On the organizing front, I'd be remiss in my duties if I didn't have a couple of "irons in the fire" going. At a local animation studio, TAG has been collecting representation cards, and the artists recently received a letter from the company's management. We thought it would be good to share that letter ... and our response.
We have been told that a union representative is trying to organize the artists of [company name removed]. If that is the case, I believe this is a good opportunity to explain to you what you can expect to hear from the union representatives.
First of all, in the event a union organizer (or fellow employee) hands you a union authorization card, we suggest you consider it carefully before signing it. Authorization cards are legal documents, and if you sign a card, you give the union the right to use it for two purposes:
- (1)If the union gets cards from over 50% of the employees, it may use them to try and demand to be recognized as the employees' representative without there being a free, secret ballot election.
- (2)If the union gets cards from 30% of the employees, it can petition the National Labor Relations Board for an election
If you look closely at the cards, you will see that they are the same as signing over your rights like a legal "power of attorney". We suggest you give careful thought to the importance of an authorization card before you sign one and turn over your personal rights to the union.
Union organiziers may use every trick in the book to get you to sign. They may say such things as - the Company is going union; that you are obligated to sign by contract; that everyone else has signed, so get on the bandwagon; that your signature means you have only talked to the union. They may even promise you better wages, a pension, health benefits, or a regular, full time position if you sign the card. None of these claims are true, so don't let the union organizers mislead you. Keep in mind -- the union cannot guarantee any changes in your wages, benefits or workplace policies. The union can only guarantee your handing over your money to them in monthly union dues.
In making your decision, it is important to remember what you have already without paying monthly union dues and running the risk of being ordered to strike. Also, at [the company], employees do not need a union to speak for them. We have an open door policy that gives you the ability to address your concerns one-on-one with management.
The decision you make may be the single most important decision you are asked to make concerning your employments with [the company]. We are confident that once you know the facts about unions, you will agree that unions are not in the best interest of [the company's] employees and will therefore not sign an authorization card.
If you have any questions feel free to talk with [names removed] or any member of management or your supervisor.
Below the jump you can see our response ...
It's come to our attention that a [manager of the company] has distributed a letter to you regarding signing representation cards and what we'll be telling you. After reading the letter, we're surprised to find that [the manager] has accused us of using tricks when the letter [the manager] sent to you is filled with distortions and half-truths.
Representation cards are vehicles TAG uses to gauge the level of support we have in organizing studios. As we stated [previously], once we receive a majority of cards based on the amount of artists in the unit, we'll approach [the company] to negotiate a contract on your behalf without an NLRB election. However, [the company] is the deciding factor in that decision. If they don't recognize the Animation Guild as your bargaining agent, we'll approach the NLRB to be named the agent by earning a majority of your secret ballots.
Have we stated, "the Company is going union, so sign now and get on board?" Or that you have any obligation to sign a representation card? Nope. It's our hope and intention to provide the strength of a collectively bargained contract, but giving us the right to represent [the company's] employees is up to you. (That's the law) Any contract would be based on our current contract, but it could be different. That would depend on the negotiation process, as well as input from you.
[The company] is fighting against your right to make decisions about your working conditions. In our contract, we stipulate overtime hours, which days are holidays, wage minimums and more. Why would that be something they wouldn't want you to have input on?
- Our contract has a No-Strike / No Lockout clause that says while the contract is in place, a strike can not take place
- The union cannot order a strike, only you can. If *YOU* want to strike, *YOU* have to vote on and approve it.
- If we reach agreement with [the company] on a contract, you will pay no initiation fees, only dues ($28-36/month.) If we don't reach a contract, you will pay neither initiation fees or dues. Simple.
While the letter states that one of the benefits of employment at [the company] is the ability to have one-on-one conversations with management, we feel the strength of the collective voice to be much more effective.
While we expect animation and effects studios to push back against organization efforts, fear mongering of this nature needs to be made public. Its important for everyone to understand the lengths that some companies will go to when attempting to protect the imbalance of power they hold in the workplace.
Nobody should get the idea that management's response up there at the top is unusual.
They know they can't say: "Sign one of those g.d. cards and you're fired!" so they don't. They know they can't say: ""You vote to go union and we'll close the place down!", and they're careful not to.
But they are certainly free to imply, to elliptically threaten, to wring their hands and whine: "We just don't know HOW we'll be able to keep the doors open with all the extra UNION costs!"
The name of the game is to get employees to vote NO in a National Labor Relations Board election. Employers can't directly threaten to shut the workplace down, since that's prohibited under Federal law. But employers are certainly at liberty to use the various other tricks, one of which is on view up above.
In the unending struggle to bring non-union facilities under contract, it's all about which entity has the momentum, hearts and minds, and ultimately the juice.
-- Steve Hulett