It has been several months since we communicated regarding your work with Verizon and your assistance in helping the company thwart workers’ efforts to form a union there. Since we did not hear back from you, we were uncertain whether or not our comments had any impact on you. We are disappointed to discover they did not.
A recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer about workers trying to form a union at Comcast says that you believe unions are using more sophisticated organizing tactics to “circumvent a democratic process that has proved ineffective for them” – National Labor Relations Board elections. You say that union-organizing campaigns amount to “extortion.”
You, however, are sorely mistaken. Last year, Comcast workers in Montgomery County, Md., contacted representatives of the Communications Workers of America to help them form a union. They felt they were being paid too little and were receiving inadequate raises and were dissatisfied with their health benefits. No one coerced them into contacting CWA. Their poor working conditions were enough to convince them they needed to form a union to make improvements.
A majority of the 230 employees who work for Comcast in the county then signed a petition indicating their desire to form a union with CWA and engage in collective bargaining. This, we believe, is democratic.
The onslaught from the company that ensues when Comcast workers organize in this manner, however, is not. Wherever Comcast workers have tried to form unions, they have been met with vicious opposition. About 2,000 workers in 15 different units have voted to form a union with the CWA, but Comcast has refused to reach agreement on contracts for any of the newly organized workers. Comcast routinely violates the National Labor Relations Act and then promises not to repeat the action when the NLRB threatens to cite them for the violations. Management has refused even a basic contract to Pennsylvania employees after two years. As happens during one in four private sector organizing campaigns, Comcast illegally fired two union leaders in Pennsylvania.
Similarly, in Maryland, union supporter Stephen White recently lost his job after receiving threats, verbal humiliation and an increased workload from management. Other workers in Maryland say they became subject to surveillance to see if they were attending union meetings at night, one-on-one questioning regarding their opinions on the union and even disrupted phone service. To devise these tactics, Comcast used the services of the anti-worker law firm Klett, Roonery, Leiber and Schorling, which, according to its own Web site, provides clients “with seasoned guidance in opposing union organizing drives.”
While the Inquirer article reveals your sympathies for the anti-worker position taken by Comcast, Professor Manheim, it neglects to mention that you provide services to companies in support of such campaigns, facilitating their efforts to avoid paying their workers good wages and benefits.
We once again ask that you consider the impact of the consulting work you do on working people. As graduates of GW, we believe you set a negative example for your students.
People deserve good wages, good jobs and a voice at work. It is immoral and illegal to stand in the way of that.
Brian Dolber and Bernard Pollack