Avoid Unionization of a Company

Employees seek unionization when they perceive the company is unfair, unresponsive to employee concerns, and offers substandard working conditions. The National Labor Relations Act forbids employers from interfering with the process of unionization once employees have begun it.[1] However, you can avoid unionization of your company by minimizing employee dissatisfaction – specifically, by addressing the key areas that cause employees to unionize in the first place. If your employees believe that they are well compensated, and that you are responsive to their concerns and treat everyone fairly, they will have little incentive to unionize.


Maintaining Fair and Consistent Policies

  1. Distribute a written employee handbook. Provide all of your employees with a handbook containing all workplace policies, terms, and conditions of employment.
    • Keep abreast of developments in state and federal labor and employment law, and update your handbook as necessary so that it complies with all applicable legal requirements.
    • If any provision of your handbook violates state or federal law, a union organizer could use this as evidence that your employees need a union to stand up for their rights.
    • Your employees are more likely to feel they work in a fair environment if they know what is expected of them and understand the policies you've established.
  2. Provide training and continuing education opportunities. Regular training and refresher courses ensure that all employees understand your workplace policies.
    • Have additional training for supervisors that covers positive leadership and management strategies.
    • Follow the lead of non-unionized Fortune 500 companies that have been recognized for innovative personnel policies. Many of these companies such as Hewlett-Packard provide top-notch training programs and promotion from within.[2]
  3. Hold regular employee meetings. Regular meetings allow employees to express opinions on recent incidents or policy changes and encourage a team atmosphere.[3]
    • Meetings and conferences where everyone is on equal footing let employees know that you are open to their suggestions and willing to work with them to solve problems and alleviate concerns.
    • Keeping employees up-to-date with accurate company information can help decrease insecurity and speculation about company's policies or financial health.
    • You also might consider producing a company newsletter on a monthly basis. Choose a couple of employees who are very connected and social to run the newsletter, and include reports about the company as well as human interest stories about employees.
  4. Encourage open-door policies among supervisors. Supervisors should be available any time employees have questions or concerns about any aspect of the workplace.
    • Make sure all of your supervisors have good communication skills and are effective at motivating and inspiring the employees they manage.
    • If you've established a policy of promoting from within, over time your managers and supervisors will be employees who have come up in the ranks. While they may know some of the workers personally, they also know the ins and outs of the job those workers are doing and what issues may naturally arise.[4]
  5. Build a positive and healthy work environment. Employees will be less likely to unionize if they are satisfied with the conditions of their workplace.
    • Occupational and workplace safety are key employee concerns targeted by union organizers, particularly in the blue collar sector. Avoiding unionization of your company therefore means making health and safety a priority.[5]
    • Promote a team environment in which employees from different departments understand that they're all working together to achieve the same goals. Union organizers may seek to divide your workforce and target individual departments first, but having a staff that understands how all employees are interconnected can help avoid unionization.
    • Keep the company close. Employees are less likely to unionize if they have close, positive relationships with the owners and managers of the company.[6]

Providing Competitive Pay and Benefits

  1. Review market earnings and adjust accordingly. Since employee dissatisfaction and turnover is often related to the perception that other companies pay better, staying ahead of the curve can help avoid unionization.
    • Conducting wage surveys allows you to remain competitive in the industry with the wages and benefits you offer.
    • Offering competitive salary also can decrease employee turnover. If good employees know they can get paid more elsewhere for doing the same job, they're more likely to leave.
    • Don't just look at non-unionized companies, look at unionized companies in your field as well. If you're paying as well as unionized companies do, employees will have little incentive to unionize.[7]
  2. Develop a comprehensive benefits package. Providing good health and retirement benefits for employees and their families sends a signal that you are looking out for your employees' well-being.
    • Consider implementing an employee stock purchase program or cash profit sharing to give employees an ownership stake in the company and the opportunity to share in the company's success.[8]
    • Make your benefits program visible, and provide information for your employees on how your benefits package stacks up to your competitors.[9]
    • Benefits packages should include more than just health insurance. Many companies now offer paid time off for vacation, illnesses, and holidays, disability insurance, and retirement plans.[10]
    • You also should consider on-site amenities such as employee gyms or daycare facilities to provide money-saving options for your employees as well as improve their health and welfare.[11]
  3. Make claims procedures simple and straightforward. Benefits such as paid vacation time aren't real if employees have to jump through hoops to get them.
    • If you offer flexible time or large amounts of personal or vacation leave, make sure employees aren't criticized or negatively impacted for taking it. For example, you may offer six months' leave for new parents, but your new parents will seldom take advantage of it if they are looked down upon for doing so, or if new parents in upper management never take more than six weeks off.
  4. Establish a regular performance review system. Employees need feedback on their performance, and rewarding positive performance fosters workplace satisfaction.
    • Maintaining a policy of promoting from within also can increase loyalty among employees and decrease the likelihood of unionization.[12]
    • Establishing standard merit-based increases based on regular (for example, quarterly) performance reviews provides employees an incentive to work harder.[13]
    • Provide additional incentives for long-term employees to encourage loyalty and longevity. Not only does this help avoid unionization, it also saves you money you would have to spend finding and training new workers.[14]
  5. Create achievable bonuses and incentives. If you want to avoid unionization, consider rewarding not just productivity but also the passage of other benchmarks in safety and efficiency.
    • For example, you might offer bonuses for perfect attendance, or for achieving certain scores on regular health or safety inspections.
    • Along with rewards for good work, make sure under-performing employees are disciplined consistently. Providing rewards without consequences can be a disincentive for average employees who meet expectations but aren't outstanding.
  6. Terminate employment only for just cause. Rather than parroting the "employment at will" policies of other companies, provide your employees with contracts and maintain a written list of acceptable reasons for termination.
    • Keep in mind that employees have claims under many employment laws regardless of whether you have an employment-at-will policy. The policy itself offers you limited protection and makes employees feel disadvantaged because it appears you hold all the power.
    • Providing employment under a contract, on the other hand, enables employees to feel they have responsibility over the terms of their employment.
    • Only terminating employment for just cause gives employees a strong sense of job security and reinforces that their continued employment with your company is based on their job performance.

Resolving Disputes Effectively

  1. Designate more than one employee to handle complaints. Employees are more likely to report problems if they can talk to someone they trust and with whom they feel comfortable.
    • Beyond providing a means for employees to report problems, it's important to communicate with your employees regularly and seek out possible issues that aren't being addressed. Many employees are afraid to rock the boat by making a complaint, but if asked they will tell you about a situation that could potentially become a serious problem if not addressed.[15]
  2. Keep written records of all complaints. In the event a complaint escalates, you want proof of everything that was said and every action that was taken to address the complaint.
    • Written records also are essential so complaints resolved by lower-level supervisors can be reviewed by upper-level management. If upper-level management displays an interest in these problems and a commitment to fairness, the employees will see them as responsive to employee concerns and will be less likely to seek unionization.[16]
    • Make sure you listen to the employee with the complaint and understand the problem before taking action.[17] For example, you might interview the employee and take notes, then repeat your notes back to the employee so he or she can confirm you have a good understanding of the situation.
    • Taking notes also is important because details can get fuzzy later on. A written record can serve as a reminder of what was said and the actions that were taken if the issue resurfaces.[18]
  3. Investigate issues raised by employees promptly. Once an employee brings a problem to your attention, take it seriously and look into it as soon as possible.[19]
    • Grievances filed with management should be discussed with the employee within a few days of the date the complaint is filed. After that, keep the employee who filed the original complaint apprised of the progress of your investigation.
    • Your investigation must be rigorous and thorough, emphasizing the respect with which complaints are taken and resolved.[20]
    • Depending on the complaint, you may need to interview co-workers of the employee who filed the complaint and find out if they agree with the complaint.[21] Once you have knowledge of an issue, you can't react appropriately until you know if it is isolated or widespread.
  4. Apply standards and policies uniformly. Employees will view any policy you have as meaningless if certain employees are allowed to skate by with a warning or aren't disciplined appropriately for infractions.
    • If you fail to enforce a policy the same way against all employees, regardless of their role or status in the company, you send a signal that the rules don't apply to everyone. This can lead to dissatisfaction and resentment among employees.
    • Playing favorites or applying policies inconsistently can lead employees to seek unionization because they get the message that their concerns are not respected or that you only pay lip-service to the policies rather than actually applying them as you say you will.[22]
  5. Follow up after changes have been implemented. Rather than assuming a problem has been resolved, check in with the employee who first brought it to your attention and make sure there aren't any lingering issues.
    • Following up after the fact sends a signal to your employees that you actually care about the situation, not just about getting rid of the complaint.
    • Employees who see management as caring and responsive to their problems are less likely to seek unionization.[23]


  1. http://www.inc.com/guides/2010/12/what-small-businesses-should-know-about-unions.html
  2. https://hbr.org/1981/09/how-top-nonunion-companies-manage-employees
  3. https://hbr.org/1981/09/how-top-nonunion-companies-manage-employees
  4. https://hbr.org/1981/09/how-top-nonunion-companies-manage-employees
  5. http://www.reedsmith.com/files/uploads/Documents/Union_Avoidance_Tips__Strategies__Dos_and_Don_ts.pdf
  6. https://hbr.org/1981/09/how-top-nonunion-companies-manage-employees
  7. https://hbr.org/1981/09/how-top-nonunion-companies-manage-employees
  8. https://hbr.org/1981/09/how-top-nonunion-companies-manage-employees
  9. https://hbr.org/1981/09/how-top-nonunion-companies-manage-employees
  10. http://money.usnews.com/money/careers/articles/2015/03/26/this-is-what-the-best-companies-do-to-keep-their-employees-happy
  11. http://money.usnews.com/money/careers/articles/2015/03/26/this-is-what-the-best-companies-do-to-keep-their-employees-happy
  12. https://hbr.org/1981/09/how-top-nonunion-companies-manage-employees
  13. https://hbr.org/1981/09/how-top-nonunion-companies-manage-employees
  14. http://www.reedsmith.com/files/uploads/Documents/Union_Avoidance_Tips__Strategies__Dos_and_Don_ts.pdf
  15. https://hbr.org/1981/09/how-top-nonunion-companies-manage-employees
  16. https://hbr.org/1981/09/how-top-nonunion-companies-manage-employees
  17. http://www.reedsmith.com/files/uploads/Documents/Union_Avoidance_Tips__Strategies__Dos_and_Don_ts.pdf
  18. https://hr.blr.com/HR-news/Performance-Termination/Workplace-Complaints-and-Investigations/zn-3-Steps-Handling-Employee-Complaints-#
  19. https://hr.blr.com/HR-news/Performance-Termination/Workplace-Complaints-and-Investigations/zn-3-Steps-Handling-Employee-Complaints-#
  20. https://hbr.org/1981/09/how-top-nonunion-companies-manage-employees
  21. http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/guidelines-handling-discrimination-harassment-complaints-29490.html
  22. http://www.reedsmith.com/files/uploads/Documents/Union_Avoidance_Tips__Strategies__Dos_and_Don_ts.pdf
  23. https://hbr.org/1981/09/how-top-nonunion-companies-manage-employees