Sunday, August 17, 2014

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.

Can you introduce yourself by telling us a little about  personal background (what's your familial status, what degrees you eventually have, where and how long you have worked, when you started working with Lionbridge).

I am from France but I have lived in the US on Bainbridge Island since 1999. 

We now have 4 grown children. 

I studied in France with degrees in law, communications and political science (from the Sorbonne). 

I mostly worked in advocacy for not for profit organizations, lastly in international tobacco control where I promoted the use of the internet and new tools like blogs and podcasting. 

When I was hired by Lionbridge in December 2011, I had been out of full time work for 3 years.

Q1. How did you feel when you started working with LB?
I felt an immense relief from having at last found a full time position after 3 years of episodic consulting jobs, translations and such.

Q2. How do you feel now?
I am tired of still being classified as a ‘temporary’ employee after more then 2,5 years of full time presence and the absence of any paid time off and health insurance despite numerous requests expressed individually and collectively that never received any answer.

Q3. What type of benefits would you like to get?
Paid sick leave, paid family leave (several co-workers are expecting babies or had babies and got nothing from Lionbridge), paid vacation, health insurance. It’s hard to live alongside people who get all of that, return refreshed and excited from their vacation while you are stuck at work.

Q4. What benefits do you miss the most?
I miss the most paid vacation because it prevents me from visiting my family, attend family events if they are a bit far away. Money is so tight that missing one day of work is always a problem.

Q5. Did you have benefits on your previous jobs?
In the US I only worked as an independent consultant so I did not have benefits but I was making much more than now. In France I always had benefits when I worked full time. Temporary workers get full benefits from day one and accrue paid vacation from one month at their job.

Q6. What made you decide to sign a card supporting a vote for a union?
Frustration at never getting an answer from Lionbridge except no while we could see the company was doing very well by reading the quarterly reports and the declarations of the CEO with plenty of stock being bought back. Plus being at Microsoft’s that pampers its own ‘blue badge’ employees but completely neglects the v-dash, the ‘permatemps’ when it would be super-easy for them to make sure they are fairly treated: they did it for a short period at the end of the 90s. Why cannot they be really a good corporate citizen (as they claim) and do it again?

Q7. Have you been part of a union before?
Never.

Q8. Did you know about the NLRB existence before?
Once a lawyer, always a lawyer. I did research the ways people can formulate demands at work and studied the NLRB’s procedures. Everything is available on line and if the legalese style does not bother you it’s easy to understand but I think most of my co-workers have no idea of NLRB. I could be wrong.

Q9. Do you think LB can afford providing benefits?
Of course they can.

Q10. Rumor is that Microsoft pas much as $60 per hour. Do you believe it's true? Have you heard different guesstimates?
I have heard guesstimates from $40 to $60 and more. How much Microsoft pays LB for our work is top secret. In the 90s there was apparently a project in Washington State to pass a law that would have made disclosing how much the contractor is paid mandatory. It did not pass.

Q11. How do you feel about Microsoft?
Microsoft is completely neglecting half its workforce that consists of v-dashs, permatemps. As they are not organized it’s easy for them to do although their neglect is only breeding frustration and resentment. The suppliers don’t dare risking offending Microsoft and they have zero incentive to share more equitably the bundle that Microsoft pays them: their employees are not organized and with so much unemployment their individual negotiating power is very limited.

Q12. How do you feel about the v- status?
I would not care that much if we had proper benefits but I think it’s an humiliating discrimination. It’s a sign of a very discriminatory culture.

Q13. What do you think of the recently announced decision by Microsoft to limit all contracts to an 18 month period and a 6 months break out?
It does not make sense. I think that if they really try to implement it, huge problems will happen and of course a lot of pain and suffering in the community Microsoft claims to care about. It’s establishing precarity.

Q14. Did you know that at the end of the 90s Microsoft required its suppliers to provide their employees with 13 days of paid time off and some level of health insurance?
I did because I researched the issues and several articles and books tell this story although they never give much more details nor they explain why it stopped.

Q15. How would you feel if Microsoft was reintroducing such a requirement (without the possibility for the suppliers to reduce their employees present compensation)?
It would make sense. Win-win solution for Microsoft: it would cost them very little or nothing considering the probable high mark up the suppliers have and they would gain the love of their v-dash after years of neglect. It would be great for their image as a compassionate and caring company not an indifferent giant. It would be a cultural revolution but I am not sure Microsoft’s leadership can have such a vision.

Q16. If the vote about the union is in favor of the creation, what do you expect/hope can be obtained via collective bargaining?
I don’t know. I hope we can obtain the benefits I mentioned earlier. There is more than collective bargaining per se to get results. Microsoft can be very influential, one way or the other and who knows what can happen with the social media.

Q17. How much do you think is a reasonable union fee (per month), if any?
$10, $20, $50, more? other?
As most of us are really tight with money I think the fees should be minimal. $2 per month maybe? It can only work with volunteers but I think that is possible. 

Existing unions are in a different context that is fine for them but not for us. 

We have to start something new, a new type of union, while I definitely share the same social justice values of the existing unions.

Q18. Any question you would like to ask about the present situation and the vote about a union?
We just had our first information/session by the Lionbridge’s management about why we should not vote for a union. I found it interesting: the word ‘benefits’ was not uttered. That makes sense since we don’t have any.

Q19. Anything you would like to add/share?
I wish it would be easy to communicate with all the co-workers to hear how they feel and share with them what we hope to achieve. 

I hope that using the internet tools and having the opportunity to talk during breaks we can do that. 

It did not take place when we collected the authorization cards because it had to be done in a secretive way: there is still a significant fear of retaliation against people trying to organize. T

hat’s frustrating when it’s perfectly legal and supposedly protected. 

NLRB could also get more modern, accept authorization cards filled on line, have internet based elections, etc. 

They are still very much in the past but maybe it’s the conservatives at the top that have been delaying technological reforms that would make it much easier for employees to organize?

Thank you for taking the time to answer those questions.

Are willing to have your answers shared or do you prefer to keep them confidential? 

The questionnaire you can use (or not) 

if you do, email it back to philippeboucher2atgmail.com
Thank you

Can you introduce yourself by telling us a little about  personal background (approximately how old you are, what's your familial status, what degrees you eventually have, where and how long you have worked, when you started working with Lionbridge).

Q1. How did you feel when you started working with LB?

Q2. How do you feel now?

Q3. What type of benefits would you like to get?

Q4. What benefits do you miss the most?

Q5. Did you have benefits on your previous jobs?

Q6. What made you decide to sign a card supporting a vote for a union?

Q7. Have you been part of a union before?

Q8. Did you know about the NLRB existence before?

Q9. Do you think LB can afford providing benefits?

Q10. Rumor is that Microsoft pas much as $60 per hour. Do you believe it's true? Have you heard different guesstimates?

Q11. How do you feel about Microsoft?

Q12. How do you feel about the v- status?

Q13. What do you think of the recently announced decision by Microsoft to limit all contracts to an 18 month period and a 6 months break out?

Q14. Did you know that at the end of the 90s Microsoft required its suppliers to provide their employees with 13 days of paid time off and some level of health insurance?

Q15. How would you feel if Microsoft was reintroducing such a requirement (without the possibility for the suppliers to reduce their employees present compensation)?

Q16. If the vote about the union is in favor of the creation, what do you expect/hope can be obtained via collective bargaining?

Q17. How much do you think is a reasonable union fee (per month), if any?
$10, $20, $50, more? other?

Q18. Any question you would like to ask about the present situation and the vote about a union?

Q19. Anything you would like to add/share?

Thank you for taking the time to answer those questions.

Are willing to have your answers shared or do you prefer to keep them confidential? 


No comments:

Post a Comment