A recent New York Times article about the unionization of digital media companies like Vox, (the now defunct) Gawker, and Thrillist provides important lessons for companies concerned about unionization, not just those in the digital media niche.
Employers should pay attention to the demographics of these firms. Their employees are young and college educated. Given those demographics, the move towards unionization is not surprising. A Pew Poll found that at least 55% of so called millennials are receptive to unions. If one employee’s comments from the article are any indication, the employees have taken the union bait hook, line, and sinker. The employee is quoted as saying she supported the union because it will bring “transparency on pay, having a decent pay scale that allows a ladder of sustainability where you can support yourself on such an income, and having due process and a guarantee of severance in the case of layoffs.” The article also notes that the employees at these firms sounded a common (yet false) refrain when it comes to unionization – the belief that it would lead to better wages, benefits, and job stability.
Notice how the employee described what the union could offer. Words like “transparency,” and “sustainability,” are the buzz words of a generation and show up in any marketing effort tailored towards millennials. Union organizers know that the generally held ideals of this generation present fertile ground for their message. As your workforce skews younger, how do you counteract an organizing message to a ground that is predisposed to receive it favorably? By simply telling the truth. The union cannot delivery on what they are promising. There is no easier place to start then the claim that unionization will lead to job security and better wages.
1. Job stability and security.
I have no idea why these employees think that having a collective bargaining agreement will make it less likely that they will be laid off. If anyone knows of a CBA, that prohibits layoffs send it to me. Sure, there are certain agreements that contain grievance provisions that an employee can invoke if they believe they have be wrongfully terminated, but in the interim they are still laid off. Ditto with the guarantee of severance upon layoffs.
2. Unionization does not lead to better wages and benefits.
Unionization will lead to a pay raise is a tried and true organizers tactic. The truth is that unionization can result in better, worse, or the same wages and benefits. A successful union vote guarantees only one thing – negotiating. It does not result in the employer signing a CBA. Employees erroneously think that their current wage and benefit package is the floor from which these negotiations begin. This is false. The truth is that at the bargaining table the parties are working from a clean slate. Those negotiations can lead to wages and benefits that are better, worse, or the same as what employees currently have. Furthermore, during negotiations, wages and benefits frozen.
Millennials have been exposed to anti-free market drivel since grad school. So, employers cannot wait until a petition for election is being circulated to start telling their employees the truth.