Workplace Leader Vol. 3, No. 1

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Vol. 3 | No. 1

ORGANIZING NEW HIRES


WORKPLACE LEADER

ORGANIZING NEW HIRES

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ny discussion about signing up new hires as members first demands at least a brief discussion on the two models of unionism. First there’s the servicing model, in which officers and stewards usually focus on serving the interests of longtime members. After all, they’re the ones who vote, right? Reacting to their concerns becomes a priority while new hires are simply asked to join the union and sign a checkoff card. This servicing model may have built bigger treasuries, but not greater unionization. THE ORGANIZING MODEL, on the other hand, demands that every member become an active participant in building the union, constantly reaching out to potential members and looking for new ways to organize. Over the past few years in particular, workplaces have changed considerably, and it’s the organizing model that best suits us in this new and evolving environment. Perhaps nowhere is this simple reality clearer than in the case of employee turnover. While the servicing model will keep legacy members reliably content, it doesn’t convert new hires into new members. If that’s what you are looking

to do — and it should be — then your union needs to set up a systematic program to transform the newbies into strong union sisters and brothers. Start by negotiating a time for a union representative to meet with new hires to explain the importance and benefits of your union. The best situation is to have this meeting without the boss around so that union reps can describe all the benefits of the union without belligerent interruptions. If you have a union security clause in your contract, explain that each of the new hires will be required to join, but stress the many benefits of being in a

union shop. Prepare a kind of swag bag for each new hire — a copy of the union contract and local bylaws, a schedule of membership activities, a list of outside discounts and benefits, like UnionPlus. Give each new member a union shirt or button when they sign up and, if your work requires a uniform, negotiate to have your union insignia attached to it so your members are visible to each other and to the public. It’s essential to explain important parts of the contract since the low percentage of workers in unions means that most of the new hires have never been in a union. Terms like “just cause,” “union steward,” and “grievance committee” — or even the words “union contract” — are completely foreign. As you go through the contract, make clear how it is different — and much better — than working non-union. Describe the special importance of the contract — that it takes away the absolute power that a boss has in a non-union workplace.

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WORKPLACE LEADER

One important piece of information is the cash value of the union contract for new hires, which you need to emphasize based on your specific contract. It’s important to talk about solidarity, but cash on the bar is a huge incentive.

THE CASH VALUE OF MY UNION CONTRACT By law, an employer is only required to: 1) Pay the minimum wage of $7.25/hour (state/local rates may be

2) Pay OT at time and one-half for all hours over 40 in a week

Prepare a sheet to show the new hires what benefits they get — some of them from the moment they hit the time clock. List the economic benefits — insurance, paid holidays, vacations, overtime — and how much each benefit is worth and when it takes effect. If your contract has daily overtime, for example, the new hire could take in a significant amount of money on the very first day on the job.

3) Provide workers’ compensation for on-the-job injuries or illness es

4) Comply with employment discrimination, OSHA, and medical/fam ily leave laws Everything else has been won by the union in negotiations. Let’s add up our negotiated gains* to see how much we get! Hourly wages $_____ (current wage) - $7.25/hour = _______ x 2080

Give each new hire a list of union contacts like officers, stewards and the union hall. Emphasize to the new hires that the union is a source of information about anything that’s going on, which is especially important over the past few years when the pandemic has wreaked havoc in our workplaces, and misinformation has become common. You can even include a copy of Workplace Leader. Communication works in two directions, of course, so make sure you get contact information from each new hire and find out what’s the best way to send them union information — text, app, email, phone. As a supplement to the material you give directly to the new hires, your local should create a website with even more information. Produce short videos, with some of the old-timers explaining how they fought to get various benefits. If your local can’t handle the website, videos, or other communications materials inhouse, there are companies that help unions with this exact type of work. Any new hire, with no union experience, might think that all of the benefits flow from a benevolent boss (or have dropped from the sky!) so they have to be taught that by sticking with other members, an individual worker creates leverage to force the boss to do more, and to pay UnionBase.org |

higher)

= $______

Daily OT (over 8) or double time (x number worked in year)

$______

Evening/night differentials (x hours worked in a year)

$______

Health insurance (employer’s annual contribution)

$______

Other insurance- dental, life, etc. (employers’ annual contribution

$______

Pension/401K (employer’s annual contribution)

$______

Paid holidays (day rate x number of holidays)

$______

Paid vacations (day rate x number of days)

$______

Other paid days off (personal, sick days, jury duty, bereavemen

$______

Working conditions (work clothes, safety equipment, etc.)

$______

Other benefits (tuition, travel, etc)

$______

t)

TOTAL ANNUAL INCOME $______ Now subtract your annual union dues And the cash value of your union contract is

($______ ) (ka-ching) $______

*Your union’s contract may vary.

more. You could create a history of the union, explaining the challenges that workers face today, and perhaps include short videos explaining various important articles of the union contract. Finally, make sure each of your members participates in the program and

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pledges to teach each new hire about the union while they are getting instruction in work skills. To paraphrase the late, great, farmworker organizer Cesar Chavez, organizing all comes back to one person talking to another. z –B ill Barry is a retired organizer and labor educator.

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WORKPLACE LEADER

From NEW HIRE to UNION MEMBER

Connecting with new coworkers can be a challenge. With the right communications strategy, you can turn new hires into new union family members in no time at all.

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f you’re fortunate enough to be employed right now, chances are they’re hiring where you work, or desperately need to. Countless U.S. workers have left dead end jobs, toxic work environments, and all kinds of places that just didn’t value their workers or compensate them fairly. It’s been called The Great Resignation and it’s causing workplace reshuffling in industries across the country. Ever since companies announced plans to reintroduce in-person work requirements for white collar employees, human interest stories have circulated about well-heeled employees cashing out investments to pursue passion projects or stay at home. But something much bigger is going on. Fast food workers — not known for being particularly affluent — have shut down entire restaurants by walking off the job. Employees from the top floor to the shop floor have grown tired of poor pay,

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miserable working conditions, and the lack of respect that’s come to define the American workplace — and they’re voting with their feet. When you meet a new coworker these days, there’s a good chance they came to your place of work as part of this movement — whether they know it or not. They’ve likely left a job that wasn’t worth the trouble, and they’re looking for the pay, benefits, and respect that comes with union membership. Here’s how you can make them feel right at home.

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Avoid jargon. For a new hire, especially one who may have come from a lifetime of non-union work, understanding what a union is or what it means to join it can feel like learning a whole new language. In a lot of ways, that’s exactly what it is. Beyond the cryptic acronyms and garbled numbers, a lot of union business is carried out in legalese or “contract language,” the confusing middle ground between the pure legalese of attorneys and the less official — but no less convoluted — jargon that belongs exclusively to people who have spent too many years sitting around the bargaining table. To someone who is not yet even sold on the idea of joining a union for the first time, it’s incomprehensible. From New Hire to Union Member continues >

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WORKPLACE LEADER

From NEW HIRE to UNION MEMBER ▼ continued

When people don’t understand a topic, their first instinct is not always to ask more questions. Often, they take the easier, and frankly more socially comfortable, route and tune out what they’re hearing — bad news if you’re trying to convince them of something, like the idea of joining your union.

WELCOME

➀ AVOID JARGON ➁ SELL THEM ON YOUR RECORD ➂ LISTEN TO WHAT MATTERS

Save the jargon and technicalities for some time after the ink has dried on their union card. For now, talk about the union and all it does in plain language. Instead of Weingarten Rights, talk about the sense of security you and your coworkers have knowing someone will be at their side if they ever face any accusations or disciplinary actions at work. Forget about “CBAs” and instead tell your new coworkers about the great contract you all have with your boss that means that you get paid sick leave or the ability to enjoy a paid day off at the spa for your birthday (you can dream anyway, right?). The point is to show what the union is and what it does. Being heard and understood is far more important than using the technically correct words and phrases.

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Sell them on your record. Nearly everyone thinks that they “get” certain things at work: a certain number of paid vacation days, a good healthcare plan, or tuition reimbursement, and that they’re given these benefits by their employer or by law. And why wouldn’t they? They’ve been told, either explicitly or implicitly for years, that they “get” certain benefits for doing their job well or as a part of the privilege of

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working where they work. Anyone who knows anything about unions knows the real story. Forget paid vacation. Every benefit a worker enjoys today, from getting to sit down for a half hour a day to eat lunch to getting Saturday off to run errands and get in a cat nap if you’re lucky, comes from unions. They come from successful fights and from workers coming together to demand the rights they deserve and the dignity that they earn with each day’s work. Let your new coworkers know all that your union has done for you and all it can do for them. It sounds simple, but union members can be really far too humble for our own good, and no one is going to sing our praises unless we sing for ourselves. Besides, if you don’t give the union credit where it’s due, whether for the improved health and safety standards since COVID or the employer contribution to the healthcare premiums, you can bet on one thing: your boss will more than happily take that credit. So, take a page from your boss’ playbook. When you’re next chatting with a new hire, ask them what they think about the leave policy or the generous

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retirement plan — whatever things you know the boss always sells the new hires on. Let them tell you what they think, then let them know how the union won that benefit — and what you’re working on bargaining for next.

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Listen to what matters. Today’s new hires have a particular interest in being heard at work, especially since many are leaving jobs where their concerns were not addressed. Some entered their job search looking to join a union and landed at your jobsite exactly because you’re unionized. Others simply decided to jump ship at their old jobs once the upheaval of the global pandemic caused them to reevaluate their work lives. Regardless of how your new coworkers arrived, they will likely have concerns about topics that have only come up since the pandemic and would never have been contemplated in your most recent contract. Hybrid work policies, sick leave — not to mention hygiene standards — never used to be on the table, but you can bet these are among several new concerns that new hires (and your old work friends) will be interested in discussing. Listen closely — and never miss the chance to tell them they should talk about it in the next union meeting. Nearly any new hire will find the idea of having a voice on the job very appealing. It’s now up to you to show them that the union is where their voice will be heard and channeled in a way that the boss can’t ignore. z

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WORKPLACE LEADER

ARBITRATION REPORT

UNION RIGHT TO REPRESENT is Protected by Law, Contract

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union representative — whether a steward, delegate, local officer or staff person — has an obligation to properly represent the workers in the bargaining unit. With that obligation comes basic rights that an employer must recognize so that a union representative can use the tools he/she has to serve the workers and protect their rights. Some of those rights come from the National Labor Relations Act, which basically guarantees the rights of workers to organize and be represented in the workplace. Public sector workers may have similar rights protected by the laws of their state. Other, and usually more extensive, rights come through the labor contract, often with clauses that were bargained with great difficulty. It’s not unusual for an employer to try to take away that “right of representation,” and it’s the duty of the union representative to challenge such employer actions. That often means filing a grievance and taking that issue to arbitration, if necessary. Following are some examples taken from arbitration cases:

Access to the Worksite. An employer often will seek to restrict a union representative from entering a workplace, claiming it’s “private property.” A nursing home supervisor ejected a union representative from the home’s kitchen where he had gone to inspect a faulty coffee maker. An arbitrator ordered the nursing home to stop interfering with a union representative’s presence at the

worksite. The arbitrator said the contract gave representatives the right to access the workplace to fulfill the union’s responsibility to police the contract as long as the visit did not interfere with the work of the home.1

nonmembers on the board and ordered the list to be removed. The employer claimed the posting would cause humiliation for nonmember workers and amount to discrimination. An arbitrator, however, ruled there was no evidence of discrimination by the union against the nonmembers. He ordered the company to permit such postings as long as the union adhered to the contract clause that required the list to be submitted first to human resources staff.3

IMPORTANT:

Wearing Union Logos. One of most controversial issues involves the right of workers to wear clothing, hats or buttons that contain a union logo. It’s a right based on the constitutional principle of free speech, national labor law and specific contract clauses. Take the case of a hospital that decided that employees must wear white tops and could no longer wear union logos or images of local sports teams. An arbitrator ruled that the hospital could not bar workers from donning union logos since it had been a past practice and the labor contract was silent on the issue.2

Bulletin Board Rights. While a union may have a right under its contract to erect a bulletin board, employers will often seek to restrict what is posted on the board. One employer objected when a union posted a list of

Stewards, local union officers and representatives have good grounds upon which to challenge any management effort to curb union rights, as the above cited cases show. Each case is different, of course. When faced with anti-union management actions, look to your contract, any past practice and the National Labor Relations Act to find principles about which to rest your case. In short, do your homework. – Ken Germanson. The author is a veteran labor journalist.

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nited Food and Commercial Workers Local 342-50 U and Ozanam Hall Queens Nursing Home, Inc. Howard C. Edelman, arbitrator. Feb. 19,2010.

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ennsylvania Independent Nurses and Butler Memorial P Hospital. Thomas L. Hewitt, arbitrator. Jan. 12, 2012.

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lass, Molders, Pottery,Plastics & Allied Workers G International Union and Johns Manville, Inc. Michael G. Whalen, arbitrator. March 24, 2014.

Workplace Leader is published six times a year by UnionBase. Contents ©2022 UnionBase. Reproduction in whole or in part electronically, by photocopy, or any other means without the written consent of UnionBase is prohibited. | Cover art produced by Billy Buntin of BBDigital Media. Layout & Design by Chadick+Kimball.

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