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When a Union is Already in the House

By Howard M. Bloom and Patrick L. Egan
  • September 19, 2003

Employers with both unionized and union-free employees face a unique set of issues. While preserving an environment where its union-free employees do not perceive the need for a union, the employer must bargain in good faith and maintain good relations with the union-represented employees. Tricky, yes, but impossible, no.

Many employers successfully execute this delicate balancing act by carefully analyzing the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement and understanding what union-free employees value most in their jobs. Since successful union organizing is typically grounded in a failure of communication between employees and management or the reality or perception of unfair treatment by management, the same concepts of positive employee relations which benefit union-free employers also may prevent further union expansion within the partially-unionized workforce.

These concepts and practices include:

  • peer grievance review as a preferable alternative to the binding third party arbitration process typically found in a union contract
  • communication vehicles which provide union-free employees with more direct and timely communication than collective bargaining provides unionized employees
  • regular employee recognition and appreciation events
  • where lawful, slightly higher wage increases than those negotiated in the union contract with an announcement of the increases after the effective date of the contract
  • where lawful, comparable employee benefits with (for example) a slightly higher employer match for employee contributions to a 401(k) or 403(b) plan

Regardless of the method, a partially-unionized employer will be in a better position to limit further union incursion by demonstrating in actions and words that employees do not need a union to assure fair and consistent treatment. There is no substitute – not even better economics – for treating employees with dignity and respect.

©2003 Jackson Lewis P.C. This material is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice nor does it create a client-lawyer relationship between Jackson Lewis and any recipient. Recipients should consult with counsel before taking any actions based on the information contained within this material. This material may be considered attorney advertising in some jurisdictions. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

Reproduction of this material in whole or in part is prohibited without the express prior written consent of Jackson Lewis P.C., a law firm that built its reputation on providing workplace law representation to management. Founded in 1958, the firm has grown to more than 900 attorneys in major cities nationwide serving clients across a wide range of practices and industries including government relations, healthcare and sports law. More information about Jackson Lewis can be found at

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