watch this The wheels are turning, slowly turning. home
Unions 2004-01-30
I had the longest talk about unions I’ve ever had with my mom tonight. She’s an advocate for a collective bargaining unit. Someone I know [details omitted] has a pretty crummy job at [details omitted] I’ve been trying to convince her to get unionized.

I was amazed at the level of covert activities involved in getting a non-union shop unionized. I knew there was a lot of hostility toward unions, but I guess I didn’t realize just how much.

Meetings are held in secret for as long as possible. Management generally tries to get a mole in as soon as they suspect any organization is going on. An important part of being successful is figuring out who in the group of employees likely to be working for management and excluding them from the process.

Law requires that once 30% of employees indicate a desire to organize, a vote must be taken to determine if collective bargaining will take place. The vote requires better than 50% support to pass, of course, so many unions wait until they have a higher level of support, often 70%, before they spill the secret that they’ve been trying to organize.

Once management knows a vote is pending, they generally do anything they can to convince employees to vote against it. Campaigns to sway employee opinion away from the union position are started. Tactics like mandatory “training” sessions, where anti-union videos are presented, are used. Some people get raises or promotions, to convince them they don’t need a union. Other people get fired, to show the rest what will happen if they support organization. It is illegal to fire employees for attempting to unionize, but proving motivation is often difficult, and even if you can prove it, those laid off aren’t always fully compensated. For example, eight people were fired from the last company my mom worked to organize. Even though it was found that they were fired illegally, they only received 70% back pay. They were not rehired, they weren’t given any other benefits.

And those who are fired don’t get to participate in the vote. If management succeeds in bribing (or otherwise convincing) or firing enough people, the vote fails and collective bargaining isn’t allowed.

So anyway, I just wanted to capture some of what I learned tonight, depressing though it may be.