Did these companies go too far to discourage unionization?

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“Someday, someone you don't know may approach you at work, or visit you at home, asking you to sign your name to an authorization card, petition, or some other union document,” warn two smiling Target employees. The red-shirted actors star in the latest episode of the company’s anti-unionization efforts, a 15-minute video that all employees must watch. Predictably, it was quickly leaked to the media, which has excoriated the staunchly anti-union business. (In 2011, it also released a similar video after staff attempts to unionize.)

But Target is not alone in creative attempts to block unions from infiltrating their workforce. In Wichita, a local Subaru dealer was recently targeted by the Carpenters Local 201 Union, which set up a sign outside the dealership reading ‘SHAME ON SUBARU OF WICHITA’ alongside the words ‘LABOR DISPUTE’. The local business combatted the issue with creativity: it set up an adjacent sign that was identical, except for the wording: ‘FOR HAVING UNBEATABLE PRICES’ and ‘INDISPUTABLE’.

However, another company’s efforts to put unionization to bed were thwarted by the National Labor Relations Board yesterday. When a majority of drivers at trucking company Hogan Transports organized a campaign with Teamsters, the company responded by threatening employees with job losses and terminated a pro-union worker. It also promised – and granted – wage increases to those who joined the company’s side. A court found that all of the above activity violated the National Labor Relations Act, and forced the company to bargain with the union without an election, creating a lesson for other employers to learn from.

Meanwhile, employers have just days left to make comment on the NLRB’s proposed ‘ambush election’ rule, which will significantly shorten the period between the filing of a petition and an election for unionization. The rule has been criticized harshly by Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline, who said the scheme would make it “virtually impossible” for workers to make informed decisions on unionization.

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