After more than a decade of fighting to secure a negotiated union contract, Comcast technicians in Fairhaven, Mass. signed an agreement in February between the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2322 and the cable conglomerate.
Eric Hetrick, Business Manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 2322, joined America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss the Union’s protracted fight to secure rights, decent wages and benefits for Comcast workers.
He also discussed the company’s anti-union efforts and how the PRO Act would secure regulations to help unions in similar struggles.
A long struggle to unionize
IBEW Local 2322 represents 650 members in Massachusetts, including 50 Comcast employees.
The fight to unionize and successfully secure a contract for Comcast workers was long and bitter, Hetrick said. The company is notoriously anti-union and utilized numerous tactics to try to prevent the organizing campaign and then to delay a contract being signed.
The company has been successful at blocking unions — only about 2 percent of Comcast is organized nationwide. The workers in Massachusetts were the first group of Comcast workers to hold a successful vote to unionize.
In 2010, about 70 percent of the workers in Massachusetts signed authorization cards to unionize. However, knowing the company’s strong anti-union tactics, the IBEW decided to do a recognition campaign rather than an outright election. This garnered further union support.
The IBEW held a National Labor Relations Board election in 2011, but lost the initial vote, mostly due to captive audience meetings in which the company threatened to slash jobs, Hetrick said. It also took away workers’ front line bonus, which they later fought for and successfully won back for workers.
After the initial election, the company continued to treat workers horribly, he said. This only served to strengthen the resolve for membership. The IBEW tried again and got an organizing card assigned, followed by another election in August 2013, which it won by a narrow 49 to 41 vote.
The struggle for a successful contract
When the contract was finally ratified last February after more than a decade of struggle, workers were absolutely ecstatic, Hetrick said. The IBEW promised it would not bring back a contract unless it was truly worthy.
Hetrick said the Rich Trumka PRO Act is badly needed because it would prevent many of the union-busting tactics Comcast used. The PRO Act would go a long way to protecting workers in the future.