Being interested in labor issues I was interested to read a recent worker’s view of his workplace. He said, “…I would say morale is a 2 on a scale of 10. Yes, there is a tuition reimbursement program, but anyone I’ve ever known to inquire about it has been denied or never replied to. There is no doubt about it; favoritism is played 100% of times. There is no OT distribution policy. If you’re liked, you’re asked if you want extra hours, most times, granted to a guy with less seniority than a guy who didn’t even get a chance to pick up OT. Sunday premium–half of the hourly workforce receives it, those on an 8 hour schedule, half don’t. Why??? Should it be ALL or NONE? Communication=ZERO. Employee Handbook=Worthless. There may as well not even be one, because under every paragraphed statement or policy it notes *subject to HR discretion.” So if we like you, you’ll be fine–if we don’t, your job is at risk. 100% of the problems I’ve seen are the result of BS policies, or the lack thereof. Compensation=Excellent. Health Care=Good, Retirement= Good, Advancement=favoritism. Fair Job Bidding=non existent. 2tier wages=Yes.” and “If you call off 3x in 1 yr, you are at a “last chance agreement.” If you have to leave work for any reason, family emergency, even in the death of a spouse, child or parent you get attendance demerits. This is unfortunately true. It has happened. How would you like to get a phone call at work that your father has died, then immediately leave work, and be penalized for leaving? True Story. How would you feel if an employee with 6 mos. seniority gets time and a half on Sunday, but a guy with 17 yrs does not? How would you feel if the guy working right next you, doing the same job you’re doing, is making $7 more per hour than you?…”
Is that a workplace you’d want to work in? I really can’t imagine anyone wanting to work in such a place. Yet, the other day 367 workers decided they didn’t a problem with that type of environment. They did have 148 of their fellow workers say that such things happening in their workplace needed changed. I’m addressing the workers at Youngstown’s Vallourec Star who turned down having union representation by the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America (UE). The above comments about all of the unjust issues at Vallourec were posted by a commenter called, FalconFighter at Vindy.com. He posted his comment in a response to a Youngstown Vindicator story about the then upcoming union vote at Vallourc. In an article in the Youngstown Business Journal after the vote, shift maintenance employee Christopher Gallagher called Vallourec a “great company to work for,” and felt it was incumbent upon him to help discourage union membership. To discourage voting for the UE over a week ago he placed “Vote No” signs he himself purchased around the grounds at Vallourec. Gallagher sent lots of comments to Vindy.com attacking fellow workers who wanted a union. FalconFighter addressed Gallagher in a comment at Vindy.com. He said, “Unlike CHRISTOPHER GALLAGHER, who must live in a fantasy world, I do not paint a beautiful beach-like atmosphere…”
The problem with every workplace is that it has workers like Gallagher that brown nose the boss. I’d like to say that I wish every job site had more workers like FalconFighter, but I can’t. You see the irony is that even though he pointed out the problems at Vallourec he said in a comment that he would be voting against unionizing. He had hopes that the new president of Vallourec would make things better. For many like him hope is easier than actually taking action like joining a union to make things better.
The guys that tried to bring in a union and make Vallourec a better place to work are my heroes in this story. I’m talking about employees Bill Allen, Chuck Lepowsy, and Dave Lorenzi who were brave enough to have their names in print in support of a union. Allen, an 18-year employee said, “If something happens at work, the employees represent themselves with as many as five managers in the room. It makes it difficult for the employee to protect his or her job.” Lorenzi said “One of the first things Vallourec did when it took over the plant was to freeze pensions for current employees and eliminate them for new employees. Employees also have had to pay higher insurance premiums and now work in a two-tier pay system.” Chuck Lepowsky a 15-month lab technician volunteered hundreds of hours in the effort to unionize. Chuck said “All I can say is its kind of coincidental how enormously the bonuses have increased.” The January bonus was the largest workers have received in more than a year equaling $10.50 per hour for every hour worked in January. It was estimated that Vallourec spent as much as $1,500 a day to pitch informational meetings to employees in an effort to discourage them from voting in favor of a union.
In a letter a published by the Warren Tribune Vallourec crane operator James Dunlap said “Unions today are all about politics, promoting liberal public policies and electing big-government liberals to public office.” Only days after that on WKBN talk radio I heard an identical response from a retired crane man. It was daily caller Austintown Bob who was a crane operator at Youngstown Sheet & Tube’s Brier Hill Works (which is now Vallourec). Bob called to thank his union the USWA for saving his pension, benefits and helping him be able to live well in retirement. He then went on to say Vallourec should vote against a union because unions back politicians who are democrats. Unions look over the candidates to see who is going to best represent workers and suggest their members vote for these candidates. When it comes down to it that is never GOP candidates. I think the job of operating a crane so high up in the air has killed the brain cells of Dunlap and Bob.
I’ve met tons of these single issue working-class men and women who vote for republicans and against their own economic interests. They and people who vote against unionizing are a big part of why the middle-class has lost so much ground. I’d don’t think I can say anything to sad sack gutless workers like FalconFighter better than what Vindy.com commenter HSG posted to him. HSG: “Well FalconFighter, sounds like you’re just a tad conflicted. You claim to be happily employed, yet complain about favoritism, lack of communication, the tuition reimbursement program being a come-on, etc. Union representation would give you a say. It’s called airing grievances. Don’t believe those who say the company is going to leave or worst, go belly up. Grow a pair or at least a spine, vote FOR the union.”
Anne Feeney: “War on the Workers”
“I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.” - Jay Gould, nineteenth century railroad executive