How Many Pieces Of Flair Do You Have?

John Kotcher, tireless Lead Steward for his fellow union members and model employee at AT&T. (CWA Local 4034)

My friend and Union brother sent me a picture today that made me smile. Like most CWA stewards, especially those in Local 4034, he is well-versed in his right to support his union and his and fellow employees by wearing buttons, stickers, and similar displays of solidarity. The right to do so is enshrined in the National Labor Relations Act and affirmed in countless legal cases.

The title of my post comes from the 1999 movie “Office Space” which, though nominally fiction, resonates with all corporate employees who see it. In the clip below, it is management who passive-aggressively pressures an employee to exceed the corporate policy.

Things are very different in a union shop. There, it is the employees who “wear the flair” to support their union, a union member, or even to pressure management to bargain with the union. For some employers, “flair” is regarded by management in a very different light if used to question management policies, pressure management during bargaining or even during grievances, or to call attention to unfair labor practices.

In a unionized workforce, it is almost always illegal for an employer to order an employee to stop wearing a button or otherwise show support for a union cause. In order to do so, an employer must show special, narrow circumstances on why a particular button must be banned. In most cases, including the one in which AT&T unlawfully fired me, the buttons are lawful. Their purpose is to call attention to the fact that AT&T is alleged to have discriminated against my Local union and me personally due to our vigorous representation and enforcement of our collective bargaining agreement. I know that is the purpose because that is why I bought them and asked my fellow Union sisters and brothers to hand them out: I need the support of my Union to persuade AT&T to bargain fairly in order to be made whole for my unlawful termination.

If you are wearing a button that supports your union, a union member or a union cause and a manager tells you to take it off, you should state that the National Labor Relations Board has ruled that you are allowed to wear the button. You are allowed to request clarification and a union steward; I highly recommend you do so. If a manager threatens discipline, obey and then immediately report the incident to your Local. AT&T once fought the wearing of union support buttons at work for two years before giving up!

NLRB Decision Affirming Legal To Wear “WTF AT&T” Button (CWA District 9)

AT&T WTF Buttons Upheld Again In Wisconsin By NLRB (Kudos CWA Local 4622!)

If your employees are wearing this, you have a fairness problem. Not a button problem!

Got pix of your Union flair? Leave’em in the comments!

About BA Hooker

Approaching middle age. Husband to beloved Wifey; father and grandfather to several Favorites and GrandFavorites. Convicted unionist, and fired for it. Unable to abide a bully for long. Overall imperfect, yet still talking. I'm likely to slip in some non-union posts in here occasionally, probably about sailing or something slightly anarchist. While I wait for a resolution to my attempts to regain my employment, its my duty to diligently attempt to replace my lost wages. Part of the way I do that is by ad placement on this blog; ; and part of it is some Amazon affiliate links that are mostly books I consider required reading for union activists and plain old troublemakers. If you want to help support my efforts, I teach union activism. Reach out. Similarly, I built this website and a few others like it for small businesses and local unions. If you like it, reach out.
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