Pass the Salt: Protect Your Business from Covert Organization

Likened to a Trojan Horse, salting is when a union organizer responds to a Help Wanted ad from a non-union shop. The term comes from the practice of putting gold or silver in played-out mines in order to sell them to some unsuspecting victim. Here, it refers to someone whose real job is not what the company in question hired him to do, but rather to organize the other workers into a union.

Aside from the obvious that unionization will drive up the costs of your labor force, salting can also lead to discrimination lawsuits, legal troubles over employee discipline, and other managerial headaches that are best avoided.

Reducing Your Salt Intake

Protecting your company from this practice involves three basic steps: Weed out the salters during the hiring process, apply employee discipline fairly and across the board, and ensure terminations are fully legal. Everything you do needs to be geared to how it will be perceived in a later court case. If you can demonstrate that your employment practices are all legal and aboveboard, and that they have been applied fairly throughout the organization, the union does not have a case.

Salty Signs to Looks For

How do you recognize a salter? Sometimes it can be very difficult but here are six red flags you should watch out for:

  • Strange gaps in employment may indicate union employment.

  • A large percentage of union members applying for work.

  • Admission that the candidate is a union organizer (yes, sometimes they do admit it).

  • Union membership. You cannot decline to hire a union member on that basis alone.

  • Surreptitious tape recordings made during the interview (to be used against you later).

  • Once hired, the sudden appearance of video cameras or other recording devices on the work floor.

Best Practices to Avoid Salting

The following from Workforce Management are good anti-salting measures as well as sound human resources practices. Have a look at your hiring policies and see if they measure up.

  • Require job candidates to list job references and account for gaps in employment.

  • Conduct regular reference checks on all job candidate finalists.

  • Develop and adhere to a policy declining to hire applicants who haven’t been truthful on their job applications, and keep documentation of these occurrences.

  • Develop and equally enforce a no-solicitation policy.

  • Develop and enforce a no-moonlighting policy.

  • Apply discipline and dismissal policies equally to all employees who violate company policies.

  • Keep and maintain documentation that will show a past practice of equally disciplining and dismissing employees who’ve violated company policies. This can be used to prove that the employer’s behavior is consistent and nondiscriminatory.

  • Train hiring officials to not consider or mention union activity during the hiring process.

  • Require new employees to sign a statement stating that they’ve reviewed, understand and will comply with company policies during their employment.

  • Consider salting and employer liability insurance. With more than 33,000 unfair labor charges filed against employers each year, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.