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Labor Relations - Happy Trails

The organization is a medium-sized independent living home, Happy Trails, LLC. It is a for-profit facility located in a suburban environment. Due to traffic and road congestion, this eldercare facility is the most convenient independent living home near the city. Independent living homes in the city offer many of the same services as Happy Trails, but are more expensive. There are also a number of hospitals that the elderly may go to for acute health care issues.
In a response to the changing economy and patient access from the suburban areas to the city, Happy Trails has taken some measures to compete and become more attractive, and build on its long-term care for patients in the surrounding areas. It has reduced overtime allotments of its seasoned patient care staff, and has terminated several registered nurses. As the registered nurses have left Happy Trails, they were replaced by Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), who receive lower compensation and fewer benefits.
The health care facilities in the city have been unionized and are well represented by an experienced union business agent. The union has recently negotiated superior wages and benefits at the independent living homes in the city.
In terms of the health care professionals employed there, Happy Trails is not so happy now because the union representing the other facilities has gotten the attention of the Happy Trails LPNs.

Happy Trails' management team could engage in any number of activities during the unionization. Which of the following would you advise? Why or why not?
1) Actively promote LPNs, offer bonuses, and place some into leadership and management roles.
2) Tell employees salary increases will cease in order to finance the collective bargaining agreement.
3) Explain current employee benefits to the LPNs, comparing them to the union promises.
4) Threaten to close the facility due to the union campaign.
5) Assist in the circulation of anti-union petitions.
6) Counter union exaggerated claims on flyers.
7) Tell employees they do not need to talk to union organizers, that they can vote against the union, and that the independent living home does not welcome the union.
8) Solicit employees to request the return of their authorization cards.
9) Tell employees they will be replaced if they vote for the union.
10) Appeal to the employees to defeat the union.

Solution Preview

1) Actively promote LPNs, offer bonuses, and place some into leadership and management roles.

This option is a good negotiating tool. Showing the nurses that you are willing to negotiate salaries, bonuses and provide career advancement. Unionization will require that they pay union dues which will come out their pockets. Union dues can be very expensive. Another reason this is a bargaining chip is that within a union, these types of offers would have to go through the union representative as it will be changing their contract. Promotions and leadership roles must be based on seniority and although one LPN may be the best person for the job, another LPN, because of seniority would be hired due to their length within the organization.
Another reason this option is viable is that it will empower the employees to have a "say" in policies and administrative decisions. However, the organization must not make false promises and should be prepared to act on its promises immediately.

2) Tell employees salary increases will cease in order to finance the collective bargaining agreement.
This should not be done as it will be seen as a threat and would only perpetuate their reasons FOR a union. This could also decrease morale and provide lack of incentive to work. Again, you may not take any actions with an employee that may later be deemed as a threat.

3) Explain current employee benefits to the LPNs, comparing them to the union promises.

Comparing current employee benefits to the benefit package the union proposes is a good solution as long as the organization's current benefits match or exceed the union's proposal. This would offer an opportunity to explain to the employees that union contracts have to be negotiated and can only be negotiated when the contract is due to expire. This could be years; however, in a private, non-union setting, your organization could negotiate with insurance carriers to lower costs for employees and/or the organization. This would be the perfect opportunity to remind the LPN's that unions are notorious for making unreasonable demands and threats of work stoppages. This would result in lower wages as the union has set amounts it can pay employees that are striking.

4) Threaten to close the facility due to the union campaign.
This is not a good option and is financial suicide for Happy Trails. Many large organizations (such as Wal-Mart) have the ability to do this due to the viability of their organization; however, Happy Trails is a small business looking to ...

Solution Summary

The solution gives 1730 words advising Happy Trails' management team on the different aspects of unionization activities.

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