When is an anti-union message "coercive?"

An election to determine employee willingness to be represented by a union was scheduled 2-wk hence. A week before Election Day some supervisors handed out "VOTE NO" buttons to workers.


An election to determine employee willingness to be represented by a union was scheduled 2-wk hence. A week before Election Day some supervisors handed out "VOTE NO" buttons to workers.

"No one says you have to wear these buttons," Maintenance Foreman Joe Ellis told members of his crew. "But between the two of us, if you put them on you'll be sending a message to management that you're loyal to the company and a member of the team. A message like that can't hurt when merit raise evaluation time rolls around."

News of the distribution and pep talk got back to union officials. A delegate complained to Ellis that he was in violation of federal labor law and guilty of union election interference. "If you don't stop," he threatened, "you'll be brought up on charges."

Question: Was this an idle threat, or can the union delegate add teeth to his warning?

Hogan's verdict: Ellis wisely decided to fill in Plant Engineer Lou Hogan on the union delegate's warning.

"He's perfectly right," Hogan ruled. "Management is permitted under federal law to issue anti-union literature and other items, but it can't do so indiscriminately. Such materials must be distributed from a central location with no coercive conduct exercised or implied. Nor can employees be forced to make an 'observable' choice that tips off management regarding a worker's acceptance or rejection. My advice is to cease and desist and inform the delegate of your intention to do so."

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