According to two healthcare human resource specialists, the remainder of this year may be the last chance for those in the healthcare industry to prepare for a likely union organizing onslaught. The authors observe,

The political and economic events of the past several months should be taken as a small warning of what is to come, as the next six months are expected to be a relative period of calm before Big Labor’s wrath is fully realized after the November 2010 mid-term elections. We believe the path healthcare employers choose to take over the next six months will likely separate those organizations who are able to successfully remain union-free in 2011 and beyond from those that find themselves unprepared and at the mercy of the new environment as it relates to union organizing.

The list of potential risk factors is lengthy, including:

• NLRB rule-making to impose restrictions on “employer free speech”
• Expanding union access to employer premises during organizing campaigns
• Imposing limitations on employer communications during campaigns
• Use of employer technology to promote union organizing
• Amending rules relating to supervisors and union eligibility
• Redefining of employer unfair labor practices
• Recent and potential political appointees
• New union leadership
• Continued volatile economic conditions
• Reports of early-stage union surveillance and canvassing

Not mentioned, but no less valid a threat, is the possibility that once the SEIU and NUHW quit fighting over currently unionized healthcare employees in California, they will both focus their attention on non-union targets. With the Kaiser Permanente election scheduled for September, this could happen sooner rather than later.

The authors strongly encourage healthcare businesses to employ strategies we have enumerated in our Left of Boom white paper as proactive measures to prevent falling prey to an emboldened union with new weapons in its arsenal:

Employers who wisely utilize this opportunity to inoculate their organizations now through training, education and creating a foundation for a strategic labor relations plan that could be effectively implemented in the face of expedited elections and a labor-friendly NLRB.

The authors conclude,

Organizations that take a “wait and see” approach may find themselves not only an early target for a union that has done its homework to assess the most favorable opponents, but also may be unable to respond quickly enough or effectively enough under the anticipated new NLRB guidelines.