Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Third Lionbridge's propaganda session: more of the same.

Today we learned where the vote will take place and that we'll get paid for it. That goes with LB's desire to have as many people as possible voting: we certainly agree on that. Here is the message from NLRB: 

We will hold the election at the Extended Stay Suites located at 15805 NE 28th St., which is about a 12 minute walk from Microsoft Building 3.
I have reserved an extra large ground floor suite which employees can park in front of.  I will provide the room number once I receive it form the hotel. The hotel should be able to remove the bed from the room but has not promised that yet.
I propose polling from 11 AM to 1:30 PM and 2:30 to 4:30 PM.

Remember the vote is anonymous and secret.

We completely disagree with LB's assertion that a union is a business and their other claims about what is needed and how costly it's going to be. 

In Washington State a union is incorporated under Chapter 24.06 RCW, the non profit miscellaneous and mutual corporations act. 

There is no need to incorporate before a positive vote takes place as you can check with the NLRB (as we did). 

Our union, if we vote to create one, is going to operate on a voluntary basis as it has until now and because of our small size we don't anticipate any complex reporting, nor any need for high fees, that will be decided together. 

We had mentioned $2 per month as a possibility. 

Even when already existing unions ask for a fee, their members only pay once the contract has been approved with a pay increase that covers the fees. 

In any case that's not how we plan to operate but it was interesting to see how LB wanted to paint such a dark and negative picture of a union that will be formed by the very people who were in the room and are doing such a good job but cannot obtain any raise or real benefits (not legal obligations) because that would put LB's competitiveness in danger.

Of course they cannot tell us anything about how much they are paid by Microsoft and they cannot afford a cost of living increase.

We should mostly be thankful they did not reduce our hours to 30 per week.

They continue hammering the union could not promise or guarantee anything as if we had done any of that while LB itself does not promise or guarantee anything either.

You can reread the answers to the FAQ posted on the blog as they provide more information on those issues.

It was interesting to hear that Microsoft does not tell them how much to pay their employees because in the late 90s when the class action was taking place Microsoft did require it's contractors to provide benefits, some health insurance and up to $500 worth of training.

Who is to say they could not do it again while the WA legislature has considered mandatory paid sick leave (like in Seattle) and some paid time off. Nothing passed because of the Republican control of the Senate but this could change in the next elections.

In any case we can ask for those changes that are supported by many very active organizations like

But we are not there yet.

I realize I forgot to mention the lie about annual performance reviews but we all know there was none.

As for the few people (4) who used to be Tier2, now working as Tier1 but who kept their full time regular classification and benefits it is now clear they should not vote as Richard told us Tier1 status could only be temporary flexible without benefits.

To finish on a more positive  note our friend Wei (who was fired despite her seniority) has found another job she likes.

I hope all this propaganda did not impact you negatively while we prepare ourselves for an unpaid Labor Day.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

About Lionbridge's second propaganda session

For their second propaganda session Lionbridge stuck to it's favorite strategy: fear.

The main red cape to frighten us is THE STRIKE that the union could impose on us, bringing ruin to all.

The only problem with this scenario as Eric pointed in his previous FAQ post is that if ever a strike was considered (very unlikely) you would have to vote for it as you will have to approve an eventual contract.

Lionbridge claimed that a union makes promises but in fact can guarantee nothing: we have made no promises and we know that winning the elections would only be one  step toward a negotiating table where Lionbridge could concede nothing. 

We only believe we have a better chance to obtain something by collective bargaining than by one on one discussions with Brent.

While Lionbridge trumpets the family like climate we have seen how difficult he tried to make it recently for one of us who needed to go take care of his dad. 

This unpaid leave is supposedly one of the "benefits" we have now?

It's just the law in WA and Lionbridge is not that willing to implement it: so much for empathy and compassion.

Today a coworker asked to leave one hour before time because his wife needed him to take care of their infant daughter. 

The Tier2 reaction was mostly about how he would be able to compensate or not for this one hour absence: so much for flexibility and empathy.

All what Lionbridge listed as "benefits" are legal obligations they cannot avoid. 

You know (and they know) very well we have 0 benefits but for the meager 401k.

The generosity of Lionbridge has consisted of not reducing our hours while they tell us they considered it.

Do you seriously believe they could have done it? 

No way and of course it supposedly puts them in the drivers seat when they are not: the real driver is Microsoft.

Lionbridge told us that Microsoft had been informed of the petition and did not want to get involved (as we assumed they would react at this stage).

We were assured we were doing an excellent job, that the client was satisfied but did we hear anything about a raise and some real benefits? 

No we only heard about their concern for their profitability. 

The only way for us to get some bigger share of the profits is to vote for the union and bargain collectively. 

There is no guarantee but it's the only chance we have and it's our right to do it as they themselves emphasized in the notice they were forced to send us.

Who can you trust to defend your interests? Yourself and your pals within your union or Brent and co?

Of course you know the answer to this question.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Who is TWA?

TWA = Temporary Workers of America
A collective bargaining unit formed to represent Lionbridge Tier One (T1) employees. 
Philippe Boucher (who signed the petition form so his name is known by Lionbridge since August 5) and Eric Osnes (writing this FAQ) have been particularly active but each of the co-workers who signed the 'authorization cards', representing more than 30%  of T1s (at least 12 people) is a fundamental part of TWA. You are welcome at any time to join us and volunteer.

Why Has It Been Formed?

Lionbridge T1 employees are considered by Lionbridge as Temporary Full-Time Employees. (Refer to your employment documents.) Although being “full-time employees” we are denied the following:
-       Periodic raises
-       Paid time off (vacation)
-       Paid sick leave
-       Health insurance
-       Advancement opportunities within the company
We are however offered participation in the company’s 401(K) plan, but note that they start you off with automatic deductions whether you agree to it or not. You must actively go to the Fidelity website to stop those deductions which can add a significant amount of money to your take-home pay.

It is known that a number of T1’s have gone to Brent Willems to negotiate their own compensation packages. Some have succeeded; others have not and been laid off. 

TWA was formed to act as a collective bargaining unit with Lionbridge to negotiate getting the benefits we deserve.

Why Haven’t I Heard About TWA Before The Lionbridge Meeting?

We had to be secretive about getting people to sign the union cards. In that instance there was a possibility that we would be retaliated against by Lionbridge (that's what happened to Marilyse) and we also did not want to tip our hand. We were very careful about who we spoke to based on what we perceived the individuals response would be. It was clear that some people would be adamantly opposed to the idea while others readily embraced it. We needed 30% of the T1s to sign up and we succeeded in reaching that number even though it took several months to accomplish.

Can I be fired by Lionbrige for participating in TWA?

No. This would be considered retaliation and is strictly illegal under Federal Law, the NLRB, and in direct conflict with Microsoft’s Supplier Code of Conduct (which applies to Lionbridge). Were Lionbridge do this they would face severe legal penalties and public relations nightmare.

Will This Affect Lionbridge’s Ability To Continue Work For Microsoft?

There is strong evidence that Microsoft will not interfere and that they will embrace this change if they really stand by their Human Rights commitment.

“As a signatory to the UN Global Compact, Microsoft is committed to respecting all of the human rights described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

We recognize that as a leading technology provider with global operations, our business can help to promote – or be used to impede – human rights. The stakes grow higher every year as information and communications technologies (ICT) become ever more important in how people work, learn and interact with one another.

We recognize the important responsibility we have to respect human rights and we aim to bring the power of technology to bear to promote respect for human rights throughout the world.”

From the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

“Article 23
(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 24
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.”

We encourage you to read the other declarations that Microsoft is a signatory to and has committed to.

An important note: you will not find any such commitment publicly posted on the Lionbridge website.

Any significant interference by Microsoft could be interpreted as a sign they are a 'joint-employer', something they are especially trying to avoid since the Vizcaino class action.

What Is Lionbridge’s Responsibility To Microsoft?

From the Microsoft Supplier Code of Conduct:

“Through the Standards of Business Conduct, Microsoft has established company standards that include ethical business practices and regulatory compliance. These standards apply to all Microsoft employees, directors, and officers. Similarly, Microsoft expects its suppliers to embrace this commitment to integrity by complying with and training its employees on the Microsoft Supplier Code of Conduct.”

Microsoft expects its Suppliers to share its commitment to human rights and equal opportunity in the workplace. All Microsoft Suppliers must conduct their employment practices in full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations, and must, without limitation:

Respect workers’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining in accordance with legal requirements. As noted above, we require that Suppliers not engage in discrimination in hiring, compensation, access to training, promotion, termination, and/or retirement based on union membership.”

Lionbridge Said That A Union Would Complicate The Relationship Between Employees And Management. Is This True?

It is only true if that is how Lionbridge decides to work with us. More often than not Unions work side by side with management to ensure the welfare and success of the company while also protecting the employees from exploitation by the company. This is more the rule than the exception.

And remember, YOU are the union. So they are working with YOU, not some evil, nebulous organization. And wouldn’t you prefer to have an influence on things that affect you directly at work?

Lionbridge Has Said That There Will Be Strikes And That Would Mean No Paychecks Or Benefits. Is This True?

This is a blatant scare tactic being used by Lionbridge. Also, notice that they said benefits. Do you get benefits now?

Strikes only occur when things go badly between management and the union. Furthermore, they only occur IF THE MEMBERSHIP VOTES FOR A STRIKE. That means YOU. Union officials have no say whether or not to call a strike. Such an action must be approved by the membership.

Also, many critical unions have “no strike” clauses in the contracts they negotiate with their companies.

So no, it is highly unlikely that a strike would ever occur and it would require YOU to authorize one.

Why Don’t We Go To Lionbridge And Negotiate For Benefits Without Forming A Union?

We have heard this question quite a lot. The truth of the matter is that it will not work. There is nothing binding in whatever concessions we were to receive whereas with the union the contract is binding on all parties and subject to NLRB enforcement.

As mentioned before, it is known that individuals have gone to Brent Willems on their own to make their own deals. There is nothing preventing you from doing this but the results are mixed. Some people have successfully obtained benefits and pay increases FOR DOING THE SAME WORK YOU DO. Others have subsequently been fired. You take your chances.

More to the point, if you are successful, do you think it is fair that you should get those extras when your colleagues don’t?

Questions to Ask Yourself while Deciding your Vote

Can you afford to take a day off to take your significant other to the doctor?

Can you afford to take a day off to attend your daughters graduation?

Are you expecting a baby? Can you afford to take time off to spend with your new baby? Or be there when the baby is born?

Do you come into work sick because you can’t afford to lose a day’s pay?

When was the last time you had an actual vacation? A vacation where you didn’t have to worry about losing your pay?

How much do you pay for your health insurance? Do you have health insurance? If so, what’s your deductible?

How does it feel to see T2’s and above come back to work all refreshed after having been on vacation?

How does it feel to be told that you can’t take time off to tend to a sick parent? Child? Partner?

How do you like being forced to take certain holidays off and not get paid for them?

What's it like living paycheck to paycheck?

What’s it like working day in and day out for months/years on end with virtually no breaks except for holidays and weekends?

How do you feel working for a company that offers no advancement or paid training opportunities (for example, certifications to improve your skills)?

Are you the sole breadwinner in the family? How is that working for you and your family?

Are you actively looking for a new job so you can escape this one? How is that working?

Do you like being treated as the lowest level employee in the building?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

How is Lionbridge doing financially? The results for 2013

From the Annual report for 2013: Cash Flow 2013= $28.8 million
acquired 1.7 million shares of its common stock for %5.2 million
See details below.

A personal story about how we came to trying to form a union

As Lionbridge tries to portray "The UNION" as this unknown monster coming from somewhere else to take over I thought it could be useful to show what it was really like.
I thought it would be interesting to ask co-workers to share their personal experience of the present situation so I devised a set of questions that they could use (or not) if they wanted to share their story.
Here is mine (below).
You can find the questionnaire at the end of my answers. Feel free to use it or to write your own story without using the questions, or ignore the whole thing. 
Nota: this document can remain anonymous, ie no name given and too personal details avoided... Since I am already "out" I did not feel concerned about it.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

What is Temporary Workers of America? How to create a union?

After yesterday's meeting with Lionbridge's management it was clear that many people had no idea how a union can be created and what type of union Temporary Workers of America (TWA) is.

I apologize for the secrecy that was part of the birth of TWA and here are a few precisions.

Temporary Workers of America is born of the frustrations of Lionbridge Technologies employees who remain classified as temps, temporary workers, while they have been working full time often for more than two years while the initial period mentioned on the contract was 8 months.

This misclassification is used by Lionbridge to deny any essential benefit, like earned/paid sick leave, earned/paid family leave, earned/paid vacation, health insurance...

A few people got tired of it, especially after a friend was immediately fired in August 2013 after she had the audacity to ask publicly about benefits in a small meeting convened by the management.

Temporary Workers of America chose not to affiliate (at least for now) with any existing union although we do have some regular contacts with at least one of them: TWA consists only of the people, classified as Tier1s, who work at the bottom of the workforce at Lionbridge.

Since March 2014 there have been 20 founding members.

Working at Lionbridge/Microsoft is certainly not as bad as working at other places that are terrible but this is no justification for not providing basic benefits that are in fact essential rights, when the company is highly profitable.

In our case Lionbridge is contracting with Microsoft, another hugely profitable company. We'll consider later Microsoft's role in the present situation.

How do you start your own independent union? It's a simple process: you need to collect the signatures of at least 30% of the employees that share the same classification in your workplace. 

For us there were first about 65 people then after a recent layoff this number dropped to about 37 (we are not totally sure about the real status of a few people).

30% means getting at least 12 people to sign what is called an authorization card (see picture).

Once you have reached the 30% threshold you can bring the cards to the local National Labor Relations Board, situated in downtown Seattle and ask them, by signing a petition, to organize an election with all the concerned employees.

That's what we did on August 5th and this election is planned for September 11, 2014.

Because of a long history of repression by employers against employees trying to organize (after all in our lab Marilyse was fired) the names of the people having signed the petition can remain secret: the NLRB does not release them.

I have decided to 'come out' so that employees who have no clue about who we are could at least have one person to contact easily. 

My choice is made easier by the fact that the employer knows my commitment to TWA since I am the one who signed the petition that was delivered to them.

More people will eventually do the same but it's up to them to do so or not and I completely understand and respect their choice.

Don't hesitate to contact me. I'll be available to talk during the breaks and at lunchtime.

Please don't engage with me about the union while we are inside the lab as we are -by law- not allowed to do so.

Thanks in advance for your concern and I hope you'll join us.

Philippe Boucher

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What employers can and cannot do

Following up on the email LB sent yesterday I looked for more information about what employers can and cannot do in the context of a union drive.

I found this site (pro-employer) quite detailed and informative.

I have reproduced below the key parts.

What Employers Can’t Do

The following covers some activities that constitute unfair labor practices. Make sure that you don’t:
  • Discriminate in any way against any employee for participating in union activities. This prohibition applies to all aspects of employee relations.
  • Promise or grant benefits to your employees (such as wage increases, holidays, benefits or improvements in working conditions) to encourage them to abandon the union.
  • Make threats based on employee support of the union, including threats of discharge, layoffs, plant closure or discontinuing current benefits.
  • Interrogate your employees or prospective applicants concerning union-organizing activities.
  • Prevent pro-union oral solicitation by employees during nonworking hours and breaks.
  • Prohibit union insignia on shirts and jackets.
  • Engage in surveillance of employees to determine their views on the union.
  • Take a straw vote of employees as to whether they favor or don’t favor the union, except in special circumstances and in accordance with legally mandated procedures designed to protect employees. (Consult your legal counsel.) 
Although not necessarily unfair labor practices, the following conduct may result in invalidation of an election:
  • Campaigning on company time and premises within 24 hours of an NLRB-scheduled election. Meetings held off-premises may take place under special circumstances.
  • Reproducing and distributing official NLRB ballots and showing employees how to mark them.
  • Discussing the union with employees in a supervisor’s office, regardless of the noncoercive tenor of your remarks.
  • Prohibiting distribution of union literature in nonwork areas during nonwork time, such as in the lunchroom during the lunch hour.
  • Requiring employees to wear “Vote No” buttons in the plant or office.

What Employers Can Do

You may hold meetings with your employees on company time and property to answer questions and discuss the company’s position and unionization. Just make sure the meetings aren’t held in a supervisor’s office. Talk with employees at their own workstations or in a group meeting. You can also mail literature to the employees’ homes, stating the company’s position, but be careful what you say.
Here are some of the things you can say:
  • Describe the good features of working for your company, such as existing benefits, job security and steady work.
  • Remind them that signing union authorization cards doesn't mean they must vote for the union.
  • Inform them of the disadvantages of belonging to a union, such as the possibility of strikes, serving on picket lines, paying dues, fines and assessments.
  • Explain the meaning of the phrases “dues checkoff” and “union shop.”
  • Inform them of any prior experience you’ve had with unions and what facts you know about the particular union that’s trying to organize them.
  • Tell your employees how their wages and benefits compare with other unionized and nonunionized companies with less desirable packages.
  • Disclose the names of known gangsters or other undesirable elements who may be or have been active in the union, provided this is accurate information that can be verified by official sources.
  • Inform them that, insofar as their status with the company is concerned, they are free to join or not to join any organization they choose.
  • Express the hope that your employees vote against this or any union. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Lionbridge does not believe that you need a union

From: Gordon, Richard
Sent: Tuesday, August 12, 2014 5:24 PM
To: Tier1s
Subject: Important message to the Lionbridge Everest Tier one team
Dear Everest Team Member:
As most of you know, on August 1, 2014, Temporary Workers of America filed a petition for an election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), an agency of the United States government.   The NLRB will process the petition and decide when and if an election is to be held.
If an election is held, Lionbridge will work with the NLRB to ensure that all of you get the opportunity to vote in a secret ballot election.
Over the next several weeks, Brent and I will communicate with you so that you have truthful and factual information before you vote. 

 I will be visiting the Redmond operations in the coming weeks.

 I hope to have an opportunity to visit with each of you and to respond to any questions or listen to any statements you feel comfortable sharing.  

Lionbridge does not believe that you need a union. 

We prefer to communicate and resolve matters directly with our employees. 

In the coming days, we ask that you have an open mind and listen to what we have to say before you make this important decision.
Rich Gordon
VP, Global Enterprise Solutions
Lionbridge Technologies, Inc
423 N Ancestor Place, #180, Boise ID 83704
w. 208 321 4425 |  m. 208 871 0286

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Our petition has been filed with NLRB: Case 19-RC-134044

Our petition has officially been filed on August 5 with the NLRB regional bureau in downtown Seattle.
It is now Case 19-RC-134044
What's next will depend on how Lionbridge reacts.
Their attitude will determine how fast or how slow the vote for/against a union takes place.
It will also be interesting to watch Microsoft's reaction.
Here is the link to the NLRB's page about the process.