We are fast approaching Bargaining for CenturyLink. Members should have received information in the Newsletter regarding signing up to support bargaining; in one fashion or another, as well as a request for T-shirt size information. If folks have not filled out the “I’ll Be There” cards they should do so soon. We have to place the orders within a couple weeks. District 7 has put up a survey and we have asked members to fill that out. We also visited the worksites to hand out those cards. The results will be released on June 15th. From the Local perspective, we will be developing our own and asking you all to fill that out as well.
The company is working hard at tracking our actions and currently they have three (3) people assigned to the mobilization hotline. They also have tried to prevent us from handing out information at garage locations unless we give prior notice and do it in a location determined by them. They cited Safety as a concern if we were in a parking lot. I asked them if they were going to start escorting techs to and from their personal vehicles and notified the District Safety person, who immediately asked for a safety review and suggested closing the parking lot until it was completed. Needless to say the company backed off.
Last month I reported that I would be attending the shareholders meeting in Monroe, LA and I did. It was rather interesting. While none of the CWA recommendations were passed (honestly we didn’t think we had a chance in that) they were all in the 70/30 range against our recommendations except the one on political disclosure which was about 55/45. Since CenturyLink is not used to having such a large contract and covering so many folks they were kind of freaked out at the news of our presence. CWA was contacted directly by the City, County, and State police. The State police made it clear we could not be on the side of the main highway near CenturyLink and that we had to be on the side street that people had to drive down to get into parking lot of the building. Once inside the building they had several uniformed officers in the meeting room. I am wondering if they were shareholders or not? I didn’t think the meeting was open to non shareholders. In fact when we first approached the building door the CenturyLink security told us we could not enter. A manager was standing nearby and interceded indicating we could come in if we had shares and or proxies. What was funny though is they never looked at them when we said we had them. They had an “Order of Business”. First was to call the meeting to order. Second was prayer. We certainly were in the south. I was surprised they didn’t do the Pledge of Allegiance... just saying. I guess in their mind its more god over country. They did actually pray for profits for the shareholders, honestly the preacher said it. When all the execs spoke they talked about how important the employees were and that the company could not be successful without them and how great a team we all were. Remember that folks, next time they say we cost too much…
They also had rules of conduct for the meeting and I don’t know if that is typical for them or they just drafted it up because they knew we were coming. One of the items was unwarranted personal attacks on individuals or comments in poor taste will not be permitted. I am wondering if disagreement would be considered poor taste.
CWA was able to present several questions to the CEO and from body language I thought he looked very uncomfortable answering those questions and on a few of the issues he seemed somewhat out of the loop. He indicated several times he would look into something and get back to the person asking the questions. Several people were there to discuss retiree issues and to ask questions about it both on the represented and non represented side. Other folks asked why for some parts of the company it is ok for the company to cancel their healthcare coverage, just by simply saying we no longer will provide it. (Our contract protects us from that). The bottom line though is that the company and the shareholders have been put on notice that the union and the members are paying attention and we are going to ask the tough questions and that we will expect the company to be held accountable for its actions.
We also had an arbitration in Denver last week that Dave Holmkvist and I participated in regarding union representation during investigations. The company believes they can insist the union participate by phone and our contention is sometimes that may be acceptable but it is the unions and the member’s decision and not the company’s. I always find arbitrations interesting and this one was no different. It amazes me the arguments the company puts forth, many times not relevant to the issue at hand so they can distract from the main point. In this case, the company made the argument that it would take almost 6 hours to drive from Bellingham to Port Townsend or that it would take a separate ferry to get there from Seattle but failed to mention that we could take the Edmonds ferry and the crossing time is only 30 minutes and then a 15 minute drive. They also painstakingly researched all the meetings from 2005 to the present where the union participated by phone in either an investigatory or discipline meeting across the 14 states and came up with a whopping 17 examples. Out of the 17, when cross examined by the CWA attorney, he asked out of all those meetings how many did the union object to participating by phone. The answer……………………ZERO. It was all rather comical. Now obviously I can’t predict how the arbitrator will rule in the end but honestly I think we kicked their butt.
We are on track for Mobilization and Bargaining activities and we will be putting out additional information shortly. We don’t want to give the company too much advanced warning of our plans so stay tuned and we will put information out in a timely manner.
At MV things are certainly different there and the company has become more and more difficult to work with. Primarily in regards to grievance procedures and policy changes that effect employees. One thing that has come to light is sometimes management takes a person to a clinic for an evaluation, if the employee indicates they have been injured on the job. Not only do they take them but management has been insisting they be present for the exam. This has happened on several occasions. When we found out about it we immediately asked them to stop and I believe they have. The company is investigating the extent of this and if anyone cares to call me about their experiences that would be helpful.
It is also important to note that many people recently have been disciplined to include termination regarding attendance. Every member when given an attendance point if they disagree with or have a mitigating reason should be contacting the union to see if we can assist on getting the point removed. We really can’t do anything several months later if we say we understand the employee disputed this point and the company simply says they sustained it with no background information. So again, if in doubt please tell us. If issued discipline we really need to know that. On a good note, we have three (3) candidates from MV to become stewards and hopefully with the membership approval next Tuesday we can train them on Friday. We certainly need more members with feet on the ground out there. I want to thank Gary Scholl who has taken on a lot more then he should, but is doing all he can to represent the members. Thank you Gary, you are doing great and we appreciate all the time and effort.
AT&T is still in bargaining regarding their contract but I think there is some light at the end of the tunnel. We will have some more information shortly about their progress. I had an opportunity to sit with Ralph Maly for a couple hours at the Monroe airport and we discussed the difficulty we have had locally trying to mobilize our AT&T members. They are a very small group located across many different locations with no immediate management, so really mobilization is not all that effective. Luckily though for most locals in the west that is not the case and they have a much higher density of union folks.
At DGM controls we are bargaining and I think we are almost done. We just have to finish up the wage proposal, effective dates and a couple small things. This process has taken a lot longer than anticipated, and I apologize to those members that we have not got it to a vote yet. I expect it to be done within the next couple weeks.
At Tel-Data we were discussing extending the current contract. As you may remember, technically we did a one year contract with them last year in the hopes their business would improve but it is still a struggle. Since then they had laid off several folks and then another employee left the business, so technically we only have one represented employee at this time. I am not sure how we are going to proceed in this case and to be honest management has not been proactive in returning my calls, only further causing delay.
I am wondering if we have any younger members in the bargaining groups that would like to participate in the CWA Emerging Leaders program? We are trying to make sure we reach out to younger generations and get them more involved in unionism and it has proven to be a little more difficult then we imagined. I guess part of the problem at least with the larger employers is for so many years they have not really hired people so we don’t have a lot of younger employees. MV may be the exception to that but that group has been difficult to reach out to as well, but we did do some site visits earlier this month. They did prove to be well worth the effort and created a lot of conversation between the local and the membership. We used to go out on Saturdays and while that was productive we still have limited access to only those willing to come and visit us on a Saturday. Going to the site gives us much more visibility and one-on-one time. We will be continuing that into the future. If anyone is interested there is an event this Thursday with the AFL-CIO at the Edgewater hotel in the evening and would be happy to discuss personally sponsoring someone for the event.
It is election time again and it will be a tough election. Clearly anyone who is watching knows that the conservatives are not working for the working people at all. Frankly I still don’t get how they are doing well in elections. Labor to Neighbor is starting up and we will be doing phone banks 3 nights a week- on Friday afternoons and doing canvassing walks on Saturday’s so we would love some volunteers to help with that. In our state we have an important Governor’s race and if anyone wants what happened in Wisconsin in regards to the right to collectively bargain then we only need to let Rob McKenna win the election. The polling suggests it will be a close race and polling also suggests when Labor actively does the phone banking and door knocking we can change the results by a few percentage points. So let’s do that. I want to thank Karen Thompson and Candi Scaiola for doing a phone bank regarding the Get out the Vote in Wisconsin.
I also wanted to remind folks we have the Dick Wheeler Scholarship and we will be pulling name at the Membership meeting next Tuesday.