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Jack Bauer 10-26-2007 03:21 PM

Company Tactics for Busting Union Drives...
Why would a company be concerned with keeping a union out of it’s organization
and what will it do to ensure one doesn’t take place ?

Well, when it comes to the financial balance sheet, an employer typically considers labor, i.e., human resources, to be a resource like energy, fuel, or raw material. That is, reducing the cost of the resource contributes to the corporation's net income; some have seen this happen here for those of you with experience from the “Deal-Me-An-Ace.” era.

Do unionized employees secure better wages and superior benefits compared to their non-union counterparts in the long run? Maybe, maybe not. Because unions concern themselves with issues such as wages, hours, and working conditions, the company not only must consider the possibility that unions will raise the cost of doing business, but unions may seek enforceable work rules which reduces the management’s flexibility in running the business. Flexibility and money are things the company wants to keep.

With lower pay, fewer benefits, scheduling inequalities, and more managerial control over working conditions, YOUR personal value decreases while your value to the company increases as a resource (you cost less), this translates directly into greater profitability for your employer.

Therefore, many employers seek to prevent unions from conducting successful organizing campaigns, by using anything and everything at their disposal.

So, what Tactics might be Used to Thwart a Union Drive?

Dirty Tricks:
Union busting is built on deceit. A campaign against a union (or potential union) is an assault on individuals and a war on truth. As such, it is a war without honor. The only way to bust a union is to lie, distort, manipulate, threaten, and always, always attack. (This has happened over the past month with certain messages sent to pilots on SWOL). Companies usually employ individuals in positions of influence to put forth propaganda that the company itself is not allowed to dispel. (Perhaps, someone on the SAPA forums?)

In each letter, every word is carefully planned. Descriptions of the union always include threatening or derogatory connotations, while management is always portrayed as humble, caring, and righteous.

Typically company letters will detail the union's policies on dues, fees, fines, and assessments, divulged union rules and disciplinary techniques, warned that if a strike would ever happen that it would ruin the company and jeopardize jobs, and otherwise argue that the union would be bad for a company.

The aim of the company is a "war of saturation bombing" in which half-truths and accusations put the union and those thinking of voting for one on the defensive. This forces a union to spend hours defending itself leaving no time left for the union's planning efforts, or for campaign strategy. The workers won't find the time to discuss their own issues if they're sufficiently bombarded with the "twisted disinformation" sown by the employer. (For example: Banner ads, US Airways seeks to decertify its union, American Airlines, etc. . . interesting that banner ads like this, were non-existent a year ago?)

Human Emotion:
A well-orchestrated anti-union campaign is also nuanced and calibrated to human emotion. After all the employees and supervisors are exhausted from the fight over the upcoming election, you may find SkyWest sending out a "give us a chance" letter which is a "tearful, apologetic plea" for an apparent truce.

It creates an illusion suggesting that management recognizes its mistakes and has learned its lessons from the organizing campaign. One might see a letter saying that management really has changed, and management deserves a chance. This offer is typically timed so that its impact is felt just before the election.

Intelligence operations:
Either side is likely to perform better during confrontations if it is well-informed, or if it can place operatives in key positions. Corporations have frequently resorted to seeking intelligence on union activities, often by employing informants, labor spies and saboteurs.

The management "plant" is a standard presence at union-organizing meetings. Their job has many parts; disrupt the meeting so the union can't talk strategy; post on forums; take the focus off workplace problems by turning the questions on the union; intimidate union sympathizers; report back to management. Of course, if the anti-union workers are acting as spies, (federal labor law) makes that patently illegal, but big deal. It's almost impossible to prove.

Favoritism and division:
What is really happening behind closed doors? Did you get an extra day off from Crew Support because you are anti-union? Did you get released from Ready Reserve because you are pro-company?

What if you are a self-purported union backer?

Pro-union workers (pilots) are typically forced to undergo ever-tighter scrutiny, and are confronted with scurrilous rumors spread by the anti-union campaign. You decide you are going to vote for ALPA, but somehow can’t get that Ready Reserve Day removed, even when there are several Reserves Junior to you? You question why, and are told it is policy, yet there is no policy. It’s no doubt that unions will be blamed for driving "a wedge of hate into a once unified/ pleasant work force."

Creating an illusion of progress through the "Magic Bullet" Theory of Communication:
"Tell them what we want them to believe." After vilifying the union with anti-union message dissemination, (US Airways looks to remove union on SWOL news, Management statements that “The Goodtimes” will be over, or “Just look at our competitors, like MESA, who have unions, or you won’t be able to fly larger aircraft if a union is voted in, etc.), the second imperative of a union avoidance campaign is to humanize the executives in the eyes of workers.

The goal is to portray the company as benevolent, compassionate, and caring. Examples of management's newfound kindness are publicized to all employees. (We gave you SkedPlus+, we’re growing by adding planes and new partners, we have been congratulated by UAL in our performance, we are getting 22 new CRJ 700’s, thanks for your e-mails concerning the Don Douglas situation, we are here to listen to your ideas . . .)

It’s typically a game of perception concerning corporate/management communication with employees. How to avoid the union at all costs? Appear to listen to employees, encourage openness (Talk to your Chief Pilot or contact Chip or Brad if you have questions), make policies simple and clear, and relax some rules, buy the pilots lunch like ALPA does . . .

Has one noticed that there is little communication with/from Brad Holt during this union drive? This is usually by design. From what I hear, it appears that many in the pilot group do not like negotiating with Brad (SAPA) and the “my-way-or-the-highway” approach that appears to be taken when dealing with SAPA and the Pilot Group. Dislikeable characteristics about management should be masked during a union drive. (That backfired with the timing of the Don Douglas decision granting relief.)

New faces are brought forward that are trusted and liked, Chip Childs? Could this union drive be one of many reasons Ron Reber was terminated? Maybe? Maybe not?

Managers , supervisors and even top Executives may visit worksites and exchange jokes, gossip, and laughter with workers. The theme of company-as-family prevails, with the union portrayed as an upstart outsider. Only after a union organizing drive is defeated, might company executives/management be allowed to return to their "business as usual" ways.

Declare innocence; comply with the law; blame the union:
In a counter-organizing campaign, image is crucial. It’s usually in a company’s best interest to portray the union as devious and sneaky. SkyWest could argue law as well. For example, one could find that it has been mentioned that “Checkairmen” are considered “Management Employees” and that their votes will not count so they shouldn’t vote. I suppose it could be argued in front of the NLRB and SkyWest might win this argument, since it becomes easier to defeat a union drive by declaring more employees as management; then it can blame the action on the federal government, and portray the good intentions of the company in complying with the law.

Another method that many are unaware of is that fact that the Airlines initially asked Congress for anti-strike measure back in 2003. Airlines want congress to rewrite federal law that governs airline labor relations to make it harder for unions to strike. The Air Transport Association, the airlines largest lobbying group has been urging lawmakers to revise the Railway Labor Act, citing that the labor expenses are their biggest costs. If pilots cannot strike, it makes it easier for any airline including Skywest to attain wage cuts and work-rule concessions.

In Summary:
These are just some of the things many of you may have witnessed during this union drive. For some, this may be the first drive you have ever seen, for others you may have seen this a few times. What do you believe? Promises from either side are suspect until someone actually does something. Should the pilot group trust ALPA to help better them? Should the pilot group trust SkyWest Management? Who knows? That's your personal decision. There is enough evidence to support and disprove the effectiveness of each.

The Chow 10-26-2007 03:26 PM

Jack Welch
The former CEO said it best, no company that has a union didn't deserve it. That being said, it was quite a (insert your own work) while CEO of GE.

ExperimentalAB 10-26-2007 03:49 PM

Thanks for the post I'd like to see somebody's ideas (who has far more time than I - 'cause we all know I work too much...) on "Company-busting" by ALPA and other Unions, 'cause there's plenty of that going on as well.

Jack Bauer 10-26-2007 03:56 PM

This is my opinion only but I would say the Union busting by the company is much more calculated and strategically placed...more heavily financed including hiring union busting law firms. I wont use your term for the other side because I don't think the majority of Pro Alpa are anti-company, but rather pro-representation and accountability.....empowerment on a local basis if you will. This effort is much more grass roots. Once again this is my opinion based on observations over a long period of time and switching from one side of the fence to the other.

APM145 10-26-2007 04:51 PM


Originally Posted by ExperimentalAB (Post 253359)
Thanks for the post I'd like to see somebody's ideas (who has far more time than I - 'cause we all know I work too much...) on "Company-busting" by ALPA and other Unions, 'cause there's plenty of that going on as well.

Can you give an example of "Company busting"? Not sure I follow your intended track. Keep it within the airline pilot profession if you can cause we are a much different animal that most...


kalyx522 10-26-2007 08:47 PM

Great post, Jack Bauer! I can say Colgan's definitely used those tactics above and obviously, they were very successful!
Honestly, as a newhire, they convinced me good... at first when they came during ground school and brought it up, I thought if the company is THIS against it, there must be a reason we need a union.... But then out of curiosity I read all those newsletters they put out, and found myself agreeing with a lot of things. For a newhire, they were very convincing. Later after the drive failed, I flew with captains who were telling me why they didnt vote, like "did you know that ALPA secretary gets paid so-and-so, why should I have to give my money to pay for their salary, blah blah." I'm like, dude you totally read those newsletters, I mean that's completely verbatim! seriously, cmon.

ExperimentalAB 10-26-2007 08:59 PM


Originally Posted by APM145 (Post 253379)
Can you give an example of "Company busting"? Not sure I follow your intended track. Keep it within the airline pilot profession if you can cause we are a much different animal that most...


Jack caught the meaning...both sides use scare-tactics and ohmygod the world is ending arguments. If some of the crud that ALPA has thrown out in the SKW drive, not to mention the many ridiculous rants I've seen on these boards can't be called Company-busting...

dontsurf 10-26-2007 09:36 PM

each side does it. they're just doing their job. unfortunately, just like in political campaigns, truth stretching and outright lying is done by both sides. of course any company (especially a public company, with legal fiduciary responsibilities to the shareholders) is trying to keep costs down. having unions is always more expensive to the company. look at toyota plants in the usa compared to gm plants. i'm sure there is never a situation where a company is sitting around dying for a union to come in. they can of course do things to keep unions from coming in. there are myriad examples from the past in all unionized industries in which companies did horrible things, illegal things to keep their workforce union free.

but of course unions exist to not only serve their members but to make money, just like the companies. they have to grow just like other companies. they need new members, new industries, etc. to keep the money coming in and to do the good things they do. i've certainly flown with people who are rabidly anti-union, usually for political reasons, and they are quick to point out the bad things that unions can mean (usually in the form of money for nothing, no power, etc). but most people can agree that in a complicated industry like the airlines, and especially one that has such a history of abuse of employees, that unions are a necessary concept. personally, i am proud of the united states as being such a great part of union history. i feel that it is unfortunate that human nature is such that unions would be necessary. but i'm glad that unions exist, and i'm glad they exist in the airline industry.

that said, anyone who tells you that the company is always lying and the union is always truthful (especially if there is no union at the company yet) is just flat out lying or delusional. rational people will take all information given by both sides during a union drive with a grain of salt. like i said at the beginning of this post, it is the company's job to stay union-free. it is the union's job to get themselves brought in as representation for the employees. both sides will do things - in some cases, untruthful, illegal, unethical things - to ensure their side wins.

it's up to the employees to see through that stuff, to try to make a reasoned decision based on facts and their values. unfortunately, just like with buying a car, most people do not make decisions based on facts, but on emotions instead. a union drive is certainly an emotional process. many people on both sides fall for the hysterics and scare tactics that come from both sides. also, a lot of people are apathetic, just like in politics, hoping that other people's passion for whichever side they agree with will carry the day.

anyway, i had to get my two cents' worth in here. i see a lot of stuff coming from people who want alpa at skywest, talking about how the company is lying and mean and horrible. i see very little talking about how unions are not perfect and do the same sort of stuff in union drives. i just wanted to make sure that everyone understands there are no angels in these situations. just both sides doing their jobs, working for the outcome that is in their best interest. we wouldn't want it any other way.

like several other people that have posted here, i feel this way: no matter which side you're on, or how it turns out, i'll be glad when november 6th comes around.

sigep_nm 10-26-2007 10:14 PM

You guys at skywest can have spanjers if you want him, just in case you ever get sick of Jerry

Qtip 10-27-2007 07:18 AM

a union we need should poop hit the prop but some here are militant about it and that i don't like. our union guy should have his own union as he gets himself in trouble quite a bit. not sure who he represents, himself or us

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