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

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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