United Auto Worker Say: NLRB Wrong To Allow Right-Wing Groups To Intervene In VW Vote

UAW and VW

UAW and VWDETROIT –The UAW released the following statement in reaction to the NLRB ruling to let outside-funded groups participate in the hearing regarding the interference of state and federal politicians in the UAW election at Volkswagen in Chattanooga:

“It is an outrage that the Atlanta Region of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), deviating from the board’s own practice, is allowing groups with shadowy funding that are masquerading as legitimate worker representatives to participate in the process to determine whether the UAW election at Volkswagen was tainted by state and federal politicians’ threats of retaliation against workers if they exercised their right to choose UAW representation.

“Politicians subjected Volkswagen workers to a two-week barrage of anti-UAW propaganda, outright lies, distortions, and threats about the viability of their plant.  It is an outrage that their allies, who refused to reveal their funding sources and who openly republished the illicit threats in the media and among the Volkswagen workforce, will now be allowed to participate in the NLRB hearing.  They have mocked the NLRB process and have denigrated workers who are demanding that the federal government enforce their right to have an election free from outside interference.

“One of these groups, ‘Southern Momentum’ – an ally of outside groups like Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform and the National Right-to-Work Legal Defense Foundation – claims to be an organic group of Volkswagen workers who came together of their own accord to participate in the election campaign.  Instead, Southern Momentum, registered at a management law firm, disclosed after the election that in two weeks, it raised “funding in the low six figures” from “businesses and individuals” rather than Volkswagen workers, according to Reuters news service.

“With this secret business funding, this “grassroots” organization also hired one of the nation’s largest anti-union firms, Projections, to create propaganda for their anti-union campaign.  Southern Momentum neglected to publicly disclose these facts during the election campaign.”

Of Southern Momentum, the UAW reiterated, “Its money speaks louder than its words, but it does not speak for Volkswagen Chattanooga workers.”

The UAW plans to appeal the NLRB Region 10 ruling to full NLRB.

UAW appeals outside interference in union representation election for Chattanooga Volkswagen workers

UAW and VW

UAW and VW

DETROIT, Mich. – The UAW filed an appeal (“objections”) with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) today related to the interference by politicians and outside special interest groups in the union representation election held last week at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant.

A firestorm of interference from politicians and special interest groups threatening the economic future of the plant occurred just before and during three days of voting in an election supervised by the NLRB. Workers voted narrowly to reject representation, with a slim 44 vote swing. The objections detail a coordinated and widely publicized coercive campaign conducted by politicians and outside organizations to deprive Volkswagen workers of their federally protected right to join a union.

The campaign included publicly-announced and widely disseminated threats by elected officials that state-financed incentives would be withheld if workers exercised their protected right to form a union.

“It’s essentially saying, ‘If you unionize, it’s going to hurt your economy. Why? Because I’m going to make sure it does,’” said Volkswagen worker Lauren Feinauer. “I hope people see it for the underhanded threat that it is.”

The campaign also included threats by U.S. Sen. Bob Corker related to promises of a new product line awarded to the plant if workers voted against UAW representation.

The objections state, “Senator Corker’s conduct was shameful and undertaken with utter disregard for the rights of the citizens of Tennessee and surrounding states that work at Volkswagen. … The clear message of the campaign was that voting for the union would result in stagnation for the Chattanooga plant, with no new product, no job security, and withholding of state support for its expansion.”

“It’s an outrage that politically motivated third parties threatened the economic future of this facility and the opportunity for workers to create a successful operating model that that would grow jobs in Tennessee,” said UAW President Bob King. “It is extraordinary interference in the private decision of workers to have a U.S. senator, a governor and leaders of the state legislature threaten the company with the denial of economic incentives and workers with a loss of product. We’re committed to standing with the Volkswagen workers to ensure that their right to have a fair vote without coercion and interference is protected.”

An affirmative vote for union representation at the Volkswagen plant would have led to the establishment of a works council that would have been the first such model of labor-management relations in the United States.

The NLRB will investigate the election conduct and determine whether there are grounds to set aside the election results and hold a new election for Volkswagen workers.

The NLRB Finds Merit In Anti-Union Complaints At Orlando Health


Yesterday it was announced that the NLRB has begun the settlement process stemming from complaints by workers organizing at Orlando Health hospitals.

At the end of 2013 the National Nurses United filed multiple complaints of harassment with the NLRB.

Jennifer Lemmon, Assistant Director of Organizing for National Nurses United explained the charges in an email to the NH Labor News.

The National Labor Relations Board contacted the Union and indicated that the Tampa Regional Office found merit to many of the Union’s allegations that Orlando Health hospitals have been violating federal labor law during the nurses’ Union organizing campaign.  The NLRB informed the Union that the hospitals will be allowed a chance to settle these allegations but that if they don’t, the NLRB’s General Counsel will prosecute the hospitals before a federal administrative law judge, alleging:

•     at Winnie Palmer Hospital : the employer created the impression that employees are under surveillance because of their union activity; interrogated employees about their Union activity;  made threats of unspecified reprisals to employees because of their Union activity;  and  discriminatorily denied access to off-duty nurses to hospital property because of nurses’ Union activity. 

 •     at Dr. Phillips Hospital : interrogated employees about their Union activity;  and  discriminatorily denied access to off-duty nurses to hospital property because of their Union activity. 

•     and at South Seminole Hospital also  discriminatorily denied access to off-duty nurses to hospital property because of their Union activity. 

The NH Labor News reported on these anti-union tactics back in September before charges were officially filed. What Orlando Health did not expect is that by pushing back against the organizing efforts it would solidify the workers and their strengthen their resolve to form a new union.

“We hope the hospitals do the right thing and settle these charges against them and allow nurses their federally protected right to organize a union without their interference,” said Jennifer Lemmon. “But if it comes to a trial and the Judge finds in  favor of the NLRB’s General Counsel, the Judge will make recommended findings to the NLRB’s 5-member Board, who are appointed by the president, and will order the hospitals to refrain from their unlawful actions.”

Organizing efforts began as Orlando Health arbitrarily cut workers pay and laid off hundreds of workers which began taking effect just this week.

“We’ve expressed our concerns many times to OH administration, but it has fallen on deaf ears,” said Sarah Collins, RN, who works in the critical care nursery. “Now Orlando Health wants to worsen the blow with the second round of shift differential cuts. These cuts directly impact patient care. That’s why we’re holding a candle light vigil to mourn the loss of our experienced nurses and the loss of community health.”

In a recent interview with Channel 9 WFTV in Orlando, the spokeswomen for Orlando Health, Kena Lewis, stated: “We haven’t done anything wrong and we’ll see what happens, but we don’t believe we’ve done anything wrong.”

If you have done nothing wrong why are you in resolution discussions with the NLRB?



LTE: After Sacrificing So Much, I Will Not Let Orlando Health Take That Away

From Left to Right
Sarah Lasher, Sarah Collins, and Giovanni Garzon.

Editor’s Note: One of the stories that I have been following is the organizing efforts of the workers at Orlando Health.  If you don’t remember their story click here, and here.  Today I am would like to share the life story of one brave woman who is leading the charge to unionize Orlando Health.  The sacrifices she made to become a nurse and raise a family are truly inspiring.  Now she will not sit idly by while Orlando Health tries to take that all away from her.  

From Left to Right Sarah Lasher, Sarah Collins, and Giovanni Garzon.

From Left to Right
Sarah Lasher, Sarah Collins, and Giovanni Garzon.

Sarah’s Story:

I know many of us have our different reasons for joining a union but here is my story.

I became a mother at 21 years of age and during the course of my twenties had my other two children. I always loved being a mom but with the economy being so tough, I had to work as well. I became a medical assistant and loved the medical field. However, as a medical assistant, I was often overworked and underpaid. My life changed when my aunt was dying from larynx cancer (never smoked) and she made me promise to become a nurse. She told me I would be a great nurse and I deserved better. Needless to say…I made a promise to her I intended to keep. Over the next two years I proceeded to take my pre-requisites for nursing school often working all day, picking kids up from daycare and attending classes at night. I thought that was hard, little did I know this was only the beginning. Then one day that letter came, I had got accepted to nursing school. My friends and family were so proud of me and were excited for me to start my journey. I thought, here I go Aunty Sandra…I am fulfilling my promise to you. I attended the orientation and that’s when the reality of what was to come hit me. The nursing director told the fresh, hopeful faces in the room that we could forget about seeing our families and working at all was not an option. Nursing school was our fulltime job and if we were not able to give it one hundred percent to drop out now. All I could say was “wow, how am I going to do this?” I went home feeling defeated and called my mother. She said “sarah, you can and will do this!” I got off the phone with her and put my babies to sleep. I watched them sleep that night and made a life changing decision. I needed to do this for my children so that they can have a better life. I wanted to make a difference in not only their lives but the lives of others. I made a promise that I intended to keep.

So….I started nursing school, worked full time, and raised my babies. There were many nights I would not get to bed until almost three in the morning just to wake up at five to take them to daycare by six am. Many nights that coffee pot was brewing and I would wake up only to find myself drooling on one of my nursing books. Many nights I would do homework with kids (my oldest and middle were in school as well), cook dinner, get their clothes ready for the next day, do laundry, dishes, tuck them in their beds and finally sit down to study . Many nights I lost sleep and worried I was missing out on my children growing up. We struggled financially since I worked just to pay for daycare but I kept telling myself “I made a promise I intend to keep”. I not only raised a family, worked full time, but was a straight A student in nursing school. I look back now and wonder how I did all that. Finally, the day came…graduation. My family flew in from Mass to come and celebrate my day. I remember walking across that stage and crying uncontrollably. The director of nursing looked at me and said “You proved me wrong, you did everything I said you shouldn’t and you did it well…I am proud of you.” I knew she was proud of me, as well as my family, and I knew my aunt was watching me from heaven.

I promise my story is almost over, LOL. Well I took my exam and became an official RN. Wow…I did it..I am a nurse. I became a nurse and started work in NICU and have never left..but that is another story for another day. The point is I will never ever get those years back with my children. I made sacrifices, sacrificing my sleep, health and family time. I know in my heart a lot of you can relate to this story and have also made life changing sacrifices. The point is…we have worked hard to get where we are and Orlando Health wants to put a price tag on the sacrifices we have made. THERE IS NO PRICE TAG for missing out on your family. I am grateful to be who I am and to do what I do. I made a promise and I kept it. Orlando Health promises to put patients first but we all know that’s not happening. They also need to put their STAFF first who are the ones who have struggled to get where we are, who have made sacrifices to do what we do, and continue to do so. You see…WE put the patients first…before ourselves. The staff are the reason they have the reputation that they do. They need to realize that and the only way to make them see this is through a UNION. So dayshifters … nightshifters … this is a gift we should give ourselves. Lets make a promise to OURSELVES and TO EACH OTHER that we intend to keep.

Sarah Lasher
Orlando, Florida

Plymouth State University Educators Win First Contract

SEIU 1984 Logo

lymouth, NH, December 14, 2013 – Earlier this morning and two years after Plymouth State University (PSU) adjunct faculty members voted to unionize, the State Employees’ Association (SEA/SEIU 1984), announced that the ‘Teaching Lecturers’ have ratified their first union contract by a 97% vote. “The path to obtain the rights necessary for empowered workers to level the playing field, as equally valuable partners in the workplace, including higher education, can be a long one that takes real commitment,” said SEA/SEIU 1984 President Diana Lacey. “We are so proud of the members’ work!”

The contract provides job stability, annual wage increases, access to health benefits and intellectual property rights over the next three years. Up until this point, the part-time faculty members were employees at will, did not have access to benefits, were not compensated well for their contributions, and were not treated respectfully. “Before we unionized, I was unable to see a career track, let alone our place at the university,” said the Teaching Lecturers Chapter President, Krisan Evenson.  “’How did we fit in here?’ was a question I asked myself. As we united our community through our union, I knew we could begin making changes.”

Members of the Teaching Lecturers’ bargaining unit believe their contract will encourage the university administration to preserve teachers, help keep Lecturers out of poverty and improve the quality of public higher education. This contract is one of two recent agreements in the NH higher education community that changes the standard of living for part-time teachers. Earlier this year, SEA/NH-SEIU Local 1984 won a contract for over 1,000 adjunct faculty members that teach for the Community College System of New Hampshire (CCSNH).

“We are excited to join our colleagues who teach at CCSNH,” said Phil Inwood, Teaching Lecturer of Art at PSU. Our contract was designed to change standards for Lecturers and the university. This is the first time our voices really made a difference. “

The organization of part-time higher education faculty members is a growing trend across the nation. It is in response to years of sub-standard treatment and lack of appreciation. A 2010 survey of non-tenure-track faculty members by the Coalition on the Academic Workforce showed low median compensation rates for adjunct faculty, with little, if any, compensation based on credentials and minimal support for work or professional development outside the classroom.

Adjunct faculty now make up the majority of the higher education work force. As recently as 1969, 78 percent of instructional staff comprised tenured or tenure-track professors, with adjunct faculty making up the rest, according to information from the Pullias Center for Higher Education at the University of Southern California. By 2009, the figures had nearly flipped, with a third of faculty tenured or on the tenure track and two-thirds ineligible for tenure. Of those non-tenure-track positions, just 19 percent were full-time.

About The State Employees’ Association/ SEIU Local 1984

The State Employees’ Association of New Hampshire represents approximately 11,500 public and private-sector employees across the Granite State.  First formed in 1940 as a social organization, the SEA won passage of New Hampshire’s Public Employee Labor Relations Law in 1975.  Since then, the union has negotiated hundreds of contracts with state, county, municipal and private-sector employers.  The SEA affiliated with the Service Employees’ International Union in 1984.  With 2.1 million members, SEIU is the fastest-growing union in the Americas.

Jobs With Justice Relaunches With New Website, Brand and Expanded Agenda


jobs-with-justice-logoWashington, D.C.—Today, Jobs With Justice is proud to unveil its new website and brand to complete the organization’s relaunch as a result of the 2012 merger between Jobs with Justice and American Rights at Work. The new website can be viewed at www.jwj.org.

“As the new Jobs With Justice, we are leading the fight for workers’ rights and an economy that benefits everyone. By bringing together labor, community, student and faith voices at the national and local levels, we are creating innovative solutions to the problems workers face today,” said Executive Director Sarita Gupta.

Already this year, the organization has helped immigrant workers earn precedent-setting U visas to protect them against employer retaliation, secured a meeting for students with Sallie Mae’s CEO to address the company’s role in the student debt crisis, pushed for the implementation of the Department of Labor’s new rule extending overtime and minimum wage protections to two million home care workers, and stood with retail and fast food workers who walked off the job to demand better wages and working conditions. So far this year, the Jobs With Justice network engaged in campaigns impacting more than 500,000 workers. The organization also issued dozens of original research reports and policy materials.

“As our country faces stagnating wages and economic growth, Jobs With Justice is an essential voice in the fight against economic inequality,” said Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America and Jobs With Justice board member.

Added David Bonior, former majority whip, founding chair of American Rights at Work, and current Jobs With Justice board member, “The ability of Jobs With Justice to work nationally and locally, on-the ground and online, to win real change for workers is exactly what this movement needs.”

By combining strategic campaigns, innovative communications, and solid research and policy advocacy with robust grassroots action and mobilization, the organization will continue to build on the combined 35-year history of Jobs with Justice and American Rights at Work.

For more information and to access earlier publications and resources from American Rights at Work, please visit www.jwj.org.

Workers Rejoice And Continue Organizing Efforts As Orlando Health CEO Sherrie Sitarik Resigns

Sherrie Sitarik - gray

For workers at Orlando Health, the last few months have been very tumultuous.  First it was announced that workers would be forced take a pay cut, which prompted an online petition by Sarah Collins.  Then the CEO of Orlando Health responded to the petition, with threats of more job cuts if workers did not accept the pay cuts.  The pay cuts were then delayed for a few months in an effort to give workers ‘time to adjust’ to their loss in income.

Sherrie Sitarik - grayAfter the pay cuts were first proposed workers began efforts to organize to bargain collectively with CEO Sherrie Sitarik.  They join forces with National Nurses United and started collecting signature cards to elect NNU as their sole representative.   Sitarik and her management staff were caught using illegal anti-union actions in an attempt to block the organizing efforts.

Yesterday workers at Orlando Health hospitals finally got some good news.  The Orlando Health Board of Directors accepted Sherrie Sitarik’s resignation.

Dianna Morgan (Chairman of the Orlando Health Board) explained in an email to workers and the media:

Dear Orlando Health Team Members:

This message will be sent to the media at 5:00 pm this evening.

Orlando Health’s Board of Directors announced today that it has made the decision to transition leadership as we continue an ambitious strategic improvement effort. Sherrie Sitarik has stepped down as President and CEO, effective immediately. A nationwide search will begin in the next few weeks and an interim will be appointed shortly.

I know you share our commitment to position Orlando Health for a strong future at a time of great challenges for many healthcare organizations. Even as we recognize this need for change, we do so with deep gratitude for Sherrie’s service. Sherrie has made tremendous contributions to this great organization for more than 30 years. She is a great advocate for quality patient care and was instrumental in our ranking as an A-graded hospital system by the Leapfrog Group.”

Orlando Health will continue to move forward with strategic planning initiatives that benefit the communities we serve and which will serve to re-establish and maintain a strong financial position for the organization. Across Orlando Health we have capable and strong leaders and dedicated healthcare professionals who are committed to providing the very best in healthcare every day.

We also will continue collaborating with numerous community partners to strengthen our position in Central Florida and in support of our physicians and healthcare providers.

On behalf of the entire board, please accept my sincere thanks for your continued professionalism and dedication as we look to a strong future for our hospitals and facilities.


Dianna Morgan
Chairman, Orlando Health Board of Directors

Upon hearing the news Sarah Lasher, a nurse in one of Orlando Health’s hospitals said:

“We will continue our organization efforts as we realize that Sherrie Sitarik’s resignation is merely a small piece of the big picture. Our fight is not just about the pay cuts as nursing is a labor of love. We have been the dedicated frontline caregivers who have always put our patients first. Orlando Health has its excellent reputation because of the work and dedication of the nurses and healthcare workers. Through collective bargaining, we can be the best patient advocates that our community deserves. We want to have a say in what the picture of healthcare at Orlando Health will look like now and in the future.”

The fight is not over, only delayed as Orlando Health looks for a new leader.  Sarah Collins, the creator of the online petition to stop the pay cuts, told the NH Labor News:

“Our goals continue to keep the hospital viable through the delivery of care to our community. We will continue to organize a union to give ourselves a voice and will keep patient care and safety our top priority. Her exit doesn’t change our goals and demands. Her exit doesn’t change the fact that we still want a union and that we want to improve patient care. We don’t know her personal decisions to resign but we wish her well in the future.”

Workers at Orlando Health cannot rest easy yet because the proposed pay cuts are still in the works.  Layoffs are still a potential. Layoffs would result in a reduction in patient care due to a higher nurse to patient ratio.

The fight for workers rights and patient care will continue in Orlando.  The departure of CEO Sitarik is a good sign that their collective voices are being heard.  Hopefully the new CEO will listen to the workers and put patients and workers ahead of profits.

Orlando Health Deploys Anti-Union Tactics Bringing Workers Closer Together

Nurses and Respiratory Therapists from Orlando Hospitals deliver petitions to Sherrie Sitarik. (Sarah Collins second from left, Sarah Lasher, third from left)
Nurses and Respiratory Therapists from Orlando Hospitals deliver petitions to Sherrie Sitarik. (Sarah Collins second from left, Sarah Lasher, third from left)

Nurses and Respiratory Therapists from Orlando Hospitals deliver petitions to Sherrie Sitarik. (Sarah Collins second from left, Sarah Lasher, third from left)

A couple of months ago Sherrie Sitarik the CEO of Orlando Health stated that hospital worker’s differentials would be cut in an effort to save on operating costs.  In a recent interview on WFTV, Sitarik said the cut was to bring differentials more in line with other area hospitals.   This is just a corporate excuse to push workers down.

The workers are not buying it.  Sarah Lasher a nurse in one of Orlando Health’s hospitals is looking to organize the workers with National Nurses United.  NNU is one of the unions that specialize in representing workers in the medical field.   Sarah and NNU have quickly gained support from other workers at Orlando Health who are fed up with Sitarik’s race to the bottom.

As you would expect, Sitarik does not want workers to organize and form a union.  Sitarik told WFTV, “I really don’t believe we need a third party getting involved in relationships that over many years have allowed us to have the success we’ve had.”

There are two things wrong with that statement.

  1. A union is not a third party.  It is workers speaking with one voice.  The workers are the union, and the union speaks for the workers.
  2. If the relationship is so good, why is Orlando Health slashing the take home pay of workers without any discussion with the employees? If the workers were truly happy and treated well they would not be forming a union.

After the announcement that workers were in the process of forming a union, management deployed their anti-union tactics.

WFTV reports: “Eyewitness News obtained an email that suggests what hospital security officers should do if they hear nurses at Orlando Health talking about forming a union. 

The email, “Union Training for Security Officers,” was sent out by the hospital’s head of security.

In part, it instructs security officers to “immediately alert their supervisor if they see or hear any potentially inappropriate collective bargaining activity while on duty.”

Sarah Lasher told WFTV, “We’re entitled to do so, and does that mean that we’re going to have security strolling by our tables while we’re eating and listening to what we say? This concerns me.”

Sarah Collins, the creator of the original petition to stop the pay cuts told the NH Labor News, “We will not be swayed by the Organization’s anti-union pursuits. We know our rights, and we are going to fight for them.

The right to organize and form a union is protected by the National Labor Relations Act.   After nurses found out about the leaked email, they sent their own letter to CEO Sitarik notifying her of the illegal activities being conducted by her management staff.

“We appreciate your commitment to our rights and for us to have full information as we make our decisions with regards to collective bargaining.  You may not know that hospital supervisors are ordering us not to discuss forming a union or to talk about collective bargaining.  Additionally, the supervisors are confiscating and destroying our reading materials, and directing security to spy on us and report our conversations.  A good start toward respecting our rights would be for you to order that these violations be stopped.

Sarah Lasher explained in more detail how workers rights to organize are being crushed by management officials.

They have changed their solicitation policy TWICE in the past month and the new one states we are not allowed to visit our campus we work at unless we are scheduled to work, have a doctor’s appointment, or have a class. 

We have never been denied access before and that is unacceptable.”

This is contrary to what the law clearly states, that workers are allowed to organized while off-duty or on break.

Sarah Lasher did say that she spoke with some mangers from the Human Resources department.  Lasher questioned why they were not allowed on campus during off-duty times.  One manager, Michelle Radcliffe responded by asking another question. ”Why would you need to come up here if you were not working or didn’t have an appointment or class?” Lasher responded, “to put up my union posters in appropriate areas.” Radcliffe ended the conversation by stating, “well its just not safe.

It is not safe for a trained professional to walk around the campus of the hospital they work at? The truth is they do not want workers posting pro-union materials.

We have the right to organize and we are exercising that right,” said Sarah Collins.

This is why it is important to know your rights.  You have the to form a union, and collectively bargain with your employer.  These types of anti-union activities are far too common and the more people that know their rights the easier it will be to stop this type of activity.
(Click here to see your rights to form a union in your workplace)

Cablevision Worker Testifies on the Future of Union Organizing

cablevision 99 CWA

cablevision 99 CWA

WASHINGTON, DC – Today Cablevision technician Clarence Adams is testifying before the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions on the future of union organizing.

Adams, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in the Iraq War, has worked as a Cablevision field technician in Brooklyn for more than 14 years. Ever since he and his coworkers voted to join the Communications Workers of America (CWA) last year, management has refused to bargain with workers in good faith. In addition to intimidating and threating employees, Cablevision even illegally fired 22 workers for simply attempting to use the company’s “open door” policy to discuss the stalled contract negotiations.

“Ten years ago, I put my life on the line 6,000 miles away from home in the name of protecting the basic rights of American democracy,” Adams says in his testimony.  “I believed I was fighting so that the rights of every American would be protected.  I never thought that I would see the day that I, as an American citizen, would have my basic rights trampled on and no one would do anything about it.  I never thought that a big corporation could violate my rights and the government would let them get away with it.”

Cablevision is facing several unfair practice charges at a National Labor Relations Board hearing in New York City this week.

Today’s congressional hearing is taking a look at current trends in union organizing, including a recent decline in union participation and the increased role of worker centers in organizing efforts. It is also providing members the opportunity to examine how federal agencies are pursuing policies to help workers organize.

The hearing is scheduled at 10 a.m. in room 2175 Rayburn H.O.B. Watch the live webcast here.

Read Adam’s full testimony below:

Testimony of Clarence Adams
Before the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions
Hearing on “The Future of Union Organizing”
September 19, 2013

Thank you Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Andrews and members of this subcommittee for giving me the opportunity to testify. 

My name is Clarence Adams and I have been a field technician for Cablevision in Brooklyn for over 14 years.  I am also a proud veteran of the US Marines.   Ten years ago, I was among the first wave of American troops who invaded Iraq.  I was proud to serve my country and I was prepared to do whatever was necessary to defend the basic freedoms that make this a great country.

I want to tell you today what I and my coworkers have gone through just to try to join a union.

In the fall and winter of 2011, I and a large group of my co-workers decided to organize with the Communications Workers of America. 

Company management viciously opposed our efforts.  I was forced to attend literally dozens of meetings where Cablevision management told me CWA was corrupt.  They lied to me about the cost of dues and the likelihood of strikes. They threatened that my wages and benefits would actually go down if we joined together into a union.  But on January 26, 2012, an overwhelming majority of my coworkers in Brooklyn voted to join CWA. 

We were so excited.  We thought, now we’ll sit down with Cablevision and negotiate a contract that reasonably addresses our concerns.

We were wrong.  I soon learned that management had no intention of bargaining with us in good faith. They continued their campaign of pressure and intimidation.  As a union supporter, I felt like I was under a microscope every day I went to work.

A few months after we won our election, my Cablevision coworkers in the Bronx decided to begin organizing as well, to join us in CWA. 

In late April, James Dolan, the CEO of Cablevision, made it clear that he would stop at nothing to prevent more employees from joining our union. Dolan gave every single employee in the entire company – about 10,000 people – significant raises.  Except for us in Brooklyn.   He improved the health plans of every single employee in Cablevision.  Except for us in Brooklyn. He allowed techs all over his company to install Wi-Fi in parks. Except for us in Brooklyn. The only difference between those of us in Brooklyn and the rest of the company was that we exercised our legal rights to join a union.

And then, right before my coworkers in the Bronx held a vote on joining the union in late June, James Dolan personally visited them and stated that they shouldn’t make the same mistake we did in Brooklyn. He told them that Cablevision would now “abandon” Brooklyn.  He told them Brooklyn would be left behind in terms of investment and the workforce.  Management succeeded in frightening enough workers so that a majority voted against the union.

Early this year, on January 30th, I was among 70 Cablevision workers in Brooklyn who decided to take advantage of the company’s “Open Door Policy,” which encourages employees to go to management at anytime to discuss issues of concern. 

I arrived before my shift started to meet with a manager, any manager, for only five minutes to express my frustration that the company was stalling during bargaining. That morning, management eventually agreed to invite 22 techs into a conference room. I was one of those techs.

I was shocked when the Vice President, Mr. Rick Levesque, came into the room and told us we were being “permanently replaced.” 

Cablevision’s “Open Door Policy” specifically says that the company “does not tolerate retaliation against employees for having views different from ours,” but on this day, that policy wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.  

Thanks to a massive pressure campaign, the company has been forced to hire all of us back.  I am proud that my 21 co-workers and I who were fired stayed strong through this ordeal.  And when we walked back in the door, we showed our fellow workers that this is still a fight that we can win. 

But I have to say I am very, very upset about what happened to us and what has happened since we voted in the union.  The NLRB has filed charges against Cablevision,  and we still await justice. Cablevision threatened my livelihood by illegally firing me, and they have shown utter contempt for the rule of law.  And so far there have been no consequences for them.   Cablevision has hired  over 50 lawyers, literally,  to defend their unlawful actions. It is simply obscene for them to spend so much on lawyers, instead of sitting down to negotiate with their employees.

I just want a shot at the American Dream. I want some job security.  I want to know that I can’t be fired without just cause.

Ten years ago, I put my life on the line 6,000 miles away from home in the name of protecting the basic rights of American democracy.  I believed I was fighting so that the rights of every American would be protected.  I never thought that I would see the day that I, as an American citizen, would have my basic rights trampled on and no one would do anything about it.  I never thought that a big corporation could violate my rights and the government would let them get away with it. 

I am sad to say that my experience has taught me that our current labor laws are broken. Workers who dream of reaching the middle class and who hope for some job security shouldn’t have to endure months and even years of fear and intimidation at work.

I was there when my country asked me to risk everything in Iraq. Is it too much to ask for my government to protect my right to join a union at work?   

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my story with you today.

Transport Workers and Machinist Union to Jointly Represent Ground Workers at the “New” American Airlines

TWU and IAM Logo
TWU and IAM Logo

TWU and IAM Logo

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) and the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU) today announced a partnership to jointly represent nearly 30,000 ground workers at the “new” American Airlines following the merger of American Airlines and US Airways.

This week the two international unions have signed joint agreements to cover the Mechanic & Related, Fleet Service, and Stores employee work groups at the soon to be merged airline. The new labor partnership, to be known as the TWU/IAM Employee Association, will ask the federal National Mediation Board (NMB) to hold elections among the combined employees for each classification after the close of the American-US Airways merger.  The election will formalize the joint-council agreement reached this week.

“I am proud that our two great unions put the members first in a true demonstration of solidarity,” said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. “These agreements protect our members’ representation, pensions and seniority. Working jointly with the TWU, we will ensure both unions’ members are rewarded in this merger.”

“This agreement allows us to use our combined strength and resources on behalf of all our members as we move forward at the new American Airlines,” said TWU International President James C. Little.  “Both unions have decades of experience representing workers at US Airways and American Airlines and both unions are members of the AFL-CIO.”

Following certification, negotiating committees comprised of an equal number of representatives from each union will begin working out the details of collective bargaining agreements to cover the combined carriers’ employees.

The accords reached this week, designate which union will enforce a post-merger agreement in specific cities, as well as providing a mechanism to designate contract enforcement responsibilities if the carrier expands to new markets.

The IAM currently represents Mechanic and Related, Fleet Service, and Stores employees at US Airways; TWU represents these classifications at American. TWU also currently represents aircraft dispatchers, flight crew training instructors and flight simulator engineers at both airlines. Additionally, IAM represents Maintenance Instructors at US Airways.

The full agreements and a Question and Answer document are available at both the IAM website www.usaamerger.com and at the Transport Workers Union’s website: www.twu.org.