In recent years, there has been a surge in new union organizing efforts and tactics to unionize and organize employers in the state of Florida. From Amazon workers in Jacksonville to farmworkers in Immokalee, unions are imploring Floridian workers to turn to unions to help address issues like low wages, lack of benefits, and poor working conditions. Unionizing has become more heavily publicized, even romanticized, in the media and many employees have bought in to the movement. However, very few employers are as enthusiastic about unionization as their employees.
Here are some of the new union organizing techniques that are being used in Florida:
- Social Media Campaigns: Social media has become an integral part of our lives, and it is no surprise that unions are using it as a tool to organize workers. Unions are using social media to connect with workers, share information, and mobilize them to take action.
- Grassroots Campaigns: Unions are also using grassroots campaigns to organize workers. This involves reaching out to workers in the community, organizing rallies, and other events to raise awareness about their cause.
- Targeted Campaigns: Unions are targeting specific companies and industries where they believe they can have the most impact. They are also targeting workers who are most likely to be receptive to their message.
- Digital Organizing: One of the key new techniques being employed by unions is the use of digital organizing. With the rise of social media, unions are able to connect with workers in new and innovative ways. For example, the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (“RWDSU”) used social media to spread awareness about the unionization drive at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, which garnered national attention. This kind of digital organizing has also been used to great effect in Florida, with unions like the Service Employees International Union (“SEIU”) and the Farmworker Association of Florida (“FWAF”) using social media and online campaigns to connect with workers and build support for unionization.
- Alliances with Community Organizations: Another tactic that has been used successfully in Florida is strategic partnerships between unions and community organizations. For example, the SEIU and FWAF have formed partnerships with other labor unions, faith groups, and community organizations to build support for unionization among farmworkers. This kind of coalition-building has also been effective in other sectors, such as healthcare and education, where unions have partnered with community groups to push for better working conditions and higher wages.
- Internal Worker Committees: Another contemporary technique being used to great effect is the creation of worker committees to build support for unionization. These committees are typically made up of workers who are already supportive of unionization and who work to convince their colleagues to join the union. In some cases, these committees have been successful in organizing workplaces without the need for a formal union election.
Employers in Florida can take several steps to prevent their employees from turning to unions. Here are some suggestions:
- Address the concerns of your employees: If your employees are considering unionization, it is likely because they have concerns about their wages, benefits, or working conditions. Employers should create a vehicle through which employees can raise concerns and then take steps to address these concerns and improve the overall work environment. If you don’t address employee concerns, someone else will.
- Maintain a positive work environment: Employers should foster a positive work environment where employees feel valued, respected, and engaged. This can help prevent employees from seeking union representation. Employee engagement is not guaranteed.
- Keep employees informed: Employers should keep their employees informed about their rights and benefits. This can help prevent employees from being misled by union organizers.
- Be proactive: Employers should be proactive in addressing any issues that arise in the workplace. This can help prevent issues from escalating and becoming the basis for union organizing efforts.
Put simply, the new union organizing efforts and techniques in Florida – coupled with increased favorable media coverage of union organizing efforts across the country – are making it more attractive for workers to seek union representation. Employers can take steps to prevent their employees from seeking union representation by addressing their concerns, maintaining a positive work environment, keeping employees informed, and being proactive in addressing workplace issues.
Employers should take steps now – not in the face of an impending union organizing campaign – to conduct a vulnerability assessment and identify areas where they may be weak on people treatment practices and processes. Many employers bring in their labor lawyer to conduct such assessments and make confidential recommendations on improvements that can be made quickly and cost-effectively.
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