According to the Boston Globe, Harvard University has not had a strike in more than 30 years. Yesterday, however, 750 Harvard University Dining Services employees represented by UNITE HERE local 26 took to the picket line after months of contract negotiations. 

Few people know the ins and outs of an organization's facilities like their employees. As as a result, striking workers can be a significant threat because of their understanding of vulnerable areas of the property. Thankfully, there are many labor dispute protection strategies that can and should be implemented in order to protect students, non-union employees, the campus, and other Harvard assets.

Included below are three protection tips organizations can and should implement before and during a labor dispute. 

1.) Picket Line Training & Harassment Documentation Policies 

Conducting a strike safety preparatory meeting for non-union employees along with implementing a reporting and documentation system for harassment complaints is something we always recommend to our clients.  

This type of meeting covers topics including picket line procedures/protocols, what to do if approached by a striking union member off-site, and site-specific protection adjustments that will be made during the strike.

Demonstrating that  the organization is prepared for a work stoppage and communicating this with non-union employees before the labor dispute goes a long way in making everyone feel more safe. 

2.) Evidence Documentation On The Picket Line

Picket lines aren't as violent as they used to be ten to twenty years ago, but they're usually not pretty. It's also worth noting, that it's not typically the striking union members who violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) or violate the law -- it's usually other union members and sympathizers who came to support the striking union members that cause the trouble on the picket line or property. 

Capturing evidence on the picket line hinges on being able to anticipate and recognize violations. Organizations need a means to identify illegal union activity and capture infractions in a legally verifiable manner in order to be used as evidence. Keeping track of security threats, criminal offenses and violations of the National Labor Relations Act by union members and their supporters can give organizations leverage by being able to obtain temporary restraining orders and injunctive relief.

The key here, is that simply reporting violations is not enough to get a temporary restraining order. Incident reporting and evidence gathering must be properly tracked and documented in order to be of value to your legal counsel. Furthermore, specific laws mandate the appropriate methods by which evidence can be gathered and clearly punishes improper documentation that will lead to Unfair Labor Practice charges against the organization.  

3.) Protecting The Perimeter & Points of Entry

From our nearly 25 years of experience managing labor disputes, it is not unusual to find that organizations have inadequate fence and camera systems that were poorly designed or maintained, and are in need of repair. These deficiencies coupled with inadequate lighting can make the perimeters vulnerable to intrusions which could lead to theft, assault and other criminal activity on the property. Prior to a labor dispute, these systems should be checked and adjusted as needed. 

Other areas of concern are ingress/egress points where employees, vendors, and in this case students, enter and exit buildings. There may be the appearance of security measures in place such as locked doors or security cameras, but not necessarily measures that are capable of responding to a threat by a person looking to cause damage or harm. Posting Security Officers armed with video cameras at critical entrances and utilizing roving patrols throughout the property helps deter unlawful behavior. 

When we conduct an on-site physical security analysis and develop a strike protection plan, these are some of the areas that we analyze. Observations are noted and adjustments are recommended based upon the current systems in place.   

Implementation of a pro-active protection strategy focused on physical risk management coupled with Security Officers specifically trained for and experienced in labor dispute environments are critical to ensure that the organization is able to sustain a safe and productive environment during a work stoppage. 



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