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

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