Intertape Polymer Corporation won a union election 142 – 97. However, because of its seemingly innocuous conduct during the union organizing drive, the National Labor Relations Board nullified the victory and ordered a re-run election. At least the Board didn’t order a Gissel bargaining order, which sidesteps an election and orders the parties to immediately start bargaining an initial union contract. Nonetheless, this case is an excellent reminder of how easy it is to violate labor law and the importance of training management personnel in effective union-related communication.
During the pre-election period, Intertape Polymer engaged in three (apparent) minor violations of labor law. First, a low-level supervisor asked an employee who was eligible to vote in the upcoming election what he thought about the union. Second, Intertape Polymer’s supervisors handed out anti-union leaflets at the plant gate alongside union supporters who were handing out pro-union leaflets. Third, Intertape Polymer removed pro-union literature from the break room quicker than it typically removed non-union literation from the break room.
This case illustrates that even minor mistakes or a slight deviation from company policy or past practice during a union organizing drive can have catastrophic effects. Proper supervisory training is imperative. A well-trained supervisor will exercise the employer’s free speech rights without running afoul of the National Labor Relations Act.