If They Show You Who They Are, Believe Them

I suppose it’s in the eye of the beholder

Actually, Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” The bad news is that when it comes to some unfair employer behavior, “..the first time..” was a long time ago. The good news is, once the membership gets gnarly, things can rapidly improve at work; first, through legal job actions that cause bosses to feel pressure, then more rapidly at the bargaining table. True progress begins when management’s tender feelings get a little bruised, however. Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way, they just seem to choose that outcome a lot of the time, though. Good thing job actions are fun!

It would be easy to say that 2018 bargaining has been hard from the beginning but that would be untrue. 2018 CWA/AT&T Midwest bargaining began much earlier for some employees when the Company unilaterally changed the lay-off interpretation for Premises Technicians and began to lay them off outside of seniority; instead using attendance and performance as primary factors before seniority. Days before Christmas and weeks before 2018 bargaining.

Could you get any happier?

Even before that, the Company made other unilateral changes about things like testing into new jobs; now they require you to take some sort of creepy personality test instead of the normal data-entry test. These “tests” have a staggering failure rate and many employees are exited soon after. The Company refuses to answer the Union’s questions about these tests and it has been necessary to go to the federal government to enforce our rights to obtain this important information. Think: Are they using that creepy data to “profile” employees without their knowledge? How much is our personality data worth to the Company? Collection and use of such information could certainly be a legitimate subject of bargaining.

Before that, in 2014, the Company declared an “unlimited” overtime emergency and disciplined some 400-ish employees for protesting it – in some cases when there was not even any work to do. Before 2015 bargaining.

In a Company that alleges to value its relationship with its Union, things like the above are fully discussed before being implemented, usually at bargaining. Yet, the Company initiates them a few weeks or months before bargaining starts. Why? Perhaps to create an issue where none previously existed at bargaining? Taking employees’ livelihoods in order to gain bargaining advantage seems needlessly greedy and cruel. This seems like an example of deeds not matching words.

The Bargaining Team has reported the Company’s true intent: The Company wants to be about 60/40 contractors (guess which will be the 60%?), gain the ability to force employees out on overtime for unlimited hours, pay much more for our healthcare, etc. All after year-after-year profitability, thanks to its employee. The Company says that now, after years of paying “premium compensation”, they must [finally?] get premium employees. Maybe they think they elevated all the “premium employees” to management?

Whatever sweet-sounding words are flowing into your Company email, those words must be compared to deeds. It is axiomatic that your management really thinks they are better, or at least know better, than you who built the network. They really do think that you are not working hard enough, that you are over-paid. They are telling your representatives this at the bargaining table. They chuckle about it to each other on their calls. They are telling you this through their words and deeds on a daily basis at work, wherever you work. It’s kind of their thing, really.

Yet, time and again concerted activity has put things to rights; when we get rowdy (within the contract and the law), change happens and the worst management practices can be put in check. And the worst managers. Labor peace prevails and all are happy and productive. So when they show you who they are, and you believe it, there’s one more step. It’s time to get together and talk about what can be done to take back our power at work.

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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