Monday, September 29, 2014

Microsoft Changes Temp Benefits (April 3d 1999)

Below is a copy of an article published in the Seattle Times on April 3d 1999

It seems that some agencies, contrary to Lionbridge, are still providing today benefits similar to those required in 1999. 

If you know of such agencies presently working for Microsoft, please let us know.

Microsoft Changes Temp Benefits -- Workers Will Be Able To Choose Employment Agency

By Keith Ervin
Seattle Times Eastside Business Reporter
April 3rd 1999
Responding to the complaints of temporary workers, Microsoft is changing its contracts with employment agencies to improve benefits and give workers a choice of agencies.
About 6,000 temps were informed by the agencies yesterday of changes in Microsoft's contracting policy, effective May 3. Most of those workers are in Redmond.
Instead of being told by Microsoft which payroll agency they will work for, as is the current practice, workers will be able choose among competing agencies. The agencies are expected to provide at least the following benefits:
-- Thirteen paid days off each year, including sick leave, holidays and vacations.
-- Medical and dental coverage, with the employer paying half the cost.
-- Training opportunities worth $500 a year.
-- A 401(k) or other retirement program, with the employer partly matching employee contributions.
Sharon Decker, Microsoft's contingent-staffing director, said most agencies already provide some benefits, but their benefit packages are "all over the board."
The changes respond to some, but not all, of the most frequent complaints from temporary workers. Unhappiness over temporary-employment policies has led to two lawsuits by temps against Microsoft and to creation of a labor union, the Washington Alliance of Technical Workers, or WashTech.
"It sounds like we got quite a lot. I'm thrilled," said a former temp who now works for Microsoft as a full-time technical editor. The employee, who asked not to be identified, said she credits the changes at least in part to the union's pressure.
Marcus Courtney, co-founder and organizer of WashTech, called the change "a step in the right direction," but said the union still believes temps are treated as second-class workers.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Cost Of Living Adjustments and Inflation

Today I was asked if we could have raises linked to the evolution of the cost of living. 

A good question that led me to check for such an index and/or inflation rates that I thought were very low.

It turns out (as you can see) they are not so low:

Inflation rates

2012: 2,1%
2013: 1,5%
2014: not available yet for the whole year could be 1,5  then about 5,1% for the 3 yars

COLAS - Cost Of Living Adjustments

2012: 3,6%
2013: 1,7%
2014: 1,5%
total: 6.8%  + 2015 to come

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Friday, September 19, 2014

No objections were filed: Temporary Workers of America is certified

Here is the text of the email from NLRB:

Hi Philippe,
No objections were filed so we issued a certification of representation today which you should receive in the mail this weekend.  As of today, Temporary Workers of America represents a unit of all Tier 1 employees employed by Lionbridge at its Redmond location.
Daniel Hickey

I informed them of our future move very soon to a new location in Bellevue.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Waiting for challenges?

Lionbridge's attorney stated last Thursday, before the results of the vote were known that they intended to "challenge" the votes we challenged (the 3 Tiers 2s) and the choice of Marilyse as our observer.

It's not clear what they can expect to achieve with such challenges as I doubt the final result can be reversed but they have until Thursday to proceed.

If they post those challenges I don't know how they'll be processed: I asked NLRB about their potential impact but did not receive yet an answer.

Let us be patient.

If you have questions or if you hear questions, thanks for forwarding them.

I recently found this page devoted to Eleanor Roosevelt's quotes about unions: I found it interesting and inspiring.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The union won!

Today, Temporary Workers of America won the vote with 18 votes in favor vs 13 votes against.
3 votes were challenged and not counted but counting them would not have changed the final result.

By the way, the email sent by the management about this issue was in complete violation of the prohibition of electioneering after Tuesday 12pm and it's content was completely wrong.

The challenge never meant to prevent anybody to vote and it was in full compliance with the law that allows any party to challenge votes. What was in violation of the law was the management's email.

That did not change the final result but it was really shocking.

Thank you for all who supported our efforts: we know this is only one step forward in a long and arduous process but that's encouraging.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Fifth and last propaganda session: the more sessions, the more they stay the same

You are smart: you have patiently and politely listened to the repetitive arguments trying to make you believe not trying to change anything is the best choice.

I should not worry or doubt one second your capacity to see through this attempt and in fact I don't. 

It's more my own frustration of having been forced to listen silently because I know better than wasting energy in useless debates. 

Therefore I'll resist the temptation to go on and on when our daily reality is the best antidote.

Please excuse the few remarks I cannot prevent myself to make: at least you are not obliged to read them and thank you if you do with all my apologies for not being the best advocate I'd like to be for our own common interests.

As I think about what we heard today and what I am trying to summarize now I feel it's like closing arguments in a trial.

During those 5 sessions Lionbridge has tried to convince us they are on our side and that our best interests are better taken care of by dealing with them on a one on one basis.

They have to convince us of that so that we decide and vote against our own interests: our best interest is not aligned with Lionbridge's best interest, at least the way LB is presently managed. 

LB only wants to maximize it's profits by giving us as little as possible. 

This situation is best defended by preventing us to organize and present a united front. 

They have to convince us a union is a bad idea that is against our own interests while of course the exact oppose is true.

If they have been able to make you believe the present balance of power is the most favorable to your interests they'll win. 

I am always amazed when people vote against their own interests but it happens very often.

Such is the power of the dominant ideology: the ideas that are the most frequently expressed, that represent the dominant interests, dominate.

In our case LB's dominant self interest is to keep paying us as little as possible, as they have managed to do and as they kept telling us they would continue to do.

Bottom line: whom do you trust as having your best interests at heart?

A few points they made:

LB seemed concerned about union dues. As mentioned earlier our proposed goal is $2 per month, $10 for this year if you agree about this rate. Is it excessive? You are not obliged to join the union, even at this rate.

It was ironic to hear again Obama care trumpeted as a benefit to come thanks to Lionbridge's generosity when it's a legal obligation and it's not even clear their proposal will be more interesting than what you eventually already have (through your spouse/partner for instance) nor how much we would have to pay anyway.

Is having a union going to be very time consuming?
To the point where you don't have time for your kids or for any leisure? 

You could almost cry at this argument if it was not coming from a company that does not provide any paid time off, no paid family time, nothing.

It was a bit much but how revealing of how out of touch they are (while they -of course- do have paid time off for themselves).

On our side, this whole election process did not require one big meeting: almost everything happened during short conversations during breaks and lunches with an extensive use of email and the blog.

Who would remain focused on physical meetings when one can use the net?

Of course we remained completely available when someone wanted to talk.

We are a small group of people who have been in the same boat for quite a while and we can relate on a different level than what can be shared with management.

Asking for basic benefits is not rocket science and who is not for it?

It's true we have been through many changes except for remaining classified as temps and not gaining any raise or real benefit like paid time off of any kind for 2,5 years: no paid sick leave, no paid family leave, not one cent, not one day.

Can you believe you have any chance to get anything of this kind by yourself and only for yourself?

The 12+ people who signed the cards asking for an election did it because they believed it was the right thing to do to defend the interests we all share that Lionbridge has been refusing to address with the one on one individual system they want to maintain.

You have already been subjected to too many propaganda sessions, just remember the text of the notice Lionbridge was forced to email to each of us: we have the right to organize. Why not exercise this right?

Thank you for your patience

Take good care

PS: yes I did not comment on the lack of unions in the high tech industry. 

It would take too long but as v-dashes at the bottom of the lab scale we know all about the discrimination and the huge inequalities created by the high tech industry that would like the public to believe all the employees are treated like royalty. 

You know better. 

It's true that creating a union in such an environment would be quite a change. 

A good change.

Monday, September 8, 2014

4 questions to NLRB and a surprise move from Lionbridge

As I was preparing myself to be an observer for the election I sent those 4 questions to NLRB's Daniel Hickey:

Hi Daniel,

1. Does my status of 'observer' prevents me to vote?

2. May I ask who is the observer for Lionbridge?

3. Is it allowed to bring/read a book/newspaper?

4. Is it allowed to take notes (not related to the people voting)? I am interested in writing a few things if it is allowed. 

Thank you

Here are his answers:

Hello Philippe,

I have copied Employer attorney Tim O’Connell on my responses to your 4 questions below:

1.      No, you are an eligible voter.  There is Board case law that found that found a union official acting as the union’s observer in an decertification election was objectionable, meaning the election had to be rerun.  Butera Finer Foods, 334 NLRB 43 (2001).  However, the union observer in Butera was a full-time employee of the union, not an eligible voter or an employee of the employer, and the Board specifically stated in footnote 7 that its holding did not apply to non-decertification elections such as the one here.  I am not aware of a case that states it is objectionable for a union official, who is also an employee and an eligible voter, to act as the union's election observer.

2.      The Employer intends to have non-supervisory HR administrative assistant Sara D’Jiovanis act as its observer.

3.      I encourage both observers to bring books to read, but no campaign or political literature and no electronic devices of any kind, including e-readers, kindles, tablets, etc.

4.      Neither observer can takes notes or write during the election.

Let me know if you have any further questions.

Here is the email sent by Lionbridge's attorney: 

Thank you for copying me.  I do not want to surprise you at the pre-election conference:  we are going to object to Mr. Boucher serving as an observer.  We believe he has become the public face of the Union, and therefore should not be permitted pursuant to Section 11310.2 of the Case Handling Manual (“A union official should not serve as an observer even if he/she is also an employee of the employer.”)

Having said that, I wholly agree that Mr. Boucher is an eligible voter, and I have no concerns about the other issues identified in your e-mail.

Best regards,


Timothy J. O'Connell
Stoel Rives
600 University St., Ste. 3600
Seattle, WA  98101

I had no idea I had 'become the public face of the Union' and that precluded my being an observer as this issue was never raised earlier but better now than Thursday morning. 

As I didn't especially relish spending the whole day in an hotel room even with an excellent book and as our main concern is not to delay the election we are going to look for a courageous replacement. 

Not sure what NLRB will decide as they did not seem to have anticipated this objection. 

We'll keep you informed.

Have a good evening.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Latest news before the week end

Here is the email I received today from NLRB:

I spoke to the hotel and they cannot assign us a room until later in the evening the night before the election or early the next morning on September 11, 2014.  However, they do promise that we will have an room number assigned to us by7:00 Am and that the room will be clean and ready for our use well before the 10:30 Am pre-election conference.  I will email the room number to both of you as soon as I get it on September 11, so the Employer and Union can then inform the voters of the room number.  I suggest we also distribute the room number by email. 

So you'll know only on thursday the exact location but it's not a problem. Maybe you can start figuring out how you'll get there and eventually with whom: although voting is an individual affair you can still make the trip to the election place a group project (more fun).

Each of you should have received from Brent the 3 paqes Notice of election document. 

A few words about the "authorized observers": Lionbridge and the Union have an 'observer' that checks everything is done according to the rules. I'll (Philippe) be the observer for us.

There are strict neutrality rules applying to the observers so don't expect me to greet you with joyful demonstations as they are prohibited. Don't think I have become a cold snobbish fish, I'll just abide by the rules that spell for the observers:


. Keep any list of individuals who have or have not voted
. Talk to any voter in line to vote, except as instructed by the Board Agent (Greeting voters as they approach to vote is acceptable)
. Give any help to any voter. Only a Board Agent can assist the voter.
. Electioneer at any place during the hours of the election.
. Discuss or argue about the election
. Leave the election area without the Board Agent's permission.
.Use any electronic media or device, including cell phones, laptop computers, personal digital assistants (PDAs), mobile email devices, wired or wireless data transmission and recording devices, etc. (Please turn off or disable those devices before entering the polling area).

So basically no communication for me during the whole election process.

VoilĂ .

Have a good week-end.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Fourth Lionbridge's propaganda session: same as before.

Today's meeting provided the same anti-union content and the same focus on eventual risks.

Of course, despite their dire predictions, they cannot be sure of anything we, 
-as we Tier1s are going to be the union if we vote for it- are going to do: we'll decide together everything we want to try to achieve. 

We can simply decide to focus on a few key issues we would like to see improved, like wages, paid time off and not deal at all with seniority and else. 

It's up to us: why would we reduce flexibiliy if it's useful for us?

Yes the money for improvements in our situation will have to come from somewhere: LB's profits, LB's share of the pie will have to be reduced. 
Obviously not something they want to consider.

Why would we try to hurt ourselves, hurt the people who are in the very same boat we are on?

Classic use of the fear and arguing that one can get more individually than via a collective effort. 

This was all very repetitive and it's difficult to assess who can be convinced by those assertions but for the insidious fear factor, and the impact of repetition.

Brace yourself for a final session next Tuesday.

Take good care

PS: I found a bit strange Brent's answer about Microsoft not being billed for those sessions while the hour spent voting will have to be processed separately. But that's another story.