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This blog is dedicated to the Life and Service of Captain Witold Pilecki - May 13, 1901 to May 25, 1948

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

39,000 Verizon Union Employees Hit the Picket Lines

I have been working in the telecommunications industry since 1981, when the smaller phone equipment companies were called "inter-connects" prior to the breakup of "Ma Bell" in 1984. I don't know the details between Verizon and the unions and the current contract dispute, but I do have my own experience with such matters, and will offer my story and opinion.

I began working for Northern Telecom in October of 1984, the 4th job of my working life, and the first union job I ever had. I was a member of CWA (Communications Workers of America) Local 1109 out of Brooklyn, NY. I was a 23 year old gung-ho pro-union hot head. When we went on strike in April 1986, it was a nine day street PARTY! I had no financial responsibilities to speak of, and my wife worked full time. I had a ball and we ended up with an OK contract. Fast forward 3 years, and the contract is expiring. Talks have broken down and we are continuing to work under the existing contract. The union meetings are held at a hotel ballroom in the New Haven area, and are a drunken scream fest of guys ready to go to war with the company. Not me. I sit there quietly listening to what I know is coming. It's a different story for me now; I am one year into home ownership with a mortgage and I have a car payment, as well as a young daughter. In my pocket at that last meeting is my union resignation letter. I did my research and found the PSRK is a "right to work state" (although not fully in the normal sense). Anyone considering crossing picket lines were threatened with harsh financial punishment.....unless you first resigned from the union (of course they didn't say that, I found out on my own). Once you resigned, you still got all the benefits and protections from the union, you just paid a reduced rate of dues that strictly applied to your representation with the company. Because of that fact, I can proudly say not one dime of my union dues went to elect Bill Clinton for either term.

The strike went on for six weeks in 1989, and I went to work every day. I got no trouble from my co-workers either during or after the strike. I only crossed our picket lines a couple of times with no issues. I know most of them were still shocked by my resignation, and I was a valuable resource of technical expertise that always helped everyone out when they needed it. The union guys did not want to jeopardize that, so there was no lingering animosity. I remember guys talking about putting money away for a strike fund. WHAT??? Why would you do such a thing? If I put money away, it is for a vacation or car down payment, not so I can be on strike to "stick it to the man." I remained a resigned member of the union for the next nine years. Every year I sent a copy of my resignation letter to the International in Washington, D.C., with a request for the dues reduction. Rather than mess with payroll deductions, they sent me a check for the year. I want to say it was around $1000 with no additional taxes taken out. There was some Christmas or vacation money.

I left that job in 1998, and never held a union job again. Until the financial SHTF in 2008, I always got a 3% C.O.L. raise, plus a 1 1/2% merit raise. In 2008, the company froze wages, and in early 2009 we took a 10% across the board pay cut. Later that year, the company furloughed every hourly employee one day per week under a program from the PSRK called "Work Share". This would amount to another 20% pay cut, but the program allowed us to collect unemployment that one day per week we were furloughed, and the company would not lay anyone off. Unfortunately, if it was the same day every week, I would get a part-time job instead of collect unemployment, but my bosses were dicks and it was a different day every week. They also got to the point where we didn't find out what day it would be until Sunday night at 9PM by voicemail. I left that shit hole in 2011 to come to my present employer, still in the telecommunications industry. This place is the first one I ever worked at (including my first job in high school)  that allowed me to go 5 years with not even a $0.01/hour increase. While that sucks on its face, I work mostly from home and they leave me alone. I do a lot of non-work stuff during the work day and have a company car in case I need to go to a customer site. So, I don't complain much. However, this is my final stop on the technology train. The job is not fun or interesting anymore, and I consider this job just a place holder. My dream is to move to Texas and open a firearms business.

My opinion of labor unions is this...their time is past. Bosses aren't slave drivers, and companies are not engaged in killing off their workers. They are now nothing more than a money laundering operation for liberal democrat politicians. I saw them do nothing but hold me back, and protect the worst of the scumbags. I remember once being asked about Nortel starting a "recognition program", and what would make a good reward. I told them certificates, plaques, and jackets were CRAP! The only thing meaningful is cash or time off. Their response was, "sorry, the union contract doesn't allow it" so I told them to screw off and not bother me then. I will never again work in a union shop.

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