How Do Unions Affect the Human Resources Professional?

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One of the biggest challenges in a unionized organization is managing the intersection of unions and human resources. Human resources (HR) is tough as a profession without the influence of unionization, but becomes an even more delicate balance between workplace needs and union convictions when this dynamic is introduced. As a result, human resource managers who work within a unionized organization will face some unique challenges that their counterparts in a nonunion company likely wouldn’t have to oversee. Whether it’s employee bargaining or the “dues checkoff” process, these challenges are easy to overcome with a bit of awareness and planning.

Learning and Handling Labor Law: A Central Issue

One of the biggest differences between unionized and non-unionized human resources departments is their handling of labor law. In a nonunion environment, labor law isn’t much of a consideration. That’s because the human resources department is more concerned with employment law, rather than the regulations that govern unionized labor. In a unionized workplace, human resources professionals must have at least a basic knowledge of labor law so that they can handle the relationship between employers, their supervisors, and the union that represents them. This helps the HR department from overstepping its bounds in key negotiations, which include everything from salaries and raises to employee hiring and termination.

Payroll and Managing Employee Grievances

Human resources managers are typically responsible for handling payroll deductions for everything from health care to life insurance. Union dues must also be added to the mix if a union represents even a small number of the organization’s employees. Due to laws concerning “dues checkoff,” which passes the burden of union dues collection to employers, an HR professional who doesn’t properly collect union dues in the payroll process could face a tough time interacting with the employee union. This is a central consideration when processing an employee’s hiring paperwork or recognizing their new membership in an industry union.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the unionization of a workplace also changes its method of handling employee grievances. In a more traditional organization, the human resources department typically handles employee grievances about workplace fairness, poor treatment, concerns about injuries, and numerous other issues. When a union is in the mix, this responsibility changes dramatically. Rather than placing the burden on HR, the burden is on the union to hear grievances, ask for any remedies to that grievance, and represent the employee’s interests. In many cases, this means that HR professionals are put into a position where they must simply provide documentation to the union and serve as an intermediary during negotiations with the employer regarding any dispute.

Union Organization: Any HR Department Should Be Ready

Human resources departments at many companies face the prospect of unionization in the future. If workers do mobilize and organize a pro-unionization movement in the workplace, it will be HR professionals who oversee the process, acknowledge the need for organized labor, and accommodate the transition from a nonunion workplace to one with collective representation. For this reason, even workers at companies without unionized labor should familiarize themselves with the laws and best practices of unionized employment.

Some Unique Considerations in an Organized Labor Environment

Human resources professionals are a key part of any organization, but their role can dramatically change when unionization is involved. Preparing for the many differences between these two environments will help the company manage the intersection of unions and human resources in a more efficient, productive way overall

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