What Happens When Corporate America ‘Turns Up The Heat’ On Unions?
(SEATTLE, WASHINGTON) - Speaking at a news conference for the very first time, Takele Gobena - a Uber Driver in Seattle, awkwardly approached the microphone to convey two messages: First, that Uber Drivers needed a Union and, second, that Uber paid miserably.
Gobena, a gangly, 26-year-old refugee from Ethiopia, said his hourly earnings came to less than the Minimum Wage after factoring in gas, insurance, and other expenses.
Fearing retaliation, Gobena said: “I know Uber will probably deactivate me tomorrow, but I’m ready because this is worth fighting for.”
It didn’t take that long.
At 6:50 that evening, a few hours after several websites posted articles about the news conference, Uber e-mailed Gobena to notify him he had been deactivated - Uber lingo for being fired.
The company said his auto insurance had expired.
Within minutes, Gobena grabbed his smartphone, photographed his insurance card (which showed that his insurance policy was still in force), and e-mailed the photo to Uber and to Mike O’Brien, the Seattle City Councilman who had organized the news conference.
O’Brien sent the photo to several journalists to show that Uber’s reason for firing Gobena was poppycock.
Badly embarrassed, Uber reinstated Gobena the next day.
Uber vigorously denied that it had retaliated against Gobena, insisting it was all a mistake.
Josh Coleman excelled as a Customer Service Representative at T-Mobile’s call center in Wichita, so much so that the company awarded him its top prize for performance: a trip to Puerto Rico.
To celebrate his success, the company placed Coleman’s face on billboards and computer screens, and his Co-Workers paraded him around the call center.
A month later, however, a T-Mobile manager informed Coleman that the company was canceling his trip.
That was days after Coleman first appeared in a Union video urging his Co-Workers to join the Communications Workers of America (CWA).
Several months later, T-Mobile fired Coleman, saying it was for poor performance in handling phone calls.
The NLRB accused T-Mobile of illegally firing Coleman for being a Union Supporter.
Months later, the company agreed to pay Coleman $40,000, without admitting any wrongdoing.
In no other industrial nation do employers fight so hard to defeat, indeed quash, Labor Unions.
Whether in Anglophone countries like Australia, Britain, and Canada, or in continental European countries like France, Germany, and Sweden, or in Asian countries like Japan and South Korea, employers generally see Inions as legitimate institutions that represent Workers’ interests and that businesses need to work with, if sometimes unenthusiastically.
In the United States, however, the common (though not universal) corporate view is that Unions are the enemy, an illegitimate nuisance that should be wiped out.
Within Corporate America, senior executives, by and large, abhor the idea of having to discuss or negotiate issues with Union Officials.
They view that as an improper invasion of their autonomy, flexibility and managerial prerogatives.
“We ‘like driving the car, and we’re not going to give the steering wheel to anyone but us,’” said Lee Scott, when he was Walmart’s CEO.
Many companies take aggressive steps to make sure that no Union is going to share the driving with them.
Menards, a Wisconsin-based Home-Improvement Chain, was so intent on keeping out Unions that its employment contracts said that any store managers who’s Employees Unionized would have their salaries chopped by 60%.
Imagine what lengths Menards’ store managers must have gone to in order to defeat Unionization Drives.
As soon as that contract provision was leaked to the press, an embarrassed Menards eliminated the provision.
At many companies, managers know that if a majority of Workers at their store, restaurant, hotel, or factory vote to Unionize, they are likely to be demoted or even fired.
To Read This Labor Perspective In Its Entirety, Go To: www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-happens-when-corporate-america-turns-up-heat-steven-greenhouse/