Labor Relations – Union Organizing
In the state of Washington employees have the right to join or assist a labor organization, as well as the right to refrain from joining or assisting a labor organization. Employees have the right to encourage other employees to support, or not support, a union.
Employers are barred from interfering with, restraining, or coercing employees in the exercise of rights relating to organizing, forming, joining or assisting a labor organization for collective bargaining purposes, or refraining from any such activity.
Similarly, labor organizations may not restrain or coerce employees in the exercise of rights relating to organizing, forming, joining or assisting a labor organization for collective bargaining purposes, or refraining from any such activity.
During organizing efforts, there are things employers can and cannot do in terms of communicating about labor organizations with their employees. They can be summed up in the acronyms TIPS and TOOLS. The below is being provided as general guidelines for departments during organizing efforts.
TIPS – Employer “Don’ts”
T – Threaten
|Employers cannot threaten employees with adverse action if they support or do not support a union. Employers cannot retaliate against employees who demonstrate union leanings or participate in Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) proceedings, such as by reducing privileges, suddenly cracking down on tardiness or absenteeism, instituting tougher rules, or otherwise punishing employees for union activity.
I – Interrogate
|Employers cannot question employees about their views or activities with regard to unionization. Employers cannot ask employees whether they have signed union authorization cards or attended union meetings, or who and whether their co-workers have done so, or how they will vote in a union election.
P – Promise
|Employers cannot promise to or grant new benefits to employees if they vote for or against a union. Employers cannot promise to or grant pay increases during a union drive for purposes of making unionization more or less attractive to them.
S – Surveillance
|Employers cannot spy on employees concerning their union activities, such as standing or parking outside a union meeting place with the intent of monitoring activities. Employers cannot visit employees at their homes to solicit their support for or against a union. Employers cannot attend union meetings, even if invited.
TOOLS – Employer “Do’s”
T – Truthful
|Provide employees with correct facts. Refute untrue statements. Respond to employees questions about compensation and personnel policies. If you are unsure or unable to provide the appropriate assistance refer questions or concerns to Human Resource Services.
O – Objective
|Objectively enforce non-solicitation policies. Require any solicitation for membership or discussion of union affairs, regardless of an individual’s stance, be conducted outside work time. (An employee can solicit and discuss unionization on his/her own time, on WSU premises in accordance with WSU policy, when it does not interrupt work.)
O – Open
|Be open. Do not avoid employee’s questions. Tell employees that you and other members of management are always willing to discuss any work related matters of interest to them, but that the employer is legally barred from making or promising any improvements prior to a union election.
L – Listen
|Listen to what employees have to say about the organizing efforts and activities. Address their concerns and questions. If you are unsure or unable to provide the appropriate assistance refer questions or concerns to Human Resource Services.
S – Supervise
|Continue to supervise and conduct business as usual. Expect employees to fulfill the duties of their position. Enforce WSU rules and policies impartially and in accord with customary practices.
Union Organizing FAQs
- What is a union organizer?
- Can a union organizer talk with me about representation at my work location?
- Am I under any obligation to talk with a union representative?
- What can I do about union representatives coming to my home?
- What are the rules if a co-worker approaches me during working time to discuss a union?
- Are unions allowed to use meeting rooms on campus?
- Can I create or copy and distribute union or anti-union flyers at my work location?
- Can I tell my supervisor what was said at a union meeting?
- I am a supervisor of petitioned for employees. What do I do if an organizer wants to give me a union authorization card?
- What can I do if I have additional questions or concerns regarding Union Organizing and Representation?
- Who do I contact if I have questions or need assistance?
1. What is a union organizer?
Some unions have staff representatives called “organizers.” These individuals are normally union employees or affiliates looking to organize the employees of an employer.
2. Can a union organizer talk with me about representation at my work location?
You have the right to accept literature from a union representative, and set up a time to discuss union matters during your non-work time. You may also ask a union representative to leave or contact your supervisor or Human Resource Services for assistance.
Union representatives functioning in their capacity as the exclusive representative for bargaining unit employees may have access to employees in appropriate areas on WSU property, as long as the union representatives comply with the access provisions noted in each Collective Bargaining Agreement (Contract). WSU policies and procedures and all WSU Contracts state that employee rest and meal periods are non-work time. As with any solicitation by an outside entity, solicitation may not negatively impact the productivity of employees while they are performing their duties for WSU.
3. Am I under any obligation to talk with a union representative?
No. Employees are under no obligation to talk with a union representative. Notify your supervisor or Human Resource Services if you have concerns with inappropriate organizing contact.
4. What can I do about union representatives coming to my home?
WSU does not have control over contact a union or any other organizer has with you outside of the work environment. When off work, you are an individual citizen and may choose your level of contact with a union as with any other individual or organization that comes to your home.
5. What are the rules if a co-worker approaches me during working time to discuss a union?
You have the right to conduct your work without being solicited by any individual regarding organizing, regardless of their union stance. Notify your supervisor or Human Resource Services if you have concerns with inappropriate organizing contact.
6. Are unions allowed to use meeting rooms on campus?
Union representatives functioning in their capacity as the exclusive representative for bargaining unit employees, may have access to employees in appropriate areas on WSU property, as long as the union representative comply with the access provisions noted in each Contract.
Current Collective Bargaining Agreements:
- Washington Federation of State Employees
- WSU Police Guild
- International Union of Operating Engineers
If a union wishes to schedule a room, this would be done on the same basis as any other outside entity and is also subject to the same limitations. If a conference or other room has an associated charge for usage, a union would be charged on the same basis as any other outside entity/non-WSU group. If a room is allowed to be used free of charge for an outside entity/non-WSU group, unions should be afforded the same opportunity. See BPPM 20.40, Renting University Facilities, Equipment, or Services, and BPPM 20.35, Use of University Proerty for more information on renting WSU facilities, equipment, or services and the use of WSU property.
7. Can I create or copy and distribute union or anti-union flyers at my work location?
Employees are allowed to conduct campaigning activities in the public areas or non-working areas during your own time and as long as you do not disrupt operations (see WAC 391-25-436 (Special provision—State civil service employees)).
Note that, however, Washington State Law (RCW 42.52.160 (Use of persons, money, or property for private gain)) prohibits the use of State property for personal gain. Therefore, even if you are participating in the campaigning (on your own time) you may not borrow or use WSU property for purposes unrelated to official WSU activities or authorize the use of WSU property under your control to anyone for purposes unrelated to official WSU activities. This includes computers, copy machines, meeting rooms, mailboxes and your time, etc.
For the distribution of any materials not related to work, it is important that you follow all State, WSU, and department rules and policies.
8. Can I tell my supervisor what was said at a union meeting?
Employees may freely discuss facts, experiences and opinions with whomever they choose. Please note, that supervisors and managers are not to ask you about the meeting or your views of unionization. They can, however, listen and respond to your questions.
9. I am a supervisor of petitioned for employees. What do I do if an organizer wants to give me a union authorization card?
Supervisors should not accept, touch, or distribute any union authorization cards.
Similarly, supervisors should not actively participate in any organizing efforts regarding employees they supervise.
10. What can I do if I have additional questions or concerns regarding Union Organizing and Representation?
For additional information regarding the representation process visit Labor Relations – Representation.
Additionally you can contact PERC at:
Dario de la Rosa
PERC Representation Case Administrator
Michael P. Sellers
PERC Executive Director
11. Who do I contact if I have questions or need assistance?
If you have additional or specific questions not addressed above, or if you have experienced issues regarding your right to make an informed decision, you may contact:
Labor Relations Officer
Jessica R. Johnson
Human Resources Assistant
Or the Human Resources Consultant for your area; go to the HRS Information page to find out your area HR Consultant contact information.