Oct 052012

In 2008, Uverse was formed in Michigan. The Prem Techs were there to do a job, a job which they performed well. Like all of us, they were scheduled by seniority; the Prem Tech with the most seniority picked his schedule from a list of available tours provided by the Company. All was well with this system, which was mutually agreed to by the Union and the Company. The Company’s needs of the business were served and the employees were able to put some predictability in their lives. We know this as “work-life balance.”

In the summer of 2010, the Company informed the Union that seniority scheduling “was not fair.” So, since the Company was all about “fairness” (insert gagging noise here), it was going to start scheduling Prem Techs using the Computerized Scheduling Group, or CSG. In order to solve a problem that no one knew existed, “schedule fairness,” CSG would randomly assign the Prem Techs to a schedule that would rotate every week; thus, it was assured that no technician could predict their lives ever again. This, coupled with management’s proclivity for changing a worker’s schedule with a mere 48 hours’ notice, only added to the horror. Even field managers could not understand this system, or even explain what the rotation was or how someone could predict what tour they would end up with from month to month.

Naturally, our Union immediately began grieving this issue. Unfortunately, management refused to address our concerns using this process and we were forced to bring it to the bargaining table. This we did and were successful in bringing back contractual language inserting seniority-scheduling in Appendix F of our new collective bargaining agreement. Weeks passed. Weeks of Prem Techs and the Union asking, “Where is our seniority scheduling?” Management murmured a few pleas asking for more time because, “It was very difficult, the Midwest is the only contract in the nation where Prem Techs have seniority-scheduling!” They also, wearing looks of polite boredom, met with locals across the Midwest to “..seek our input..” on how seniority-scheduling should be implemented. After receiving our input and listening to our concerns, they immediately set about ignoring everything we told them.

Today, Uverse management rolled out their plan: a schedule 15 weeks in length that when printed out and posted on the wall measures more than four feet long. Each person’s schedule comprises 15-separate tours with never the same weekly schedule two weeks in a row. The 15-week nightmare is a mix of day and night tours with different off-days scattered throughout. The holiday weeks are completely blacked out because management doesn’t know what days in those weeks Uverse will be open. This means that no matter what 15-week schedule you “pick by seniority,” you still can’t be sure if you’ll be able to go see family over Thanksgiving. Or, if they come see you, you might be working while they wait for you to come home. On top of all this, management still reserves the right to change any of your weekly tours when they so desire.

We at the Union immediately set about protesting through the normal channels. After all, we have ratified a new contract and grievance strikes are no longer on the table. But the Prem Techs did not get the memo! They had become tired of AT&T’s butter-won’t-melt-in-our-mouth sanctimonious BS about how much they “value” their employees. It was clear from the utter disdain and casual disregard the Company showed toward the lives of their employees and those employees’ families that something else was needed besides the lengthy grievance process.

So, today the Prem Techs in Michigan finished servicing their customers’ needs on their first job this morning. They then returned to their garages, parked their trucks and told management, “We aren’t going to take this. We are refusing to pick up another job today until management commits to hearing, and fixing, our issue!”

Management. Freaked. Out.

They immediately threatened the Prem Techs with termination. They tried guilt-tripping Prem Techs about “customer service.” Bribes were offered and lies were told. All to no avail. Managers began to quote of Article 5 of the contract, the “no-strike” clause. Sadly, the managers forgot to read it because if they had, they would have known to call the Union hall and tell the president that he was required to tell the Prem Techs to go back to work. This cooperation, required by the contract, may have averted the problem. Instead, none of the local presidents were called! In some garages, this situation went on for hours before management thought to involve the Union.

Once the Union became involved, we were required to tell the Prem Techs that the contract required them to go back to work. They said no. Actually, they said, “Hell, no!”  So, we took their answer back to management. Management then offered to schedule an immediate conference on the scheduling issues that had so infuriated the Prem Techs. In every garage, manager went to the Prem Techs and asked them to go back to work, stating that if they did so the Prem Techs would not be disciplined. At that point, the Prem Techs got in their trucks and went back to work. Except…

In Grand Rapids and Holland, the Prem Techs had a question: What if we don’t? The answer: They were all put on a verbal warning for insubordination and given 10 minutes to be out working. When management came in 10 minutes later, the Prem Techs were still there. They were then put on written warning and given 10 minutes to get back to work. The Prem Techs stayed. When management came back, all 30+ Prem Techs were still at the garage and all 30+ suspended for the day. They received their suspensions and went home to their families.

These Union brothers and sisters felt a stronger message needed to be sent. They felt the Company needed to know just how important this issue was to ordinary working people. Work-schedules are so important that they were willing to sacrifice to drive home the point. Important not just to them, but to the people who depend on them. Their spouses. Their children.Their churches, school teams, bowling teams; it doesn’t matter. These Prem Techs don’t want to be “valued.” Things are “valued.” Commodities such as cattle, sheep and hogs are “valued.” They, and all of us, want to be respected.

I think they earned it today.

  20 Responses to “Hundreds Of Michigan Premise Technicians Protest, Dozens Suspended”

  1. Solidarity!!

  2. I am so amazed! Bravo! What balls they have! I cannot believe the solidarity they have shown. I am so invigorated by these guys/gals. We in district 3 are trying to get people motivated and I don’t know if it’s because we are southerners or it’s something else, but the complacency is unbelievable. I wish some of these guys could come down here and give our workers a pep talk. Thank you for what you have done!

  3. Now if only the union could find a way to stop the company from stealing the hard earned money of the sales consultants like they promised us. We count on that money to feed our families and keep a roof over our head and to get it taken away because we didn’t sell a product of another company that neither us or the company can track or control is cold hearted. Could you afford to lose $3,000 one month because the company tells you they don’t care how many internets, landlines or other products you sell, because Directv could not retain two of your sales for 3 months so the two you sold now are not good enough. Or Directv did not have enough installers in the area so the ones you did sell won’t be installed in time to make a difference when you need them. And in a centers where we are not allowed to sell uverse products we not only lose the chance to sell a great tv product, we lose a lot of Directv sales due to Uverse IP internets. Eventually the company is going to lose some great employees because they can’t handle not being able to rely on their pay or they can’t make it to work because their cars are getting repossessed. I don’t know about other employees but whenever I approach the subject with my union rep, I get told I should be happy to have a job and talk to them when our jobs are on the line. Where I am glad to have a job, I am worried about the well being of my family and being able to pay my bills. The above article talks about how family and being able to keep commitments should be important, that same consideration should be put into making sure we get the pay we earn. I worked for two years under this title before the company put in this unfair and unfeeling “qualifier”, so this isn’t something I was able to agree to when I was hired or something I even had a choice or voice to express my concerns. If I had been hired knowing this, I would live with it, but you can’t just change the rules as you go when people’s lives and well beings are at stake. We have families to support and when you have to look in your daughters eyes and tell her we can’t afford to buy her new school clothes or pay for her lunch because the commission check that we were counting on is no longer coming, tell me how important this is to you.

    • If you want the Union to fight for improvements for sales consulatants, than you need to get sales consultants to be involved in the Union. You need to go to your meetings and speak for yourselves; you need to become Union stewards and be a thorn in your managers’ side; run for office in your local. Prem techs have strength and unity because they go to the meetings and they fight for what they want for themselves. Do you think the officers and Union Stewards with other titles have any idea what your situation is? A blog ain’t gonna cut it, troubled member. Change your name to Active Member.


  5. SO proud of you all!!

  6. Sorry to tell you, I,in D9, feel sorry for you, but you effing ratified that crap contract in your own best interest to get a TA signed! Now deal with it!!!!

    I think you knocked the legs out of us in D9, D1, and D3 in your own goddamn interests, so have fun on your own!!!! Now you want me to feel sorry for you and how management is screwing you?!?! Get real. You did this in 2009 and it’s your effing “MO”. So good luck! Everyone I know is disgusted with your actions!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Actually the majority of prem techs voted no. It was passed 51-49% overall. We were out numbered by a lot of IR and inside work members who since their work didn’t change and still got a pay raise voted yes. DirecTV work was added after the contract was ratified and was never mentioned or bargained for.

  7. Good for them! Regular work schedules are so important for satisfied, productive employees.

  8. As a retired CWA president I am filled with a sense of pride in knowing our Union has members who are willing to do whatever it takes to make their voices heard and that justice on the job is served. God Bless These 30+ Prem Techs!

    In Solidarity:
    Bob Mayberry – Retired President, CWA 4217

  9. Way to.go, I am proud to say I was a member of that local before I got surplused. It is all about solidarity. The company needs to understand the techs have a home life, and it should be respected. Why is the sceduling so hard in that work group, it is not rocket science. How is I&R scheduling done? Way to stand your ground.

  10. I feel the same way they do, every day the manager’s come in and change what we are doing. It’s like they don’t trust us to do our job. I know it’s the upper mucky muc’s that are passing down the word to the manager’s to pass on to us. It’s corperate greed that’s fueling this company. I know it’s because the Chinese now want to buy out ATT and start the business over from scratch, get rid of us and hire all new from another country. We better open are eye’s people before it’s to late.

  11. Great job guys, that’s how things where done in the good old days. God Bless.

  12. Great job standing up for yourself!My question is why isn’t the Union yelling and streaming at AT&T management?Dont put it all on the prem tech backs!Thanks for making my day guys.You are some very strong brothers and sisters.I wish you all the luck’!!!!

  13. Way to go Prem Techs! If the southeast had the galls last contract to stand up to the greed machine, I might have a job now. The “numbers” in the North Carolina area and the TRASH cable i.e. House cable as F1 and F2 cable that are used and have been in use for over 3 or 4 years can make it a little crappy sometimes to meet the “numbers”. Then if you have a 1st and 2nd level managers that REALY don’t care other than to reduce the head count for there own greed, more with less. If Tracy Garner were to come to the Mountain area of North Carolina and see just how things are done here she might have to find some 1st and 2nd level managers that are willing to work on getting things done right the first time,and yes i was a CIM tech.

  14. […] Scheduling Update  News  Add comments Oct 182012   As many of know, about two weeks ago on October 4, Prem Techs in Michigan rose up in a spontaneous job action and walked off the job to protest the […]

  15. I was a premtech in district 6 for two years. I spoke with a friend about the meeting before they voted to ratify the upcoming contract that was a few weeks ago. He told me it was the same as it was four years ago; they spent 2 hours talking about what was going to happen to already retired union members under the new contract, then went into what was going to happen to those that were a few years off from thirty and then what would happen to the rest of us. After two hours of that bull they got to Appendix J, the prem techs, and basically said ‘Yeah the only thing for the prem techs is more work from I&R, but nothing else. Nothing like ‘Oh we tried to get a new job description covered completely under the core contract and demanded Appendix J be discontinued.’ Not even a, ‘We know that Appendix J is discriminatory so as we can we are going to insist that Appendix J incorporates at least one benefit or right that core employees have access to but that a Prem Tech currently does not, i.e. 9/12 overtime rule.’ At the very least I hoped that their would be some language inserted into appendix J that would not allow the company from making major changes to the prem tech workforce without negotiating it with the Union, for example no more taking away seniority scheduling because the company wants to. There was one, one single premise tech, out of thousands in District 6 allowed to take place in contract negotiations. One f’n prem tech…

    Appendix J is nothing more than company sponsored union approved discrimination. I hope all you folks protected by the core contract greedily soak it up because your day is soon coming. Before you know it YOU will be called into your managers office and he will look at you grimly and inform you that your position is being surplussed and you can hit the street or go work with the Prem Techs. Of course the union being the union and only looking out for core contract members you will have a grace period of four years before you loose all of your core rights your seniority rights and your 33% pay differential will be with you for four years.

    The CWA at the regional and national level is a joke, just a bunch of thieves stealing from the strike fund for this reason or that. Why do you think you haven’t gone on strike in 12 years. The good union folk are at the local level. They know specifically what needs to be changed but are slapped down by the regional leadership and nothing is going to change.

    So to any Prem Techs, when union members from other groups come to you guys and demand you stand with them on the strike line, agree to as long as they will stand with you on the strike line until Appendix J and Appendix N are completely dismantled and you are placed in a new job title that is COMPLETELY covered under the core contract. Very simply tell them when your job title is protected by the core contract EXACTLY as an I&R tech is protected, then you will gladly stand on the strike line.

    After all is said and done and the union gives you prem techs and leveraged title positions the finger then every single one of you should withdraw from the union. Why pay in your share of dues that only helps those under the core contract keep what they have and you get nothing additional but the shitty work the other departments do not want to do.

  16. Got this link from a friend on Facebook..

    Please forgive me if I step on toes; I honestly have no idea what Prem Tech means (as in what are the requirements, is this the top level job in that companies field, etc.); but….

    I started in the Information Technology field 27 years ago. My first job was a deployment tech (I took computers out of boxes and put them on desks). I had no degree, no experience in the field, and honestly no desire to stay in it. I STILL have no degree, and no certifications, but I have found a job/career that I absolutely love doing, am damn good at, and am very happy with.

    In the beginning I decided that being a tech was good enough for me, then a Snr. Tech, then Lead, etc…but I discovered that I soon became disatisfied with what I had to do and get paid for vs. what the Engineers did and got paid for. I actually asked the HR supervisor at Whirlpool (where I was working at the time) WHY they got better things, and how I could get there. Her answer; “You can’t. You don’t have a degree. Until you get one, you will NEVER be an engineer”. I could have said “Thats the way life works and moved on, but I was raised differently..and I was having none of that.

    It took me 15 years, and lots of sacrafice (including changing companies three times) before I became an engineer. Today, I am a Senior Networking Engineer for the largest hospital system in Michigan. Me; the guy with no degree, no certification, the guy who came from a family where NOT being a farmer or coal miner was strange.

    All I am saying is this; TECHS get the screwed job schedules, the less pay, etc. becuase they are TECHS. If you want the good stuff, the regular schedules, the bonuses, the extras, then STOP being satisfied being a Tech. Move forward, and don’t tell others you can’t (that is IF there is a move you can make..again, for all I know there ARE no engineers at Uverse…but I HIGHLY doubt that). I’m just a normal guy, but I refused to be boxed in and take the crap…and damnit I get pissed as hell when someone mistakenly calls me a Tech..I worked my ass off to get where I am.

  17. This doesn’t mention that the National level of CWA sold the prem techs out!
    That’s how suspension and insubordination penalties were handed out.
    If CWA members want change, we need Uverse Members to be pushed up to the TOP positions in the CWA!
    Until then, the appendix members will NEVER be properly represented!

  18. […] other days, you’re going to want to take a suspension, just to prove a point about your unity. Or, maybe AT&T’s last email to all employees about bargaining made you […]

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