Secret Union Organizing via Handheld Social App

The Century Foundation (Foundation), a nonprofit research organization, recently released a report explaining the benefits of designing a virtual platform for union organizing. This proposal comes on the heels of the NLRB’s decision to allow the use of company email during non-work time for communications that are protected by the National Labor Relations Act. [See, “NLRB to Companies: Your Workers Can Use Your Email System for Union Organizing,” Roetzel Recap: Labor Relations, December 15, 2014].This platform could help employees determine an appropriate bargaining unit and encourage workers to communicate confidentially about a union without the fear of employer interference.

The Foundation believes the app would provide step-by-step guidance for employees seeking to organize, including instructions on how to overcome common roadblocks such as employers requiring employees to attend “captive audience” meetings, hiring anti-union consultants, and disciplining workers involved with union organizing. It is not entirely clear how a virtual platform will assist employees with these issues.

The app can connect employees with experienced union organizers to help with their organizing efforts, even though unions already rely heavily on Facebook and private internet sites to make these connections. Employees could also obtain virtual guidance on how to file a union petition electronically and integrate the voter list information that the employer must release.

Take heart, this virtual platform doesn’t yet exist. It is possible that web developers could create a for-profit platform by reaching licensing agreements with unions or a nonprofit organization could spearhead its development. This move toward virtual organizing is a step unions could take to make themselves more appealing to today’s younger, more tech-savvy employees. The key takeaway from this is that unions are finally adapting to the modern workplace. It is time companies update their approach to remaining union free, as well.

Matt Austin is a lawyer based in the Columbus, Ohio office of Roetzel & Andress, LPA who limits his practice to representing employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can call Matt at (614) 723-2010 or email him at