Who CWA Isn't

What Your Employer Might Say
and What Your Employer Won't Say

Not every employer uses exactly the same tricks to keep workers from using their democratic right to have a union.

But we want you to know ahead of time that there is a pattern - a script - that most employers follow.

When workers organize, most employers will:

  • Make empty threats and promises.
  • Tell lies about the union.
  • Start floating rumors to discourage you.
  • Refuse to have an open, honest debate so you can hear the truth.

When you start talking union, the first thing your employer probably will do is try to confuse you by making you forget that you are the union.

Click a link to jump to: Dues, Strikes, Union Control Over You, Violence, Threats, Promises


DUES

What Your Employer Might Say

What Your Employer Won't Say

“You can’t afford to pay union dues.” Your employer may do things like:

  • Giving you two checks on payday—one of which is a phony check with union dues taken out.
  • Passing out a mock check and saying this shows how much dues you will pay as a group each year.
  • Bringing in a basket of groceries with a label: “What you could buy with one year’s dues.”

You can’t afford NOT to have a union. The improvements in pay and benefits which you can only win with a strong union will more than offset the dues you pay—plus you’ll get the improved treatment and respect that comes with a union contract.

As the old saying goes, “you get what you pay for.” No organization can be effective without money to pay for services and supplies.

Remember: you don’t pay any dues until you win a contract.

“The union is only interested in you for your money.” Your employer may give you “documents” or old newspaper clippings which are supposed to show that CWA is bankrupt and needs your money to survive. 

CWA is a financially strong union which exists only to serve workers. CWA members want to help other workers organize because every time a new group of workers gets a union contract, it puts more pressure on all employers to improve pay and working conditions.

CWA’s strong financial condition is detailed in reports which are available for inspection by any member.

“The union will just spend your money on corrupt schemes and big salaries for union officials.” Your employer may distribute reports which show union salaries and expenses. You may also be shown clippings about charges of corruption in other unions. 

CWA members decide how to spend our dues on services . All decisions about the CWA budget—including salaries for the union officers who serve us—are made at annual national conventions of delegates elected by the local unions.

CWA’s financial reports are provided every year to the federal government, which can bring charges if union money is being misused.

In more than 40 years since the CWA national union was founded, it has never been accused by the government of misuse of funds.

“The union can raise your dues or charge you other assessments whenever it feels like it.” Your employer may try to make you think that, once you are in the union, there will be costs you didn’t know about. 

Only the elected local union delegates can decide to raise dues you pay . Dues are set at two hours pay per month, which means that increases in dues come only after much larger increases in pay. The elected delegates to national conventions can vote a special assessment if the membership feels that extra money is needed for an emergency, but that hasn’t happened in the past 25 years. Special assessments by individual local unions, which are also rare, must first be approved by a secret-ballot vote of the members.

Return to top

STRIKES

What Your Employer Might Say

What Your Employer Won't Say

“Unions love strikes.” Your employer may talk as though the whole purpose of the union is to call strikes. 

Workers join CWA to improve their jobs, not to strike . In 97 percent, of the cases, CWA negotiates contracts without a strike.

“CWA can force you to strike.” Your employer may hint that, soon after you vote for a union, you will be on strike, like it or not, either over your own contract or to support CWA members somewhere else. 

Only workers themselves can decide to strike. In CWA, a strike can only be called by a majority of the workers who would be directly involved—and only in a secret-ballot vote. You would never be asked to go on strike because of a dispute somewhere else.

“It you strike, CWA will not support you.” Your employer may put out scary information asking how your family could survive without your income. 

CWA has a Defense Fund to support strikers . In that tiny percentage of cases where a strike becomes necessary, CWA members receive strike support from the multi-million-dollar CWA Defense Fund.

Return to top

UNION CONTROL OVER YOU

What Your Employer Might Say

What Your Employer Won't Say

“CWA will fine you for misbehavior.” Your employer may tell you that you can be fined by CWA if you don’t attend union meetings or don’t vote for political candidates endorsed by the union. 

You will not be told what to do by CWA . If you want a strong union to represent you, you’ll probably decide to participate in CWA activities—but that’s completely up to you. No one can force you to come to meetings or vote for certain candidates.

“When you sign a card for CWA, you sign your life away.” Your employer may hint that you will start getting orders from “union bosses” if you sign a card. 

Signing a union card simply means you want a union. All union decisions are made democratically. There are no “union bosses.”

“CWA will control promotions and job assignments.” Your employer may suggest that distant union officials will control working conditions and will be able to play favorites the way management can now. 

For the first time, you will have a fair system for promotions and job assignments. CWA contracts do not give union officials any power over you. But our contracts do limit management’s ability to use a different set of rules for each employee.

“CWA won’t let you take a problem directly to management.” Your employer may claim that under CWA contracts workers must let “outsiders” from the union speak for them. 

CWA will help you talk to management only if you ask for help . With CWA, you will elect co-workers to be “stewards—people who will be trained to represent you on the job if you want them to. If you feel you can get results from your supervisor without help, fine. But if you can’t, you will have the union to turn to.

Return to top

VIOLENCE

What Your Employer Might Say

What Your Employer Won't Say

“Joining a union may involve you in violence.” Your employer may:

  • Spend money on extra security guards—especially around the time of the election for union representation—just to plant the idea in your mind that “there might be trouble” because you are organizing.
  • Encourage someone to slash tires in the employee parking lot, paint obscene slogans on the walls, or do something else that can be blamed on the union.
  • Show you clippings about violent incidents involving unions—even though they have nothing to do with CWA.

CWA exists to solve problems peacefully. With CWA, workers and management can sit down as equals and discuss problems that come up. You are the union here, and you certainly aren’t planning any violence.

Return to top

THREATS

What Your Employer Might Say

What Your Employer Won't Say

“We won’t ever sign a union contract even if you vote for CWA.” Since it is illegal for the employer to say this directly, you may be told instead: “Remember, we don’t have to agree to what you want in the union contract.” Your employer may show you clippings about another group of workers somewhere who voted for a union and didn’t immediately get a contract from their employer.

Your employer is legally required to negotiate with the union you choose. Nearly every employer talks tough before workers organize. But it is in the employer’s interest to keep the employees satisfied and keep the work flowing. So after you present your employer with reasonable contract proposals, a settlement is usually possible. If your employer really believes he won’t have to agree to improvements, why is he fighting against the union?

“You will lose wage levels and benefits you already have.” One common tactic is to distribute leaflets with two columns. One column shows a list of what you have now. The other column has a huge question mark and is labeled: “What you will have with CWA.” Another common tactic is to show you CWA contracts with other employers which have pay levels or other provisions which are not as good as what you have now—without telling you what the workers there had before they joined CWA. 

More than half a million CWA members all over the U.S. get better benefits, not worse. You will decide by democratic vote what to ask for in your contract and whether to accept what is offered to you. So no one from the outside could possibly “trade away” benefits you want to keep. What you win in your contract will depend on what you have to start with and how actively you and your co-workers participate in the union. If unions really lead to worse benefits, why doesn’t your employer want to get the union in now so he can start saving money?

“We will shut down completely.” Some employers even go so far as to park empty moving vans near the job site in the days before an election on union representation. You’re supposed to assume that the vans will be used if you vote union. 

Shutting down operations to avoid a union would be against the law and wouldn’t make economic sense. Your employer won’t directly make the threat of a shutdown because he knows he can’t legally follow through. Besides, your employer is doing a good business here. A shutdown would mean financial losses.

“Individual union supporters will lose their jobs.” Your employer may hint that he plans action against those who support the union. 

It’s against the law to punish anyone for supporting a union . This is why your employer doesn’t spell out this empty threat. CWA has an expert legal staff which will defend the rights of any worker who may have been punished for union activity.

“We won’t be one big happy family anymore, so we’ll be less flexible.” Your employer may say that, if you have a union, new rules like punching a time clock or reduced flexibility in scheduling will be necessary. Your employer may even make some of these changes right now and try to blame them on the union. 

The union and management will get along fine—if management is willing . When you negotiate a contract with your employer, you can agree to as much flexibility for employees as you want. The only thing you will probably not want in your contract is flexibility for your employer to harass some workers and play favorites with others.

Return to top

PROMISES

What Your Employer Might Say

What Your Employer Won't Say

“Give us another chance—we’ll change.” Your employer may say that, now that you’ve shown you are dissatisfied, you and your employer can work out all the problems by yourselves, so why pay union dues?

A union is the only way to make sure your employer changes. If your employer is really willing to change, he can sign a fair contract. Some workers have listened to employers’ promises only to learn the hard way that promises are forgotten if the union is voted down.

“We’ll set up procedures for hearing your complaints.” These may include:

  • A new or improved “open door” policy or “worker participation” scheme so you can talk as an individual to top management when you have a suggestion or complaint.
  • A “grievance procedure” that is set up much like the system established by union contracts—except that the boss still has the final say.

Without a union, your employer still has the last word. New procedures for hearing complaints may sound good at first, but without a union your employer can simply ignore your ideas. CWA contracts provide for arbitration of disputes, so that if you and the employer can’t agree, the problem will be resolved by a neutral person chosen only with the approval of both sides. If your employer is so interested in what you have to say, why is he afraid to see you standing united while you say it?

“We’ll change a few things that are really bothering you.” Your employer may transfer one particularly unpopular supervisor or make changes in certain working conditions that have caused a lot of dissatisfaction. 

If you can get changes by talking union, imagine what you can get once you have joined. The experience of other workers shows that you have to continue your organizing to keep what you’ve won and get action the next time you have a problem.

Return to top