Unions are back in a big way. According to the National Labor Relations Board, unions won more elections in the first half of 2022 than any year since 2005, creating 641 unions and securing a 76.6% win rate. Public support is also at its highest since 1965, with Gallup finding that 71% of Americans approve of unions.
With high-profile wins at fast-casual restaurants like Starbucks and Chipotle, it’s only a matter of time before franchise businesses start seeing an impact — if they haven’t already. Regardless of your thoughts on the trend, it’s wise to know your legal rights and limits as a business owner. It’s time to refresh yourself on the federal laws governing union organizing.
Businesses have the most robust rights to prohibit union organizing activity before it begins. Business owners can restrict the distribution of union literature, petitions, and union cards within the workplace. They also have the right to ban outside union organizers from engaging in union activities on their property. But crucially, a business can only install these restrictions before organizing begins. Once union organizing is already underway, attempting to establish such rules is illegal.
Know the Laws Around Employee Organizing
Many people are familiar with the term “union-busting.” Union busting refers to attempts taken by a business to prevent successful union organizing. Some activities that might be called union busting are perfectly legal. Owners may legally share an anti-union opinion with their workforce and remind employees of their current workplace benefits. They may also inform employees of their right not to unionize and remind them of union downsides.
But many other union-busting activities are illegal. Employers may not poll their employees to gauge union support or visit them outside work to lobby against the union. They must also refrain from threats, like suggesting a union will result in job or benefits loss. Further, business owners cannot show favoritism toward anti-union employees or discriminate against union supporters or organizers. Firing a worker for attempts to unionize is also strictly illegal.
Most importantly, there are hundreds of labor laws governing unions at the federal level, and your business is also likely impacted by additional state laws. Contact a commercial attorney for any questions regarding unionization at your business to ensure you have the facts before taking action. An illegal response can cause a company far more trouble than a union ever could.