May 02, 2013
Mailers at West Penn Printing Vote for Union
The organizing drive began when Mailers at the plant—regular and part-time laborers and machine operators—reached out to CWA Local 14827 Organizer, Kim Gill.
Gill reached out to the contacts and slowly started building a relationship with the workers. With the direction and support of CWA, PPMWS and District 2-13's Administrative Director, Marge Krueger began working with Gill and Kari Bienias, PPMWS Organizing Director, on the West Penn campaign.
After mapping out the workplace, and researching the company Gill built organizing committees on the Day and Night shifts, and began the task of getting workers to sign authorization cards.
Joined by District 2-13 Organizer Dan Hoskowicz, Gill and Bienias focused their organizing efforts—making house-calls and meeting with employees before and after their shifts. With signed cards from 35 of 54 eligible employees—65 percent of the unit—Krueger filed for a representation election in the beginning of March.
On March 12, 2013, CNHI asserted a Noel Canning defense for the initially scheduled March 15 election. Noel Canning refers to the January 25, 2013, decision by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that ruled that President Obama’s recess appointments of three NLRB board members were invalid. An earlier 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling found that the board did not have the authority to decide cases with less than three members. The ruling has since brought into question all NLRB decisions since January 2008.
Communications Workers of America (CWA) came to the aid of the Printing Sector and District 2-13 and provided legal assistance and guidance. Krueger proceeded to file subpoenas and worked with Gill in preparing witnesses and documents for the hearing.
Pittsburgh Attorney, Mike Healy, successfully addressed the Noel Canning defense and on March 15, 2013, the employer agreed to a stipulated agreement. Krueger worked with the Board Agent in addressing the scope of bargaining unit and an election was set for April 19, 2013.
Synopsis of weeks leading up to election:
Company brought in a registered persuader, and held weekly meetings. Along with having one-on-one conversations with the workers, the company promised some of the workers “promotions.”
Week ending April 6: The persuader was advising the workers in their captive audience meetings that we were selling their names to telemarketers and credit card companies and that West Penn would close down if a union came in. They discussed with the workers getting a ‘no’ petition signed and ‘timing’ out the election for six months. PPMWS kept in contact with the workers to discuss their concerns.
Week ending April 13: The Organizing team kept talking with the workers over their concerns and discussed the incorrect information they were getting from the persuader. We sent out a ‘letter of guarantee’ for the employees to have the boss sign.
“If they were asking workers to sign a ‘no’ petition to put the election on “hold” or a “timeout” for six months, to have time to ‘fix’ things, we had every right to ask them to sign our guarantee,” said Bienias. “This was successful and we were able to pull back some of our maybe votes to yes’ again.”
Week ending April 19: The Union held a meeting on Monday April 15. The company had a meeting on that Wednesday April 17, insisting and pushing for a six month ‘timeout’ to give them time to fix the issues.
The company continued to tell workers how the business would suffer once word got out they were a union shop. The company insisted that the plant would close and that no one would have a job.
The company’s threats were working and many of the workers on the day shift wanted to ‘timeout’ the election. The PPMWS committee had a meeting at the end of the shift to discuss the threats and how it would affect them and the workers agreed to continue on with the election on Friday.
Election Day April 19: The final vote was 26 to 21 in favor of joining the union. CWA Local 14827 President, Don McConnell, has since contacted the company to schedule the first bargaining session.
This success would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of Kim Gill, a first time organizer, who went above and beyond in earning the trust of these workers. Her persistence made this win possible.