First Steps

This section is designed to give you some insights and tips to help you in preparing your initial reaction to the corporate campaign. It is important to understand that no two attacks are the same, but they often start with the union sending a notice to the employer stating that they may be paying below area standard wages and requesting information on the issue.  There are a number of common sense rules that contractors should apply if they receive this type of notification.

Union Bannering at the Zoo
A wide variety of businesses and organizations can be attacked by bannering campaigns
  1. Don’t overreact or engage in knee-jerk responses that could come back to hurt you: One of early objectives of bannering campaigns – even before the banner is up – is to engage you in a dialogue which may distract you from your business obligations and shift your focus on trying to correct the inaccurate or misleading information that the union is planning to spread.
  2. Do not react to union threats in a rash or emotional manner. That is precisely what the union wants you do in hope that you will make a mistake; for example by taking an action that could be considered an unfair labor practices by the National Labor Relations Board that could subject the targeted firm to legal sanctions.
  3. Contact your attorney as soon as possible: This could save you money in the long run. The purpose for calling your attorney is merely to alert him/her that you are under the threat of union activity. It is critical that you identify what your next steps should be, including what actions should be taken on your own and what actions should involve your attorney, key staff and employees.
  4. Develop a strategic plan before responding: The first thing to remember when your firm is the target of a bannering campaign is that you need to develop a well-thought strategic plan. The following are some recommended actions and issues to consider when developing your strategic plan, and some suggested actions you should probably include in your plan:
    1. Brief your management team: Explain what the union is attempting to do through their threatening letter and potential subsequent activity.  The management team must understand the importance of implementing the firm’s strategic plan for addressing the union threat and avoiding knee-jerk reactions in response to actions the union may take in the future, including bannering or other picketing.  A well-briefed management team is also the firm’s best resource for addressing employee concerns should union pressure escalate.
    2. Brief your employees: It is important that employees are briefed before the union displays a banner to answer any questions and address concerns that may arise from the union’s claim that they are being paid substandard wages.
    3. Allow your labor attorney to review all correspondence from the union.
    4. If you decide to answer the union’s initial letter in an attempt to avert the placement of a banner, determine the best response and who should prepare it.
    5. Contact your ABC chapter: If your company is a target of bannering campaign or similar pressure tactic, ABC can help through educating project owners of the union’s actual goal: promoting unionized construction at the expense of the vast majority of the workforce that chooses not to join a labor organization.

After the Banner is up

There are a few common sense first steps to take once the union puts up the banner.

  1. Consult your labor attorney.  This will help you determine any potential legal maneuvers that could be employed to compel the union to take down the banner immediately.  This also includes potential union violations of local noise or trespassing laws. Additionally, an attorney can inform you on the best first steps based on the particulars of the union campaign
  2. Educate your management team and employees. The banner will likely be visible to company management and workers, so sharing information about the situation will be necessary and important.  Key messages are do not react to the individuals manning the banner and the banner is a tactic used by organized labor to deprive merit shop workers of the opportunity to compete for projects.
  3. Discuss the issue with the project owners.  This banner will also be highly visible to the owners of the project.  They are likely to ask about how this banner and other union activity will impact the timeline project delivery, whether the union activities will garner negative attention in the community and if the contractor is actually treating their employees fairly.  The contractor should remember that the project owners are often named on the banner, so it is important to their concerns.
  4. Are public relations activities necessary and appropriate?  Union bannering efforts smear the good names of good project owners and merit shop firms working to complete their projects in a safe, economical and timely manner.  Some owners and/or contractors may choose to stand up to the union claims through media and community outreach.  While this approach does attract attention to the bannering campaign, local media campaigns have frequently been successful in exposing the true nature of Big Labor’s effort.
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