Union organizing can be a contentious process, as management sometimes uses tactics to limit union activity. Even when workers do successfully vote to organize, management sometimes tries to make a first contract difficult to negotiate.
However, if workers stick together, they can win a stronger contract and grow as a union. In the end, they are stronger together and can overcome anti-union tactics with perseverance and camaraderie.
Steve Lawton, President of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1102, joined the America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss his efforts to organize workers and stand up to management’s union busting tactics.
Workers persevere best when united
Over the last two decades, Lawton has witnessed numerous strikes, the largest and most fruitful being the Verizon strike in 2015. The strike was highly successful — accomplishing many goals and helped to improve conditions for workers, Lawton said. Ultimately, Verizon works more collaboratively with the Union than they have in the past, largely because of the strike.
Changes in the telecom industry have challenged efforts to organize workers, said Lawton. Many call center jobs have gone overseas, as companies can pay foreign call center workers a lower wage and avoid any organizing effort.
In 2009, workers at the E-ZPass call center reached out to the CWA. The company changed hands, coming under the ownership of ACS in Texas, a vehemently anti-union company. The company hired a union avoidance specialist to talk workers out of organizing, held captive audience meetings and circulated derogatory information about union leaders in an effort to undermine the union’s credibility.
After a long and protracted struggle, the workers voted to unionize. Management dug in its heels during contract negotiations, ultimately leading to a weaker contract in an effort to frustrate workers and encourage decertification, Lawton said. Through an extensive home visit program, the union avoided decertification and won better contracts in subsequent years, Lawton stated.
After four consecutive contracts of better worker pay, union security was included in the contract in 2017, Lawton said. It took perseverance and solidarity, but the CWA managed to stick together and win better outcomes for workers.