NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Firms Fight Unions and Win

September 19, 1997

Businesses are learning how to counter the tactics used by Big Labor in its union organizing drives. Observers say managers are increasingly successful in fending off efforts to create union shops.

  • Companies have won more than half of the union elections since 1980 -- versus 28 percent in the early 1950s.
  • In contrast, unions win 80 percent of government-employee elections, where there is no concerted effort to defeat them.
  • An estimated 6,000 to 8,000 union organizing efforts failed last year before an election was even called.
  • Elections last year involved 194,000 -- compared to 588,000 in 1970.

Companies may be required to have a union vote if 30 percent of workers sign a petition, but the unions rarely press for a vote unless 60 percent or more of workers sign.

Businesses have sprung up to advise companies on ways to successfully combat unions. Some produce books, tapes and seminars providing sample speeches, posters and letters to sent to employees' homes and advice on tactics: such as temporarily withholding union dues from paychecks to show how expensive union membership would be, and how to spot union activists planted as workers during the early stages of union drives.

Wal-Mart, the nation's largest private employer with 700,000 employees, has been particularly successful countering union organizing efforts. It has never lost a union election.

One management guide suggests that firms hold contests before union elections and give away a television to the employee who comes closest to guessing the longest strike and the largest fine ever imposed by a union against a member.


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