Card Check, Email and Social Media: A Clash of Interests

by Michael Haberman on February 6, 2009 · 0 comments


If you have been reading these posts at all, you know by now that the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) contains a provision allowing unions to organize using a method referred to as “card check.” Wikipedia defines card check “…as a method of organizing employees into a labor union in which employers enter into an agreement to recognize the unionization of its employees if a majority of employees in a bargaining unit sign authorization forms, or “cards”. ” What most people do not realize is that the signed “card” does not need to actually be a card, that is a holdover from the days when it actually was a card, back in the days when there was nothing like email and electronic signatures. Many experts feel today that union organization will be done in large part by use of email and to a lesser extent through the use of social media, such as FaceBook, MySpace and Twitter. Their recommendation to employers is to severly restrict the use of email to business only purposes and eliminate access to social media from work computers.

Unfortunately, this butts heads with the increasing trend of (primarily) younger workers using email and social media for personal communication throughout the day. In fact many recruiters are using social media for recruitment purposes. People access and read blogs throughout the day. Web 2.0 use is a mix of work and personal that becomes almost impossible to limit. If you try you may have push back from younger workers who complain that this makes the workplace too stifling, which is the opposite type of workplace you want to have to remain union free.

It will be a fact that unions will use your email system to try to organize workers against you. Expression of interest through an email response may very well count as having “signed the card.” So what do you do? You need to educate your workers. Educate them on:

  • The company position on remaining union free. Let them know how the company will be harmed economically.
  • Educate them on how unions may try to organize them, forewarning them about emails and contacts on social media. Letting them know not to respond to these contacts without first checking out the facts that may be presented.
  • Encourage open communication with your employees about the economy, unions and the continued well being of the company.

You can draft tighter non-solicitation policies, which includes the use of email. But it may be difficult to totally control email use. But there is software to monitor email traffic if you want to do so.

I would like to hear from some of you who have email policies that restrict use of email. Please leave a comment and let us know how you do it, monitior it, and how effective that has been.

As a closing note, the card check provision is getting alot of attention. This attention may be a diversion to keep our attention away from the second provision of EFCA, Interest Arbitration and enforced contracts, which is the much BIGGER EVIL of EFCA.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Cathy Missildine-Martin, SPHR February 6, 2009 at 10:33 am

I think that trying to control email and social media may be just putting a band aid on the bigger issue which is why an employee wants to be a part of a union. I think that is the issue companies have to address. Do you think EFCA will have an effect on those employees that are engaged, like their job and compnay and are getting paid fairly? I personally think social media is here to stay, so why control that media when you need to work on the compnay culture?? Just had to play devil’s advocate…..:)

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Michael D. Haberman, SPHR February 6, 2009 at 10:40 am

Cathy, I think you are correct. It is here to stay and I think it will be difficult to control its use. YOu are right also, in that employers who have engaged employees will be at small risk of unionism. But at the same time you need to educate your workers on the tactics. A good employee may be hoodwinked into “signing” something without meaning too.

I think now would be a great time to do employee surveys on attitudes to help expose vulnerabilties. Summer time may be to late.

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