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.

Grievance Strikes At AT&T- They Worked In The Past, They Can Work Now

One picture, etc..(Image)

What Is It?

When I say “grievance-strike” I am talking about work-stoppages that are initiated by a group of employees in response to an unfair labor practice (ULP) committed by management or, when working under “normal” times i.e. with a contract, a group of employees addressing a grievance with their immediate supervisor. This may be also be known by a more “legalese” term: partial strike.

When bargaining without a contract, most managers can’t take too much mobilization without their feelings getting hurt. Then, some start to snap and begin committing a few unfair labor practices (ULP’s) here and there. This happens especially when the “WTF” and “FU” buttons start popping up, since discipline or even the threat of discipline for showing union support is unlawful and a ULP. (Prem Techs read here for your button issues.)

Work-stoppages can often be the fastest way to resolve workplace issues with your manager. Disclaimer: There is always risk in asserting your rights to the powerful; but, much less risk when you act together! Management called the below a work-stoppage and threatened to fire the guy who started it, but that was bluster and nobody was disciplined. Best of all, a serious concern of the work-group was very quickly addressed, by the work-group, unlike in the usual drawn-out grievance process where both sides have to get “legalistic.” Indeed, local management will do just about anything not to be the reason for a grievance-strike; it’s bad for their careers.

The events below are from 2008, but they portray the way these things usually kick off. One big difference between then and now, is that then we were operating under the “No Strike” clause in our contract, with greater chance for retaliation by the Company. All the elements of protected concerted activity are contained in the below example.

Fast-acting Relief!

You know that look on the boss’s face? Your rights give him that look.

One morning in our technician bull-room (meeting area), two managers walked in with three strangers and announced that the three strangers were a) time-study contractors and, b) they would be riding with various employees selected by management. Then the manager selected the only females out of dozens of technicians to be the “victims” who would be required to ride with the contractors all day. I objected.

At the time, I knew something was wrong with the way things were going down, but wasn’t sure what. I was an appointed steward who dealt quite a bit with management, but did not interact in “higher” grievance matters. But, I knew that this much change in the work-place is supposed to be discussed with the Local union. Since, I hadn’t heard anything from Local leadership, I asked the boss if our Local president had been informed of this. He answered, “I assume so..” but, that was not good enough. I believed our rights were about to be violated.

I took the first step: Object early and often and inform management of the group-grievance. In this instance I did this by jumping to my feet and saying, “You can’t make us ride with filthy contractors without letting our Local president know (article 1, exclusive bargaining agent)! The Union doesn’t even know who these clowns are (article 28, safety)! Nobody dispatch yet, this is bullshit (article 4, respectful relationship)!” I then looked around at my coworkers and pointed at one, “Call Alpine [garage] and, if this BS is happening there, tell them to hold up [from dispatching] until they hear from the union.”

Critically, every single technician stood (or sat) shoulder-to-shoulder in solidarity (thank goodness!). Now, less than ten minutes into the morning shift, every installation and repair technician in a small Midwestern city was refusing to dispatch and get in their trucks. All thanks to management’s unilateral change in terms in conditions of employment without notifying the union.

Negotiating can be tough when one side just wants to chew ass!

During the next part, dealing with management, things can become tense. It’s important to keep reminding yourself and your coworkers that you have rights – management often just wants to bully you into not using them. So, about ten minutes after work started I found myself in a somewhat hectic spot while everybody tried to contact their leadership on both sides. Unfortunately, management found theirs first and I was soon on the phone with my third-level supervisor, B****. Fortunately, I was not alone and had another steward with me (never speak to management alone!) and we were both ushered into the first-level supervisors’ office. There were about three or four in there and they seemed both nervous and a little excited at my impending doom. Here’s my best recollection of that speaker-phone call with my third-level as he drove the 50-mile trip to my garage to (I later learned), “ that fucking Hooker’s ass..”

First-level supervisor un-mutes speaker-phone: “Thanks for holding, B****, I have Hooker and C****** here.”
B****: “Hooker, are you there?”
Hooker: “Good morning, B-“
B****: “You fucking cowards think you can embarrass m-!”
C******: “Now, B****, there’s no need to bring the conversation to that level. The Union -“
B****: “)(^*&$&^%$*(&*&&^%^$#@$$@
Hooker: “B****, I don’t think the COBC allows you to speak to us that way. Let’s talk later after you’ve cooled down.”
Hooker hangs up.

I told the now very pale first-level that I would be outside having a smoke while we all waited for more instruction. On my way out, I noticed all technicians were still waiting to dispatch and I also noticed that management knew nobody would dispatch until there was resolution. Four cigarettes later, I saw all three filthy contractors drive off the property and a boss came out and told me and my Chief Steward to go back to work and that B**** and the Local president would be hashing things out later.  Whatever you want to call it, grievance-strike or partial strike or group-grievance, the employees had won it and none had received discipline.

Resolution of the Grievance

Later that day, the union and management ironed out their differences, and I was present for some of that meeting. The part I saw was a spirited meeting where I learned that my first name was likely forever changed in management’s mind to something beginning with “F”. I do recall I was called a communist and a hope was expressed that I would someday be shot while espousing my pinko union BS since I would no doubt be waving a red flag during the revolution. I was not disciplined.

Once I left the meeting, labor peace prevailed but negotiation needed to still happen. The Company wanted to put the time-study contractors in the trucks; the Union needed to address the membership’s concerns. Ultimately, it was ironed out the best way: Everybody was equally unhappy.

  1. Contractors would only ride with volunteers; employees could not be compelled to accept them except by inverse seniority
  2. Employees could not be compelled to speak to contractors and could drop them off at anytime the contractor was creepy
  3. Contractors could not wear Company apparel or identify as Company employees (most were retired managers who retained the clothing)
  4. Most importantly, the union had its say in the terms and conditions of employment for its members

This agreement was announced the following morning in each garage where contractors were being located. It was also read to all contractors – by me – prior to shift start. At that meeting, a contractor complained that they would not be paid by their employer for the day the union caused them to be sent away by management. I believe that was the first time I ever smiled in a filthy contractor’s presence.

Safety in numbers!

How was this protected concerted activity?

This work-stoppage was protected because:

  1. It was on behalf of fellow employees and our contractual rights (a group grievance article 12.13), which benefits all employees. Pro tip: Use words like “mutual aid or protection” when discussing strikes/stoppages with management. Quote the contract where relevant
  2. The issue was not a “gripe”; it was related to terms and conditions of employment i.e. safety, discipline, new work-rules, contractors etc.
  3. No malicious behavior e.g. interfering with other workers not affected by strike; blocking employer entrances, etc.
  4. Did not leave property; returned to work when issue resolved
  5. Great employee participation moved management to quickly solve the issue
  6. Management was surprised; this helped
  7. Though a “No-Strike” clause was in place, the union presented this as a group-grievance as allowed in the contract and Section 9(a) of the NLRA


Your first resource is each other, your union. If you love the legalese stuff and like to throw four-dollar words at management along with the rare four-letter word, here is some stewardy-stuff to check out:

Next Week’s Craft-Meeting At AT&T – Temperatures Are Rising

Management training slide (Link)

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

Sadly, not a cross between “Pulp Fiction” and “Bay Watch”

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

WTF Prem Techs! You’ll Need To Unite To Show Management Some FU*

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

WTF Is Management’s Problem?

Stewards, your members want to show their solidarity and determination to get a fair contract, yet management wants to create petty drama over their precious branded apparel. What can be done to create space for our members to mobilize? AT&T hates WTF buttons, hates union solidarity in general, though it is our right to wear them; this right has been upheld in two different parts of the country by two different judges. Yet, some managers will still try to intimidate employees who support their union by trying to say that they control our very boots, t-shirts, hell maybe even our skivvies!

What Are My Rights?

Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (the Act) guarantees employees “the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection. Section 8(a)(1) of the Act makes it an unfair labor practice for an employer “to interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in Section 7” of the Act. (more info here)

But There’s A Catch!

The “W” stands for Wisconsin!

In 2016 there was a federal case in Wisconsin regarding the wearing of WTF button by CWA members at AT&T. As often happens in these cases, both sides won and lost. The “WTF” and similar buttons are lawful for AT&T employees to wear, even Prem Techs, with a big “but”: The judge ruled that Prem Techs cannot wear them on branded apparel. (“Core” employees can, mostly for reasons that have to do with the fact that it never came up. Let’s face it, fam, the other side has smart guys too, and sometimes they win in court.) Naturally, this is not something the CWA likes but was forced to live with, as we all must live with the judge’s rule.

But, it is not true that Prem Techs cannot wear any “union flair.” They just have to put the flair on non-branded apparel (or risk a fight). Even though the Company gained this partial victory, the managers continued to not enforce it – for two years! Management continued(s) to allow Prem Techs to wear union flair all over their Company clothing (if management even enforced the branded apparel policy at all!). To an educated and activist unionista, this should appear as if management waited until Prem Techs were working without a contract before they decided to enforce their rule. It’s almost like they want an excuse to discipline members and break them down, instead of bargaining towards a fair deal.

When Management Picks A Fight

See how easy to get along?

If you as a Prem Tech have been wearing union flair on branded apparel all along, and your boss saw this and allowed it, but now they are hassling you then you should be pissed off. It’s an attack on your solidarity by changing a long-standing practice just so they can make you afraid during bargaining. We should hassle back, always, by filing a hundred or so grievances about this (each member, wherever it happens).  Meanwhile, there is still ability to get our message across on non-branded clothing; Prem Techs can participate and be heard without risking unfair discipline over the sudden enforcement of a long-ignored work-rule. If a manager threatens a Prem Tech over union flair on Company clothing, simply show your boss some Fairness and Unity by moving the button or flair to your t-shirt or boots. If the manager still has a problem, then she will now have a problem with all employees and the law, because now the employees have complied with the policy, the law, and a court ruling and are still being hassled. Picketing is justified.

If the boss does not allow the buttons on non-branded apparel, employee rights are being violated and the Company has likely committed an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP). This is because, in a union shop, that issue must be bargained with the Union first, before discipline is issued. The employee and his coworkers should immediately demand a group-grievance with that manager so the two sides can come to a solution that protects employee rights to wear union flair on non-Company clothing. While the employees wait for the steward to join the discussion, that employee and his co-workers should be heading to their cars to grab their picket signs and wait for their steward to resolve the issue – on the sidewalk! (When group-grievancing, do not leave Company property. Do not interfere with others’ work. You are intending to get back to work as soon as management stops the unfair treatment.) Note that wearing buttons is a right enjoyed by all employees, so all employees are allowed to join concerted activity for mutual aid or support, not e.g. just Prem Techs).

Steward Notes

Your rights. Use ’em of lose ’em!

  1. Members should be informed if this cannot be solved by direct job action, i.e. group-grievance then the formal grievance and Board-charge process can take days, weeks, months. (Picketing during your group-grievance is faster, IMO!) The membership may decide to extend the group-grievance into the next day.
  2. Buttons and other flair may and should remain on non-branded apparel such as boots, hats, non-branded coats etc. But this is not over, because grievances and Board charges may be needed if management chooses to retaliate
  3. Investigate. Did managers allow non-branded apparel to be worn before bargaining? How many work-groups? How far back has management allowed non-Company clothing or the wearing of union flair? Get statements, etc. Enforcing the rule only now that bargaining has begun may be viewed as discriminatory by an NLRB judge since it appears it is designed just to chill union flair and not “protect the brand.” The information that stewards collect during this investigation will help your Local and your District leadership at the table
  4. Here is the original CWA District 9 case that won the right to where the WTF button Pacific Bell Telephone Company (WTF)
  5. Here is the Wisconsin ruling Wisconsin Bell, Inc (AT&T Wisconsin)

Turns out, designing your own button isn’t that hard!

Employees have the right to conduct a group-grievance with their manager to resolve their complaints. When management stops listening to Local reps or even the union Bargaining Committee, only action from the membership can move the Company. This usually involves picketing the manager, or refusing to dispatch, etc. until the grievance is resolved. This is lawful! Managers who do not resolve these kinds of grievances risk spreading employee discontent, even to other work-groups. This risks a grievance-strike that may spread widely. Management take heed!

These boots were made for walking!

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

Next Week’s Craft-Meeting At AT&T – The Bell Has Rung

If I was a steward working without a contract at AT&T, here is what I would say to my fellow workers that first week; whether face-to-face, on the call, or in the newsletter. It’s okay if management feels unloved by this; that is the point:

  1. The Company feels comfortable “saying no” to our Bargaining Team because they are not yet pressured by job actions such as working to the rule (for our mutual aid and protection), grievance-strikes, or information picketing. In other words, fellow workers and their union reps are being disrespected. It is them or us!
  2. When working without a contract there is typically no arbitration rights if a fellow worker is unjustly terminated (and they will all be unjust in the eyes of fellow workers during bargaining). Only management’s fear of our job actions over us walking will prevent these – but not the first few. Those, management will cruelly target first and they must be protected with the full righteous anger of the work-group. Management must believe you are willing to walk over each others’ fate. Watch out for each other!
  3. Management is literally counting our attendance at job-actions – low attendance boost the managers’ morale, and nobody wants that. Don’t let each other down!
  4. Stop volunteering! Volunteering, together, or not volunteering together is all employees’ right during this time. Whichever, be unified. Here’s a non-exhaustive list:
    1. TLD – WTH are you thinking doing a boss’s job so she can go on vacation? Or worse, go to training to be strikebreakers?We want them stressed and tired!
    2. Overtime – There are many ways to use the tool of exercising our contractual right to not volunteer to work voluntary overtime. (Steward pro-tip: Use this language when discussing any refusals to volunteer actions w/ management. Arbitrators and ALJ’s at the NLRB dig it.)
    3. Call-outs – Also voluntary
    4. LBM’s are on the other side! – Every technician who talks to an LBM instead of a bargained-for dispatch center employee is helping management get rid of a fellow worker’s job. LBM’s should be politely asked to honor your contract and contact you through bargained-for workers at the Center (or your boss, who will likely feel pressured by this).
    5. Ask your members: What else? Find unity, stewards. The longer bargaining takes, the stronger, smarter, angrier we naturally become.
  5. Double-check call-tree info; set next meeting or picket time and date
  6. Walk into work together. Always together.

Stewards, do not tell your people “Don’t be afraid.” Be real: It is always scary to stand up and speak truth to power for your rights, alone. Instead, ask them to be brave, together. When we stand together, we win. Once you’re into bargaining without a contract, it’s also the best protection.

What it looks like when you must win. These teachers have taught us all. Start practicing. (photo: NBC News)

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


Real-Life Working Without A Contract At AT&T In 2018

I was recently asked to relate some thoughts on my experience bargaining with AT&T, particularly when working without a contract. I know that when we work collectively we win – every time it’s tried. And, we can win this time, especially with this employer, in these times. Below are some rough guidelines I have used as an employee, union member, and union leader.


Here is what I would tell my fellow hard-chargers:

  1. Get your mind right — Management is just not that into you lately
    1. Employees can win this fight.
      In my judgment as a union member and activist (even one who was fired for being so) this fight is winnable in a number of ways. There are many ways to apply pressure while you save up for the odd grievance-strike (usually unpaid); the more frequent group-grievance (always paid by Company per practice); and then the Big One, which I estimate will last around seven work-weeks (the first two weeks are no strike-pay). So, figure it out; have the talk with your spouse; make a plan. The CWA Verizon strike  lasted around 45 days, if you want to disaster-proof your Fairness and Unity money.
    2. Showing up to mobilization activities is now part of the way you earn income — next year’s income and each one after that.
      Managers literally count people who show up for informational pickets, who wear red, who participate in “silly” bandage wearing mobilization and send this information to the Company side of the Bargaining Table. The Company negotiators use this information to decide if they are going to take Union proposals seriously – proposals like booting contractors, maybe. Your actions as a fellow worker figuratively and actually count towards your success in these actions. Most non-union workers cannot say that. In other words, most pickets are an hour or less, so suck it up and show up.
    3. An injury to one is an injury to all – This should be all workers’ new reflex.
      It’s time to figure out where the line is in your group that management must cross before a group-grievance is triggered (article 12.13 in the relevant Collective Bargaining Agreement). Many of our fellow workers have participated in them, they are legal, you are protected from retaliation for participating in group-grievances, and sometimes you are not paid for the group-grievance meeting that you attend with your work-group. Management just calls them by a different name: Work Stoppage. If you see one, join it. Make that commitment to yourself, your family, and your fellow workers: You are each others best protection from management during this time and you will stand together during this tough fight for your livelihoods. Do not puss out on this, its important to have each others’ backs! (Even that “one guy”) Also, consider picketing during a group-grievance or grievance strike until an unfair termination is rescinded, not just obtaining arbitration in a year or so.
  2. Communicate — often.
    1. Meet on purpose
      If I was facilitating a steward-training at a local on mobilization, I would say this about communication: Craft-meetings are best (whenever possible). At least once a week; there surely is much to talk about. And conduct the meeting when possible in view from management’s offices. (It makes them nervous, as they should be. They also have to report it to the Bargaining Table.) You should be looking at each others’ faces when you are talking about how to save your own and each others’ livelihoods. If there cannot be craft-meetings, free teleconferencing services can create “flash calls” at any time we need to share info. Make sure you are available to your Local leadership of course but, also to each other in your work-group. Social media and newsletters should be presumed to be read by the Company Labor Relations team, so make sure there is always a healthy dose of Fairness and Unity in the articles!
    2. We have a common enemy now; we have to trust each other. Managers may ask questions about the meetings, which is a legal no-no and should be reported to your Local for a potential Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) investigation. Managers may also try to divide the work-group. It is well known that first-line supervisors are wildly wrong about most things, used by upper to pass bad rumors on purpose, and often take counsel of their entirely legitimate fears BUT, their rumors are still not good intel. Listen to your reps; talk to each other; follow your union leadership. Let management know by your deeds and words that you are one unified work-group/department/union at every opportunity. Be proud, you are in a small minority of Americans who regularly grow a pair and make demands of your bosses.
      Stick together” must be your mantra. Works good in rally chants, too.

  3. Protect yourself, and each other
    1. Work to the rule – not to slow down, but for your own protection against arbitrary and capricious management discipline. This is not a “slow-down.”
      Members need to move deliberately, more safely, more carefully to be sure follow all rules and policies. Take no shortcuts. Managers that previously let you do things “your way” or the “common sense way” instead of following policy, may use this against you during a time of no arbitration. This working to the rule serves a legitimate “mutual aid or protection” purpose: Every single member saw AT&T unilaterally change a past practice of layoff by inverse seniority to one of layoff by performance. This new policy of “layoff by performance metric” is new and nobody should do less or more than what is required by any policy until AT&T’s actions are explained (the proper forum for this explanation is a grievance meeting/discussion). The above should explained to management in whatever form your work-group or Local chooses to; however, be sure to use the phrase “mutual aid or protection” at lease twice per conversation. It makes it easier to explain during Board charges for ULP’s.
    2. Build a record
      When you are working carefully to avoid capricious and arbitrary treatment by management, it is useful to do something Labor Board investigators like to call, “Building a Record.” It’s easy and fun, especially if your frustrated by a manager who rarely removes roadblocks in your daily work-life. The easiest and best way to do this is to use email with your manager to lay out issues respectfully and clearly and ask for her input on any ambiguous directives or policies. Naturally, you will want to cc your Local steward and probably the whole crew so that they know a fellow worker is having difficulty with a manager. (Often these things can be solved by a group-grievance meeting) In any case, such email are lawful and make great evidence in grievances, federal trials, OSHA proceedings, etc. Here are some examples of  things to document:

      1. Grieve all repeats that are not your fault! If your receive a quality deviation, such as a repeat, that is not your fault it should be grieved and your performance record corrected for that month
      2. Management instruction to deviate from work-practice policy
      3. Management instruction to deviate from automated workflow systems (Hilariously, it is rumored that automated workflow systems will be used to “boot-strap” filthy contractor strike-breakers when CWA pulls the trigger on the Big One!)
      4. Management instruction to deviate from safe practice
      5. Ways in which management did not assist in removing roadblocks i.e.
      6. You get the idea
  4. Management must follow its own policies; if they don’t, grieve them every time.
    Why would we do this? The simplest answer is that when management does not follow its own policies, or administers them unevenly, this can make it impossible for employees to tell if they are being disciplined justly or not. In this case, just cause is a contractual right and a term and condition of employment; therefore, employees have the right to have this concern investigated using the grievance process. Managements likely statement that “Management has the right to change its own policies” doesn’t prevent the investigation. Each instance should be grieved, if for no other reason that a record must be established of mitigating factors management considers when it deviates from its own policies. Grieving the impact of the policy and its administration is lawful. Managers may not refuse such grievances. Our members deserve to know why managers are not following written policies or are being required to deviate from it when deviation of a policy may be grounds for discipline. Arbitrators and judges find it very easy to rule in favor of workers when managers don’t fairly administer policies and this is backed up by a grievance record. Doing this in one particularly intractable work-group was found to be very effective at ensuring fair and even-handed treatment. Discipline dropped quite a bit, too.

The family that pickets together, stays together!

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

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.

The Last Witness

Caresian Campbell – Lead Steward, CWA Local 4034


Last night, I watched my Lead Steward, Caresian Campbell, take an oath in Federal Court and speak truth to power. Caresian, my brother, thank you. Your crew is smart to keep voting you in; your Union is lucky to have your calm, analytical manner to assist in our grievance and safety issues.

Caresian sometimes took a day off, so thank you also to these Local 4034 stewards who sat with me, took notes for me, bolstered my courage:

Charles Johnson
Anthony Engler
John Kotcher
Tony Idhe
Scott Ciesielski
Eric Buker
Phil Martin
James Williams
Dan Quick
Rick Balsitis

Tom Strach
Pam Beach
Ralph Prince
Ryan Letts
Chief Steward, At Large
Lead Steward, Hastings Garage (All)
Lead Steward, St. Joe Garage (TFS)
Lead Steward, St. Joe Garage (IEFS)
Steward, Alpine Garage (TFS)
Steward, Howell Garage (IEFS)
Lead Steward, Howell Garage (IEFS)
Lead Steward, 36th St. Garage (IEFS)
Lead Steward, Alpine Garage (TFS)CWA Local 4034 Safety Chair
Lead Steward, Alpine Garage (IEFS)
Lead Steward, Cadillac Garage (All)
Executive Vice President, CWA Local 4034
Secretary/Treasurer, CWA Local 4034
President, CWA Local 4034

The hearing concluded after 13 full days of testimony. Here’s what happens next:

  • The Company has until December 22, 2017 to file a motion to bring back a witness
  • If they do so, probably more testimony and more days of hearing will happen; if not, all Parties have until January 19, 2018 to file legal briefs about the case in support of each side’s position
  • At that point, the judicial record will be closed and the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will take as much time as he needs to issue a ruling (typically 4 months to who knows?)
  • Naturally, like any reasonable steward, I am always open to a negotiated, mutually beneficial settlement, time permitting before ruling

Thank you, Union. Watch out for each other. Watch out for your steward! It truly is the action/reaction/inaction of the rank-and-file that management respects.

Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

Fellow Unionists, sorry for the silence this week while in court for round two. I don’t ask permission to use my voice, so wanted to think about what I could share without ending up with my blog in the official record of this case! (Guess I’ll have to admit to Wifey and my Local president that I’m finally learning to think a little before speaking!) Continue reading

Hooker To Testify October 30 2016

No offense to management.

Or, as I prefer to call it, “Speak truth to power.” During the last two days of testimony by Local 4034 president (and union brother) Ryan Letts, it became apparent that a three-day trial was not going to be an option. After Ryan was crossed and re-crossed by counsel for several exhausting hours, it was decided that the hearing would be adjourned until Monday, October 30, 2017. My testimony is expected to take two full days that week, with other witnesses to my unlawful discrimination for union status on the third day. Then, the Company will put its case on for a couple days. However, because everybody is so wordy the judge has secured commitments from all parties to extend into a second full week of testimony, if necessary. I hope that will not be case, but that is up to the Company. As I have frequently told management in grievance meetings: It can always be a fifteen-minute meeting; just say ‘Yes’ to the Union’s reasonable demands. In this case, by bringing me back and making me whole.

I also wanted to thank those who drove in to Grand Rapids to support us, in many cases from very far away. When I last testified against the Company at an NLRB hearing in October 2015, I learned how much it helps to have a friendly face in the gallery when the Company attorney is sneering at you on cross-examination. Every day this week, members from several CWA locals showed up to support Ryan while he spoke truth to power. Thanks, Union, we are stronger together.

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!