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Gauging Potential Success:

05 Feb

By: Ricardo Torres

Confessions of a union organizer

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Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Is the union paying employees to partake in the internal Union Organizing Committee?

Why are they so angry and passionately against our company?

While working with management teams in efforts to educate employees on the realities and dangers of union membership, I am often asked these two questions. My response to them is that if the union needed to pay the organizing committee to organize, they had no chance in winning the election.

One of the major reasons employees seek unions is because they don’t feel they have any ownership or a real say in their workplace.

Ricardo Torres – President & CEO

One of the major reasons employees seek unions is because they don’t feel they have any ownership or a real say in their workplace. Oneof the first things a good union organizer will do is to create the illusion that the workers are in control. When I was an organizer director, my organizers were instructed to give the workers ownership and make the campaign their “baby”. If they wouldn’t make it their own, we knew we had no campaign. We would simply pack our bags, check out of our hotels and leave town. There was no chance of a union victory without them taking ownership.

There were hurdles the internal organizing committee needed to jump through every week to keep the momentum going. We knew that in order to have a successful outcome to the election, we had to have 100% participation from the internal organizing team. We made sure that they understood that if at any time our organizers wanted “rights and abilities through a negotiated contract” more than the internal organizing team then we would pack up and leave. We meant it. We knew you couldn’t force workers to organize; they needed to run into the proverbial fire by themselves.

In the 90’s, I was coordinating the organizing for all the Mini Steel Mills in the country. During the drive, I had a crew in Wichita Kansas working on one of the largest mini mills in the State. We had 80 people in the organizing committee out of about 430 people in the votingbloc. One day, I got a call from my lead organizer on the ground telling me that the committee has slowed down on their activities and wewere losing ground and asking me what to do. I told him that I would becoming into Kansas to meet with them; we were going to test their dedication to the cause!

We met the night before the company was having captive audience meetings, we had every meeting on all 3 shifts choreographed to shut down the meetings and walk out. My team knew we needed to get the committee to commit to the campaign completely to push us through the next few weeks.

The mini steel mills were very important to us so we put many resources into this campaign as well as campaigns across the country. Wewanted to give the committee a chance to get back on track and to do this they had to get a victory under their belt. I had a designated person in every meeting with a cell phone to call me so I could personally listen to what was happening during the meetings, after all three shifts and company meetings were over I was not satisfied with theforcefulness of the committee actions and the results they received disrupting the company message. I met with the key people on the committee that night and told them I was disappointed and they don’t have what it takes to win this election and we walked away.

As a good Organizing Director, I needed to know how to gauge potential for success, you cannot let your own desire to win get in yourway of determining if a campaign will succeed or not. The committee begged me to give them another chance. One woman was in tears because asshe said “she had devoted everything to the union and could not face going back into the plant with such a defeat.” I told her it was a shameeveryone did not feel the same as her. In fact our goal was to make everyone get to the point to where they felt as passionate as this woman. We wanted the workers to feel that the only option was to win, toget them to invest so much of themselves into the campaign that they were, in fact, synonymous with each other, a do or die attitude. After all was said and done it was never our goal to educate the worker, hold their hands, or make them feel proud of the fight they lost. I had one job and to do and that was to win at any cost and I always knew how to gauge potential success.

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