It is going to be very important to structure your company to become an organizational hub, so that the way you achieve results energizes your employees or associates and confirms that they are part of a great team and are highly valued for their contributions to success. (See December 2009 Management Matters.)

This is important because the “Card Check Act” is again before Congress. (See May 2009 Management Matters) The “Employee Free Choice Act” (EFCA) actually is a misnomer in that this bill will take away the right of employees to determine through a secret ballot whether or not they want union representation. In addition, this will open the door for intimidation and coercion as union organizers go from house to house to get signatures. Once they have a majority, the NLRB will certify the union as the exclusive bargaining agent for all but exempt employees.

Today there is an additional threat: The “Re-Empowerment of Skilled and Professional Employees and Construction Tradeworkers (RESPECT) Act.” If enacted, this bill would redefine and severely limit which workers the existing National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) classifies as supervisors. According to the Heritage Foundation, the NLRA currently defines a supervisor as an employee with the authority to “hire, transfer, suspend, lay off, recall, promote, discharge, assign, reward, or discipline other employees, or to responsibly direct them, or to adjust their grievances, or effectively to recommend such action” so long as this authority requires the use of “independent judgment.” By law, supervisors belong to the management of the company and unions cannot organize them.

The RESPECT Act would remove from the definition of “supervisor” the duties of assigning and the responsibility of directing other employees. The legislation also specifies that supervisors must “hire, transfer, suspend, lay off, recall, promote, discharge, reward, or discipline other employees” for a majority of their work time.

These changes would virtually eliminate the status of supervisor from labor law and virtually all current supervisory employees would become non-supervisors under the NLRA and be subject to union membership – even against their will if the card check bill also passes.

In the event these two bills do pass Congress, the only way our industry (and your large or small company) will avoid the extra costs and lost productivity resulting from unionization will be to structure and run wood products businesses so that employees know by experience that unions are totally unnecessary. Thus, it becomes imperative for you to resolve to have a paradigm shift for the New Year and scrap the old organizational chart — at least in your mind.

Tom Dossenbach is the president of Dossenbach Associates Inc., a Sanford, NC-based international consulting and research firm. Contact him at (919) 775-5017 or e-mail tfd@dossenbach.com.

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