Deferring unionization through strategic internal communications

MillerCoors: Deferring unionization through strategic internal communications

Challenge:

Just three years after narrowly failing to unionize a plant at Coors Shenandoah, one of the nation’s largest beverage companies, the Teamsters garnered the necessary union cards to petition for another election. The company recognized that its traditional way of communicating its position through letters, fliers and mandatory meetings (which had resulted in winning the previous election by a mere seven votes) would not be successful this time. Management needed to do better, and sought a new approach.

Actions:

  • Developed a communications strategy modeled after a political campaign.
  • Created a communications platform that stressed the positives about the plant and appealed to employees’ motivational needs.
  • Constructed messages in a manner that could be delivered to employees through team leaders in day-to-day conversations.

Results:

  • Secured a “no” vote to union representation by a 3-to-1 margin.
  • Prompted a voter turnout of 98.5 percent.
  • Altered the perceptions of even the most doubtful leaders: “I never saw anybody run a campaign like this,” said a company labor relations specialist. “I was skeptical. It was very different from what we were used to. I’m a believer now… You can’t argue with results like that.”

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