Our company’s leadership was recently notified by the National Labor Relations Board that several of our stores have filed for union elections. Of course, one of our core values is making sure every voice at this company is heard. And we intend to live up to that philosophy, starting with me making my voice heard—in this seven-hundred-word all-staff email—before anybody else has time to make their voice heard.
We’d like to make something clear: as a progressive company, we strongly support the idea of unions. The idea of them. Just like you might support the idea that the universe formed from a massive cosmic explosion of matter. But you wouldn’t want that to happen in your office.
Unions might be a good idea at other workplaces, but it just so happens that they’re actually not a good idea at this workplace—where, coincidentally, I just so happen to own a substantial share of the company’s equity.
It would make sense to push for collective bargaining at a company where management exploits its workers. But at this company, I’m management—and I couldn’t possibly be exploiting workers, because that’s something a bad person would do, and I can’t be bad, because I’m me.
Obviously, all workers have the right to form a union. But we believe it’s just as important to remind everyone that you also have a right not to form a union. Just like you have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—as well as the right to opt-out of those things if you don’t want them. The right to not have rights is the most sacred right of all, and a union could take that right away from you. That’s not right.
A union would complicate things. Right now, if you want a raise, you have a meeting with me, and I tell you, “Gosh, you’re doing a terrific job, but I’m just not sure there’s enough wiggle room in the budget right now.” Simple! On the other hand, if our company unionized, we may no longer be allowed to have those kinds of meetings. You might even have to get permission from a third-party labor activist before making small talk with me in the elevator. Then who will get to hear all the thoughtful commentary I have to share about Ozark?
Meanwhile, forget about merit-based promotions. Under many union contracts, preference is given based on seniority—the quality of your work may not even be a factor. That means your advancement at this company could end up being dependent on arbitrary factors like “how long you’ve worked here” instead of objective assessments like “whether I think you deserve it.”
It’s also worth noting that a union could introduce unexpected costs and inefficiencies to the workplace. For example, once contract negotiations begin, we will be forced to pay a white-shoe law firm $1,125 per hour to fight every single proposal tooth and nail until we’ve worn the bargaining committee down enough to give up on wage increases. And unfortunately, if that happens, we won’t be able to afford wage increases.
We’re like a family here. And I know some people say it’s a red flag when bosses call their workplace a family. But fortunately, that’s not a problem here, because I don’t really think of myself as a boss. I’m like the company’s wacky uncle. The sort of uncle who has unmitigated control over the livelihood of the rest of the family.
Some companies have been accused of closing stores in retaliation for unionizing. We would, of course, not take that sort of action; it would directly contradict our principles. That being said, it looks as though all the stores considering unionization have unrelated financial problems, so we might need to close them anyway. We’ll conduct a thorough audit before making any decision—and that audit should be complete shortly after the union elections.
Ultimately, this isn’t my decision to make. It’s yours. But be careful. Because as soon as you commit to a union, neither you nor I will be making any unilateral decisions going forward. And don’t you think at least one of us should be?
Your truest comrade,