The Death of Leadership at AT&T

How most bosses like to be greeted (Reuters)

If this had been a week ago, this post would have been about the management issues that currently plague AT&T, one of which has recently been in the news. I would have drawn a line from these tales of executive-management woe to the effects the recent seemingly wholesale abandonment of ethics have on the rank-and-file employees.

From there, I would have tried to make the case that unethical management, whether at the very top or at the lowly bottom, has a corrosive effect that can impact terms and conditions; among them and especially safety in the workplace. But the federal government, in the form of the National Labor Relations Board, couldn’t have made a better case than in their legal brief for my case last week:

The record is replete with their misrepresentations, evasions, and prevarications. For example, during the
Brash-initiated AT& T Asset Protection investigation of Hooker’s alleged GPS tampering, Brash
hid evidence from the investigator and lied about it [CP 2; R 42]. Brash then proceeded to lie
about it at the hearing in this case [Tr. at 1719-1720].
On April 19 at 11:19 a.m., Brash received an e-mail from the VTS vendor company ETech regarding the GPS unit in Hooker’s vehicle. It stated:

The PNP GPS device 4562059615 appears to have stopped reporting on
02/28/2016. In order to ascertain that the issue is not related to the physical
connection or the vehicle itself, there are a couple of steps we need to try.
Can you verify that the device is securely connected to the vehicle OBD port?
Driver usage can sometimes partially dislodge the device, especially when
releasing the parking brake
[CP 2, emphasis added].

At 1:40 p.m., about two hours after this e-mail arrived in Brash’s inbox, Vilk requested that Brash provide documents for the investigation, including VTS reports related to Hooker’s vehicle [R 42]. At 10:19 p.m., Brash responded to Vilk’s request for information. He did not provide the E-Tech e-mail he received earlier that day [R 42; Tr. at 1416, 1421-1422]. Instead,
Brash told Vilk:
On occasion we may receive an email from VTS asking us to investigate a nonreporting unit. I am not sure what triggers that to happen.
We have received nothing [R 42, emphasis added].
At the hearing, Brash gave this sworn testimony:
Q. BY MR. CARLSON: Okay. And Mr. Hooker said that he knocked it out trying
to push down the parking brake?
A. He said he was setting the parking brake.
Q. Setting the parking brake. Okay.
JUDGE SANDRON: And I think it’s pretty clear already, but you didn’t believe
him?
THE WITNESS: No.
Q. BY MR. CARLSON: You were aware, though, weren’t you, you became
aware that was an issue sometimes with those GPS units that were installed under
the dash like that … that it sometimes would get knocked out or knocked loose
when people were setting the parking brake?
A. In my experience, I had never heard of it, no. I had never seen it, never had it
happen.
Q. Had you ever heard of it happening, though?

A. Not to anyone that – No. [Tr. at 1719-1720].
4
During her testimony, Asset Protection Investigator Vilk confirmed that Brash never provided
her with the e-mail from E-Tech or otherwise told her about the parking brake issue – not even
after Hooker explained to Vilk and Brash that the GPS in his vehicle became dislodged when he
was using the parking brake [Tr. at 2007-2008].
5 After hiding, and lying about, this important
evidence, Brash suspended Hooker and recommended his termination for tampering with the
GPS [Tr. at 1453-1454, 1459]

(Read all three briefs here)

Retaliation is against AT&T’s Code of Business Conduct

There are several COBC violations above, only they were committed by Brash and his team. Ethical lapses such as demonstrated above by area manager Ted Brash can cause harm to employees, other managers and even the Company itself. Hell, I’m pretty sure the cost to the Company for my trial alone approaches Michael Cohen-money! The greatest cost of course falls on the employee, but in my case, the cost fell on all employees served by my Local: It was simply not possible to provide the same level of service to our members when a Local official is attacked by management simply for performing their duties (in a totally kick-ass way).

After my interview with Asset Protection and Brash on the above railroad-job, Brash concluded by saying, “Mr. Hooker, due to the GPS issue I feel we need to suspend you pending termina–” Then, he smiled and stopped himself. “I mean, “investigation” while we further examine your misuse of time.” When I pointed out to him that I was not in the load for another week due to grievance-meetings and upcoming family trip, so he could investigate during that time without costing me pay, he smiled again and shook his head. He said that, because of the GPS, he needed to “protect Company assets” by suspending me without pay while the investigation continued.

The family trip was my son’s wedding in Georgia. The suspension caused me to delay my children’t wedding gift by some months due to my fear that Brash was going to fire me despite having no evidence of wrongdoing. Obviously, if Brash could have terminated for this episode, he happily would have. Instead, he was forced to bring me back about ten days later, where he, Sharp and Mrla continued their campaign continued their campaign against me and the local union for another five months.

Until AT&T managers stop behaving like this, I can only recommend that members backstop their grievances with Board charges, OSHA complaints, or other third-party agency.

Steward Notes

  1.  Information requests matter! The “GPS email” was received by the union in an information request for my one of my disciplinary grievances. Stewards’ info requests should be detailed, wide-ranging, thorough, and responsive to new information! I will talk quite a bit about these in this space
  2. Read all three briefs in this case! AT&T’s brief describes how managers lie to each other, employees, and judges to get their way. The Union brief and NLRB brief describe how to catch them
  3. Managers can and should be investigated by the union for COBC violations. I have done this in Uverse and it provided relief for the crew against unethical managers. Information about their EEO violations should be requested where relevant during the grievance process.
  4. Sometimes the good guys lose – don’t give up! I knew that Brash lied to fire me on the GPS me and didn’t succeed. I knew he was humiliated at his failure to railroad me and would try again. He did and it sucked – bad. But, I continued to follow the same advice I give to my members:
    1. Never speak to a manager without a steward
    2. Always document every interaction with management (email is best!)
    3. When confronted with a roadblock, involve your manager immediately – make him the decision-maker so he cannot blame you later for your decision
    4. Follow all rules, all the time

Of course, it was a hippy wedding!

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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