airport workers have negotiated contracts that make outsourcing and layoffs very difficult for their companies to pull off. So difficult, in fact, that more IAM members retire than all the IAM represented employees that are outsourced, laid off or fired combined.
But what can workers do if they are in the process of trying to organize themselves into a union? Can organizing itself help prevent outsourcing?
It turns out, they can do a lot, or not. Depending on how successful the effort the get organized has been. Below are a few of the ways that union organizing itself can prevent staffing cuts
People that fire people for a living don’t keep their jobs for very long.
The Human Resources Supervisor positions are magnets for lawsuits. If the HR manager makes even the smallest mistake when they take away someone’s job, they will subject their company, and themselves personally, to expensive lawsuits. A legally savvy group of employees could easily impose criminal charges against a fire-happy office manager that oversteps their authority.
Union groups are especially good at making sure that their coworkers are well educated about their rights, and tend to make it a point to communicate these rights to the people that need them most: those about to lose their jobs. As union organizers work to unify their coworkers, they will be building networks, communicating, and passing on information with the entire employee group. Once that starts happening, any unfair treatment to any one of them will be taken very seriously by all employees. Everyone will quickly find out that your out of control HR Manager is crossing the line.
All this means that your company will be very likely to face a collective, organized response if your employees find out that you are planning mass terminations, and it’s very likely that you may personally become the target of legal action. Your actions will, at the very least, be subjected to legal review by lawyers and labor experts – and chances are, they will find something that you did wrong. The long list of out-of-work HR managers proves that mistakes happen, and they happen a lot.
If Employees Have Signed Too Many Cards, It May Not Be Legal to Outsource Them at All.
If a certain work area, for example the Bag Room, or the Tool Room, has signed a lot of Union Authorization Cards (A-Cards) asking for a Union Election, then removing them from payroll for any reason is dangerous until after the union vote issue is resolved. And, even then, it is dangerous to lay them off or outsource their work area for years afterwards.
Federal Law prevents an employer from simply firing employees that engage in non-disruptive union activities at work. Employers that decide to terminate these workers anyway are definitely going to be subjected to severe legal risk. If a certain work area has a high level of workers who are trying to organize themselves into a union, then layoffs or outsourcing that work area could be seen as a violation of Federal Law.
Employers that are considering layoffs or outsourcing those work areas will need to have declared that they have plans to do so… well in advance of any union organizing drive. Suddenly surprising workers with pink slips after the union organizing is underway will look like retaliation to a lot of people, and will invite expensive lawsuits. Even after the union organizing drive is over, layoffs could look like revenge or an attempt to get rid of problem employees.