CWA has asked the National Labor Relations Board to throw out a narrow Jan. 6 union election loss for 13 workers at a Verizon Wireless facility in Bloomington, Ill., charging that the company repeatedly violated the law to ensure the vote would go its way.
Widespread support existed for a union last November when the retail sales workers and customer service representatives contacted CWA to assist them in organizing. When workers petitioned for an election, 76 percent supported the union. By the time the election was held two months later, the vote was 7-6 against the union, a result of the company's illegal tactics.
Verizon Wireless planted two "retail sales leads" in the unit to spy on union supporters and thwart the campaign, according to CWA's complaint. The company claimed the workers weren't supervisors, yet both were required to attend management training and management-only anti-union meetings. At least one employee claims to have witnessed or overheard the planted workers reporting on the union campaign to management.
To further intimidate workers, the company also packed the small facility with as many as seven top-level company executives for weeks before the election. They included Verizon Wireless's top HR official, Matt Antonek, who is headquartered in New Jersey, and the presidents of the company's Midwest Area and Illinois/Wisconsin region. Some of the top managers contacted union supporters at their homes, delivering their anti-union message. At least five of the Verizon Wireless officials were on hand at the facility during the election.
In one of the most serious violations, CWA charges that Verizon Wireless illegally offered a member of the workers' organizing committee a promotion to management at another facility, to take place after the election.
Union supporter Tyler Book said the company adopted an "either you're pro-company or pro-union" stance before the election. "That really made us angry that you can't be both pro-union and pro-company," Book said. "We think it's a good way to make our company better."
"The tactics used by Matt Antonek and Verizon Wireless to undermine the organizing effort of 13 workers are reprehensible," said CWA District 4 Organizing Coordinator Curt Hess, who assisted the workers. "Any group, with less courage and determination than that of the Bloomington workers, would have easily crumbled under the company's pressure long before an election could have taken place."