OPEIU Local 39
December 2015Vol 3, Issue 6
Your Voice 
Your Choice 
OPEIU Local 39 Newsletter
I know you have a lot going on right now, no matter which holiday(s) you celebrate. Now may not be the best time to look over a newsletter. That's okay. We'll wait.

Because the information below is important to know. Most of us, when we think of "outsourcing" we first think about our own jobs (because, of course). But the impact on the community from any company outsourcing work is real and often overlooked.

But most important is that the threat of outsourcing work (imagined or implied) can lead to decisions that are based in fear, such as feeling like you have to "take sides" between the company you work for and the Union you're a member of. It just isn't true and we tell you why.

When you get a chance, read on.
In This Issue
Quick Links
Outsourcing Hurts our Communities
Most companies portray themselves as a "member" of the community, boasting of their community spirit on their website and listing their various philanthropic initiatives, hoping that the community sees the company as a positive force. As one of our companies states on their website, they are "proud to support causes that help to strengthen our communities and the lives of the people who live in them."

And yet, many of these same companies continue to outsource -- or threaten to further outsource -- good Union jobs with no thought to the impact such outsourcing has on the greater community. Since the 2004 contract with CUNA Mutual Group, our Union has lost over 600 members at that company alone, with people laid off and jobs moved out of state and overseas.

A study published in 2014 illustrates that outsourcing like that hurts local economies. This study focused on state and local governments but many of the lessons can be extended to the private sector with ease. For example, the study found that:

While reducing costs is most often the motive for outsourcing, a growing body of research documents that savings are minimal, on average. It is also not unusual for total costs to be greater when performed by private contracting firms than they were in-house.

There are many factors that go into this. For jobs outsourced but kept within the community, the costs are often higher because, while money is saved on worker's wages, the savings gets eaten up by overhead and the need for those private companies to make profit on every transaction. For jobs kept "in house" but transferred to a different site, the hit on business continuity is often high, with customers having to go from highly trained Union personnel to lower-paid and inexperienced workers out of state. For jobs outsourced and offshored, the issues are usually those of productivity.  According to Forbes (generally no friend to Labor):

...the U.S. is still among the most productive economies in the world in terms of dollar output per worker. To be more specific, a worker in the U.S. is associated with 10 to 12 times the output of a Chinese worker. That's not a statement about intrinsic abilities; it merely reflects the superior infrastructure of the United States, with its higher investments in automation, information technology, transportation networks, education, and so on.

All of these moves hurt the community that the company proudly says it supports. Instead of paying workers in the community, that money is going out of state or out of the country. Fewer jobs means fewer people spending money in the community (including buying the company's own products!). The threat of outsourcing is also brought to the bargaining table as leverage to bring down the wages of the Union workers that are left, further diminishing the amount of money spent at businesses within the community.

For those who are laid off, the impact on the greater community may be lower taxes collected even while higher spending by the local government on things like food stamps, unemployment compensation, and other aid to struggling families. Money spent to support un- or under-employed workers may result in less spending on things like infrastructure, making it harder for the company itself to continue doing business in that community.

How ironic that when companies see a worker's salary as only an expense to be managed and minimized instead of an asset to the company and the community, those actions can result in damaging the very community that the company takes such pride in being a part of!
No Need to Choose Sides
The idea that the Union and the companies we work for are at odds just isn't true. We are all on the same side when it comes to doing what we can to make sure our companies succeed. We work together to craft contracts that are fair and equitable. The Union supports the business because we all want the business to succeed.

I can't emphasize this enough: The contract isn't the "Union" contract. It is the contract that the company has with the Union. Together we created it. Together we've agreed to it. Together we will do all that we can to see that everyone adheres to the agreement. Your voice is part of the discussion because the Union is your voice.

But when companies use outsourcing there are many unintended consequences to both the community and the company. One of those consequences is described by Forbes magazine:

Outsourcing's unintended consequences for companies and industries that adapt it ... extend to the relations of these companies with one of their partners-labor. If each and every activity of the value chain is gradually farmed out, what binds labor with management and stockholders? If company engineers and marketers who develop new product ideas can sense that their jobs will eventually be farmed out, why should they be loyal to the company?

In response to the company's threat (imagined or implied) that all workers are expendable many of us feel great stress. We know that driving for Uber isn't going to provide health insurance and selling crafts on Etsy isn't going to provide a pension. So maybe we keep our heads down and our noses clean. We seek to please our managers, maybe by working through breaks or answering emails in the evenings or weekends.

And, especially if the manager is anti-Union, maybe that leads to a feeling that we have to "choose sides" when it comes to an issue that might involve the Union, as if the Union and the company are on different sides. Workers don't call in Stewards when facing discipline, they don't take advantage of all of the benefits won for them by the Union (including time off, breaks, etc), and I've even heard that some people don't want to come to Union Membership meetings because that would seem to be taking sides!

Sure, there are disagreements. Sometimes a company has one idea of what is in the best long-term interests of the business (such as short term profit over long term investment in a productive workforce) or they have interpreted the Contract in a way that the Union takes issue with. There isn't a need for any of us to have to "choose" our Company over our Union. We're part of both, and both parts are working for what is best for the company. Calling in the Union to be your voice in these matters is NOT taking sides, even if your manager doesn't like it! In this, we are all on the same side. Brian Fusie, manager of Employee and Labor Relations has stated that if a manager -- or any one -- engages in retaliation in any way the "penalty will be swift and severe."

We all want our companies to succeed and one very real way to do that is to make sure our Union succeeds. The voice of the worker has to be part of every consideration the company makes, for the benefit of the company and community.
Upcoming Membership Meetings
Unions = Gym Membership
Membership meetings are held the third Wednesday of the second month of the quarter, at 5:30 PM in the Union Office: 701 Watson Ave, Ste 102 in Madison.


February 17th, 2016
May 18th, 2016
August 17th, 2016
November 16, 2016 
This is your Union. Your participation gives us the tools we need to face the continued opposition of both companies and politicians. We strive to make the meetings relevant and to the point. Please  participate in the democracy that is your Union.
Know Your Rights!               
photopin by Weingarten Rights
The US Supreme Court has ruled that the National Labor Relations Act gives workers the right to request union representation during investigatory interviews by supervisors, security personal, and other managerial staff.  These are called Weingarten Rights.
An investigatory interview occurs if 1) management questions you to obtain information; and 2) you have reasonable apprehension that your answers could be used as a basis for discipline or other adverse action.
You must ask for union representation either before or during an investigatory interview.  Management does not have to remind you of this right.  If your request is refused and Management continues asking questions, you may refuse to answer.  Your employer is guilty of an unfair labor practice and charges may be filed.  If you are questioned in a situation where Weingarten may apply, read or present this statement:

"If this discussion could in any way lead to my being disciplined or terminated, or affect my personal working conditions, I respectfully request that my union representative, officer, or steward be present at this meeting. Until my representative arrives, I choose not to participate in this discussion." 
Today is the solstice, and although this is the darkest day of the year, things are looking up, with each coming day just a little brighter than the one before.

If you thought that the articles in this newsletter were a bit gloomy as well, just think that together we can make a much brighter 2016. We can stand together: to make our communities strong by making our Union strong. Together we can make a much brighter tomorrow.

Enjoy your holidays this season and we'll keep bringing you important information in the coming year.

In Solidarity,
OPEIU Local 39
Copyright OPEIU Local 39. Content written and/or edited by David O. Engelstad
Image of Madison Skyline via photopin (license)  
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