Let’s face it, working without a contract during bargaining is both insanely boring and suck-tacular. It’s been ten days since the contract has expired, and AT&T is still passing retrogressive proposals across the table that devalue all who built the network; proposals that your craft work could be done by filthy contractors just as well, for less.
In my opinion, the thinking behind AT&T’s bargaining strategy seems a little 2009-ish and the workforce seems a little over it. In the shop, the garage, or the center managers are getting tensed-up by mobilizations and the prospect of spending summer unable to make firm vacation plans. Many are either suddenly tightening up work-rules or inventing new ones, possibly hoping to intimidate employees from using their rights to join protected concerted activity. It’s just a matter of time until a manager commits an unfair labor practice (ULP) and draws a job-action.
ULP-strikes are one of the safest strikes when working without a contract, because the Company is barred by US labor law from permanently replacing these strikers. Managers can and often do commit ULP’s in several ways that violates employees’ rights during this time. Typically, when we exercise our rights to picket our bosses (especially their homes) enough times, managers can get testy and overstep. Here are some examples of ULP’s that should be immediately referred to the Local for an investigation (or, you know, maybe struck until the union gets there!)
- Photographing or recording job-actions or pickets
- Questioning about same
- Harassing or intimidation because of job-actions or pickets
- Refusing to meet on grievance(s) or refusing to provide information to process a grievance (now, a grievance-strike has become a ULP-strike
With that in mind, here are some things to discuss within your work-group:
- A strike is highly winnable this year, keep saving Fairness & Unity money for five weeks or so of strike use when the trigger is pulled on the Big One
- Pressure on management in the field and the work-centers produces results at the Bargaining Table; it is the turn of employees now to get the Company to listen. For everybody’s mutual aid or protection, follow all work-rules and written policies. It works every time it is used
- Stop volunteering – ask management for copies of all policies, and follow them. Grieve direction by management to deviate from policies in order to prevent vague discipline issues during this time
- Grievance-strikes/ULP-strikes are for the mutual aid or protection of worker, not a bargaining tactic. This is how it should be explained to members. When we work without a contract, grievance-strike/ULP-strikes are a way of protecting each other and our rights until a fair contract is bargained. In other words, once the ULP or grievance issue is cured by management, everybody back to work in good faith (while following all rules) until bargaining concludes
- There is a high likelihood of grievance-strikes this time; these can last anywhere from one hour to days. These are almost always unpaid; another good reason to save your Fairness & Unity money
- Grievance-strike checklist:
- Call-tree updated
- For job-actions, use voice calls, not text
- Call everybody, everybody is needed for this fight
- Keep signs in cars; signs should say “ULP”, “Unfair”, “WTF”, “Fair Treatment Now”, etc. They should not say “On strike”
- If you get the call, participate immediately. Do not finish job/call/etc. Return truck to garage/leave call-center; grab sign and gather on sidewalk or where fellow-workers are gathered. Make this commitment to each other; there is literally safety in numbers during this time.
- Do not block access to Company property or interfere with other employees/contractors not involved in the grievance-strike
- Do not go home; the hope is to have the ULP-strike resolved ASAP and get back to work
- Follow the directions of your Local, if not too enraged by management’s actions and decide to continue for awhile
- Be brave, stick together
Which manager will it be? Where? Last time things got tense, back in 2015 bargaining, 425 CWA members hit the street over one poor management decision. That same month, the entire state of Indiana over vague “use of time” discipline. Those strikes were protected concerted activity in action and performed as named: The grievances were won by the union and no discipline was taken by the grievance-strikers. Hell, there may even have been a mini-Baby Boom later that year! Almost makes you want to add “Eliminate the ‘No Strike’ clause” to the next bargaining survey..
What am I missing?
Where appropriate, I’ll expand in other posts. Feel free to extend the conversation in the comments; you have the right to discuss terms and conditions at work with fellow workers. It’s a good place to practice being brave.
Before commenting though, read more about how we talk to each other here.
When in doubt, aggress. Hook