Powell's Books Inc. reveals true agenda...union-busting!
After months of delay tactics and retaliation against union activists, Powell's Books Inc. has revealed its true goal...to embrace the George W. Bush era and break the union of Powell's workers.
In a company-wide email today, co-CEO Sylvie Horne, under the guise of "answering employee questions," detailed how employees could quit the union. In point 5 Horne states that employees can withhold union dues now that the contract has expired (thanks to management's spending months pushing non-starter proposals that would make it impossible for most employees to both purchase health insurance for themeselves and their loved ones and to buy food and pay the rent).
The citizens of Portland deserve to know the true agenda of Powell's Books Inc., which is becoming just another greedy corporation, trying to cut health-care benefits to employees who make as little as $8.15 an hour while refusing to reveal sales figures. (Hoover's Online business website puts Powell's 2001 sales at $44,000,000, with sales growth of 25.7%, and that was two years ago...no wonder they're sitting on those numbers. Source: http://www-2.hoovers.com/powell's-books/--ID__41378--/free-co-factsheet.xhtml )
Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org , email@example.com , and firstname.lastname@example.org , and let them know what you think of their bringing Bush's war on workers to the Rose City. The "disclaimer" in the last paragraph of the following letter is rather disingenous, since the purpose of the letter is clearly to encourage employees to break rank with their co-workers and help management destroy the union...after which management can implement any "agreement" that they like.
Here is the email sent to Powell's employees today:
Subject: Employee Questions Regarding Union Activities and Dues
From: Sylvie Horne Sylvie.Horne@powells.com
Date: Mon, November 24, 2003
Hello, Employees have been asking us questions about recent union activities, including the ULP strike, and union dues. In response, we have prepared a brief summary of the answers to those questions.
1. Do I have to participate in a strike or other union activities? Every employee has the legal right to participate in union activities as well as the right not to do so. The decision is an individual one, and nobody can interfere with that decision or make it for you. It is your decision to engage in union activities or come to work. Even if you voted in favor of a strike or other union activities at a union meeting, you are not bound by that vote and can later decide not to participate in the strike or union activity and come to work.
2. Can I cross a picket line and continue to work if there is a strike? Certainly. We will continue to operate and you can come to work during any strike.
3. May I be fined by Local 5 if I cross the picket line to work for the company? According to Local 5's Bylaws (dated August 2000), members are required "to honor all sanctioned, legal, and approved picket lines." A member who violates this rule can be subject to charges, a trial, and punishment. The Bylaws, however, don't say what the punishment could be.
4. If I decide to come to work, can I avoid being fined? Yes. If you effectively resign your membership from the union before crossing the picket line, you can't legally be fined. The union can't punish anybody who crosses a picket line to work if they are no longer members of the union and, therefore, not bound by the union's constitution and bylaws when they cross the picket line. Another option to avoid any union discipline for working during a strike is by changing your regular union membership status to that of a "financial core" member. In essence, a financial core member agrees to pay the union the required monthly dues and fees charged regular members, but that person is not considered a formal union member for any other purpose. Financial core members are only required to pay dues and fees based on the amount the union spends on collective bargaining and representation activities. In order to resign from the union or elect financial core status, you need to deliver in person or by certified or registered mail a letter stating your resignation or change in status. You should keep a copy of the letter.
5. Do I have to keep paying dues at this time? No. Following the expiration of the labor agreement, employees cannot be required as a condition of employment to become and remain members of the union. This means that an employee who resigns membership during this time would not be required to pay union dues. In order to resign from the union, you need to deliver in person or by certified or registered mail a letter stating your resignation. You should keep a copy of the letter.
6. If I decide to stop paying dues, and the company and the union reach an agreement, will I owe any back dues for the period of time between contracts? Employees can resign from union membership after the expiration of the contract. An employee's resignation during this time is not affected by a future contract. In fact, whether the terms of any future contract is retroactive is the subject of negotiations - it is not automatic.
7. Can the union and coworkers harass me for crossing a picket line? Unfortunately, picketers can be expected to engage in name-calling and shouting at any employee who works during a strike. However, pickets are not allowed to engage in violence or threats of violence against any employee who works during a strike. The company will take immediate steps against any employee who engages in illegal misconduct while they are picketing.
8. If I have questions or need additional information, who should I contact? If you need additional information or have other questions, you can contact the Portland office of the National Labor Relations Board at 503-326-3085 and ask for the information officer. You also can contact me or Ann Smith.
I want to make it clear that we are responding to employees' questions and requests for information. Powell's fully respects your rights under federal labor law, is not encouraging you to make any particular decision on these issues, and will not interfere with your choices on these issues. We urge you to get all the information you need to make the best decision for yourself.
Thank you, Sylvie Horne
add a comment on this article
add a comment on this article