This is a textbook example of why employees join unions.
Clinicians of a start-up in the behavioral health market are organizing a union. The company is like many other companies in several industries: a venture-backed, software-focused, start-up.
I see these companies in every industry. Some of them are my clients. This company is not.
These companies start off as small mom and pop shops. Then private equity money comes in. Virtually overnight, the companies grow exponentially. Gone is the mom and pop feel and the way things used to be.
According to the founder of the start-up, this union organizing drive came out of the blue.
It did not come out of the blue.
Unionization is easy to sell to employees who no longer recognize the company where they work. When a company is sold or a major change happens at the company, unionization risk is high.
Here, the unionization efforts were in response to how the company handled communications and negative feedback, and changes to how clinicians got paid, among other things including significant business decisions and growth strategy.
For example, in early summer 2022, the Company rolled out new measurement-based software for patient care. Several clinicians took issue with a lack of clarity around the rollout. Aggressive policing by the company of internal chats deepened their frustration.
A month later, in July 2022, many clinicians signed a letter detailing their dismay with how management handled the situation. The company’s responses did not help and was identified by the clinicians as the first steps toward organizing.
In August 2022, a group of clinicians approached unions for support. Employees signed authorization cards. The rest is history.
Employers, please listen: Employees vote for union representation because they don’t feel like they have a voice at work. They look to unions to be their voice.
If employees formally send you a letter detailing issues they have with working at the company, take that letter seriously. It really is one of the first steps to union organizing.
Matt Austin is a nationwide management labor lawyer. Labor laws govern virtually all private-sector employees regardless of union membership. Proactive management of labor relations is critical to maintaining flexibility and increasing profit.
Matt also runs Austin Legal’s HR Legal Compliance Program that, for a small monthly fee, ensures HR decisions are protected by the attorney-client privilege.
Matt’s experience is deeply rooted in helping manage many aspects of his clients’ businesses. To effectively manage labor relations, he must also manage budgets, forecasts, new growth areas, and projected market corrections. High emotional intelligence is also critical to negotiating union contracts and to properly advise HR Legal Compliance members through the nuances of the law, its application to their companies, and how it will be received by employees.
You can reach Matt via email at Matt@MattAustinLaborLaw.com.