[Editor’s note: Below is an editorial written by then Uverse Chief Steward Brian Hooker for the Local newsletter back in June of 2010. It becomes timely again as we fight to defend Prem Techs from unfair labor practices]
It has become evident that, since ratification of our contract, we have entered a sort of time-warp. Not the fun kind we see in the movies, where Bill and Ted have an excellent adventure; but, a movie more like Planet of the Apes, where the protagonist wakes up to find a world over-run by mutant monkeys with a penchant for biting the hand that fed them. (Spoiler alert!) In the movie, the protagonist discovers that the apes, who can talk, are in control and are divided into a strict class system. Humans, who cannot talk, are considered feral vermin and are hunted and either killed outright (terminated), enslaved for manual labor (no explanation needed) or used for scientific experimentation (MSOC).
Do I need to say who the monkeys are and the humans are?
Currently, the Company is treating the Union as if the last 60 years’ worth of bargaining had never happened. Upper management’s contempt for the workers who built this Company and who serve our customers has trickled down to every office, garage and bull-room. Across the country, Union stewards and Union officials are being told to “go ahead and grieve, I’ll kick it up to the next level of management.” Meanwhile, members are unfairly disciplined and even unjustly terminated as part of a calculated campaign, originated in Texas, to intimidate those of us who remain. But why is there a grievance process, anyway?
The grievance process occurs in 95% of companies that are unionized and is even found in the employee handbooks of many non-unionized companies. Why? At the behest of the company, not the Union! Consider the alternative if there were no formal grievance process to address our issues, we might have to resort to other methods such as work-stoppages, sit-ins, informational pickets, stand-ins (for our inside workers), Labor Board charges, safety demonstrations and the like. These things are expensive and time-consuming for companies, especially when MSOC times everything to the minute. I submit to you that a grievance process that is disdained and ignored by the Company is the same as having no grievance process. It now becomes necessary to remind the Company why they should prefer to deal with our Union fairly, through the grievance process and using progressive discipline and good-faith bargaining, by showing, once again, how express our angst in the old-fashioned ways.
When any one of us, steward or not, acts on behalf of another co-worker, or group of co-workers, it is known as Protected Concerted Activity (PCA) Under the National Labor Relations Act:
The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protects employees’ rights to engage in protected concerted activities with or without a union, which are usually group activities (2 or more employees acting together) attempting to improve working conditions, such as wages and benefits. Some examples of such activities include:
a) 2 or more employees addressing their employer about improving their working conditions and pay;
b) 1 employee speaking to his/her employer on behalf of him/herself and one or more co-workers about improving workplace conditions;
c) 2 or more employees discussing pay or other work-related issues with each other.
A work-group’s concerted activity is protected under Federal Labor Law if:
Members are acting on behalf of, and/or together with (a Union!), another member(s) for “mutual aid or protection” (example: “Boss, none of us are getting in our trucks until we get proper safety equipment!”)
The boss is aware of the action (example: “Boss, we’re going to stand at our work-stations every 30 minutes, for one minute, to protest your arbitrary change in the attendance policy!” “Boss, we’re going to email Asset Protection every time you tell us to code our time falsely!”
If management takes adverse action against you for engaging in PCA, such as discipline, threats and retaliation, or even suspension or termination; this is an unfair labor practice and illegal.
Of course, the Union would prefer to handle things in a reasonable fashion; I’m just not getting the same feeling from the Company. Perhaps, the Company wants to test your resolve. By flouting progressive discipline, good-faith bargaining and our grievance tradition of preferring to settle at the lowest step, the Company seems to be daring rank-and-file Union members to act.
Brothers and sisters, I double-dog dare you.