Feb 22, 2008

The Truth about forming a union at Stanley

This story can also be read over at Vermont workers' Center. It was written by
By James Haslam

The Truth About Forming A Union at Stanley

[published in the St. Albans Messenger, Saturday, Feb 16th in support of workers forming a union at Stanley Inc, a federal contractor at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service center in St. Albans]

By James Haslam

Since 1998, the Vermont Workers' Center has operated a free informational service called the Vermont Workers Rights Hotline. During that time we have learned how hard it is for non-union workers in this state. "At-will" employment means lots of workers lose their jobs every day for no reason. Non-union workers also suffer from unpaid wages, unfair treatment, sudden schedule changes and arbitrary reductions in benefits.

During the past decade, the largest single source of workers rights hotline calls has been Vermont Service Center in St. Albans. When it was Labatt- Anderson we got lots of calls. When it changed over to SCOT, there was even more calls. And now, with Stanley, the calls have increased even further. In the past, workers have called about forced mandatory overtime, unfair firings and discipline, and poor treatment. Hotline callers from the VWC have also talked about the lack of raises, the wage re-classifications, and the loss of personal and sick time. Most recently, VSC workers have called the hotline to ask for the truth about the misinformation Stanley management is distributing in the work place.

We've done some research about the questions we've been asked more frequently. Here is the truth about some of the myths about forming a union at Stanley.

Myth #1: Only the Department of Labor (DOL) can do anything about wage increases.

Truth: There currently is a DOL investigation into possible job misclassifications under the previous contractors commonly referred to as SCOT. If the DOL rules that workers were misclassified, then some employees may get some back pay from the former contractors. Stanley is not a subject of this investigation. Stanley will not have to pay because of this investigation.

VSC workers can only get pay back from Stanley if a new investigation is initiated but this could take months or years to happen. The only other way VSC workers can get a higher rate pay through the DOL is if the DOL raised the job classification rates. The last time this happened was 4 years ago.

By forming a union and having the ability to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement workers will not only be able to change these wrongful misclassifications of job titles but will also finally have the ability to negotiate raises. Most importantly, if there was a union when Stanley took over they would not have been able to unilaterally cut peoples wages and change their job titles.

Finally, under the Service Contract Act, employers can submit additional wage costs which occur because of contract negotiations to the federal government for reimbursement. So Stanley workers could get a raise and the federal government could pay for it.

Myth #2: When people have unions you have to pay union dues and the dues will negate any wage increase.

Truth: Yes, part of having a union is paying union dues, but no one pays any dues until there is a collective bargaining agreement (contract) has been reached and ratified by all the workers. Workers are not stupid, they would not negotiate a contract with tiny raises that would be smaller than union dues. Studies have shown that when workers have the ability to collectively bargain wages and benefits, they do much better than when it is solely management that determines what the wages and benefits will be. In the US, union members make about 30% more than their non-union counterparts. Today, union workers on average make $5 more an hour than non-union workers. Union dues are a small price to pay for livable wages, job security and decent benefits.

Myth #3:If Stanley workers vote to form a union then they will no longer have access to Stanley's 4O1K - retirement plan.

Truth:It would be illegal for Stanley to take away any of Stanley's employees' retirement benefits because they form a union. Federal labor law prohibits companies from taking away any existing benefits because workers unionize. In fact, the only way to insure that nothing is arbitrarily taken away is to form a union and put everything into a legally binding contract.

From a workers' rights perspective the choice of having a union at Stanley is clear. It is really important for workers to have a union contract to make sure that no matter what contractor is acting as the employer, there is a fair agreement that ensures decent wages and provides workers with protection. It is not only important for the people who work at the VSC but for everyone in the community. When Stanley executives cut wages, they are essentially taking thousands of dollars out of community and putting it into their Virginia bank accounts. They are trying to make a profit at their employees' expense. If Stanley workers want fairness and respect, then the way to get it is by forming a union.

James Haslam is the Director of the Vermont Workers' Center, a membership organization of Vermonters based in Burlington and is committed to fighting for workers' rights and economic justice. There website is www.workerscenter.org and the Vermont Workers' Rights Hotline is toll-free 866-229-0009.

Feb 20, 2008

John Smith

John Smith started the day early,

having set his Alarm clock

While his coffeepot


was perking, he shaved with his

Electric razor


He put on a

Dress shirt


Designer jeans



Tennis shoes


After cooking his breakfast in his new

Electric skillet


He sat down with his



To see how much he could spend today.

After setting his Watch


To the radio


He got in his car


Filled it with GAS

(from Saudi Arabia )

And continued his search

For a good paying AMERICAN JOB

At the end

Of yet another discouraging

And fruitless day

Checking his


(Made In Malaysia ),

Joe decided to relax for a while.

He put on his sandals


Poured himself a glass of



And turned on his



And then wondered

Why he can't find

A good paying job


Feb 19, 2008

What happened to Labor day?

Is Labor Day was honor of natural childbirth?

No one remembers Mother Jones or Susan B. Anthony's part in unions. The time when presidents fought to prevent agreements from causing wage-price inflation is long gone. The era when more than a third of the American workforce was unionized is rarely spoken of.

Remember Bloody Sunday in Ireland? That was peaceful workers marching for labor rights, murdered in cold blood. Wasn't that was just yesterday when we all sat glued to our televisions, wondering how this could happen in this modern world? Now we sit complacent knowing all about slave labor practices both here and abroad. For what? A piece of card-board furniture bought at Wal-mart? How long is that pair of shoes made in China going to last on your over-worked, under-paid feet?

Now fewer than 8 percent of America’s workers are union, most of us work or have Labor Day off without pay.

What happened? Was it when Ronald Reagan fired the nation’s air-traffic controllers for striking - something He had no legal right to do - Did he finally legitimize corporate union busting?

There’s no question that,ever since companies have fired workers for trying to form unions, (even though that’s illegal) and have used or threatened to use permanent replacements if workers go on strike - which is legal but was unheard of before the that douche bag Regan.

Which brings me to the question what the hell are we so afraid of? Why can't we all band together? Isn't there more power in numbers? Really, what have we got to loose? A back-breaking job with little pay and no benefits? Are we letting our children raise themselves for this? What kind of example are we setting?

It is time, my co-workers to rise up! It is time to scream from the rooftops of Keene, Hatfield and Brattleboro "I DESERVE A DECENT LIVING!" Corporate Fat-cats will no longer force feed my children impossible dreams of Paris Hilton's fairy tale life, while working me like a dog! RISE UP GOD-DAMNED IT, RISE UP! DO IT FOR YOUR CHILDREN!

Feb 18, 2008

Ammonia leak took 8 hours to find at C&S

Staff Writer

HATFIELD -- The search for the source of leaking anhydrous ammonia at C&S Wholesale Grocers Inc. proved difficult, a Hatfield fire
official said today, and took eight hours.
It wasn't until 3:17 a.m. today that the emergency -- which sickened 13 people and prompted a temporary evacuation in the area
around the company -- was declared over.
In all, residents of about a dozen homes on North Hatfield Road temporarily left after 7 p.m., when a leak of the hazardous substance,
used in refrigeration, was reported.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the cause of the leak, a spokesman said today.
Company officials declined last night to comment on the leak.
At no time were exposures of ammonia enough to cause serious injury or loss of life, Deputy Fire Chief Jonathan Bardwell said today.
In all, 125 C&S employees were sent home at the request of the fire department. Truck drivers waiting to make deliveries or pick up
food at the plant were also sent away during the emergency.
Jim Motyka, of 60 N. Hatfield Road, said his wife was evacuated from their home after 7 p.m., when an officer came to the family's
"We think very highly of the police," Motyka said.
"Our concern is, who monitors these refrigeration tanks over there?" Motyka asked. "Is it a town function? Is it a state function? Is it a
function of C&S?"
Cooley Dickinson Hospital activated its disaster protocol at 8:50 p.m. Thirteen workers from C&S underwent decontamination in a unit
set up outside the hospital by the Northampton Fire Department and staffed by firefighters and the hospital.
All patients were treated and released, the hospital said today. All were able to walk and none were critically injured.
They were treated for upper respiratory complaints and nausea, two common symptoms of ammonia exposure, the hospital said.
Bardwell said the Hatfield Fire Department had drilled in its response to an ammonia leak at C&S .
"Everyone worked together. We had practiced this event with the hazmat team last October, so we were all familiar with the drill.
Everything fell into place," he said.
Ellen Bokina, chairwoman of the town's Board of Health, did a walk-through at C&S around 3 a.m. today and declared the area safe.
The incident drew emergency workers from throughout the region.
Posted At : 1:33 PM. | Posted By : newsroom
This just in to the Gazette Newsroom: Search for C&S ammonia leak took 8 hours

Not even the neighbors are safe from C&S's labor practices!

Another C&S Wholesale lawsuit

Read all about how At the time they were hired, the Defendant C&S told Plaintiffs and the class of C&S incentive workers that their earning potential was extremely high, as the company would pay them for the actual amount of “pieces” that the worker and his team selected. What Defendant C&S did not disclose, however, was that the company had devised a sweat-shop scheme to avoid paying its incentive workers their actual regular and overtime earnings.

click here for the full document


Your rights as an employee of C&S Wholesale Grocers

  • You have an absolute right to Campaign for a Union.
You can do this during non-working times in non-work areas. Take time to do this and before and after work. Take advantage of situations when talking about other non-work topics is allowed -such as meetings when your manager strays off work-related subjects. This gives you the right to campaign orally for the union - even during work hours...hey the manager started it!

  • You have the right to distribute literature and to solicit cards.
Do this on your own time though, and do it in non-work areas...unless there is other non-work related bulletin boards with material such as want ads posted. Employers may not prohibit workers from wearing union buttons or t-shirts, so dig out your "look for the union label" t-shirts!

  • Any no-solicitation rules adopted by C&S Wholesale management may not discriminate against union activity.
Any privileges given to anti-union committees should be given to pro-union employees. In addition, off-work employees must normally be allowed access to parking lots and entrance gates, except in special circumstances. Arrive to work a little early. Hand out flyers to employees as they're pulling onto the entrances off Old Ferry road. Non-employee organizers can be barred from company premises in most circumstances, but organizers do have a first amendment right to distribute literature on public property.

Here's where the management at C&S Wholesale grocers are going to get antsy. They don't want to pay you more than the very minimum. C&S could care less about anything but a profit. They're going to try and scare you. Here are a few things that they will try that is against the law (can we say lawsuit?)
  • C&S is prohibited from spying on you while you are engaged in union activity. It is also against the law to create the impression that surveillance is occurring.
  • C&S is prohibited from interrogating you about your union sympathies.
They can debate the benefits of a union, (and God knows they will) but they may not take you aside and interrogate you at any time. It's always a good idea to memorize the record button on your cell phone, or to carry a digital recording device while you are organizing.

  • C&S is prohibited from making threats against you in any way!

Although management at C&S Wholesale may criticize and attack union benefits, hell they can even lie about them (and God knows they will even hire a union busting firm to come in and lie for them). It is against the law for management at C&S Wholesale to threaten to retaliate against you for supporting a union. Most people don't know this but, this includes threats to fire, layoff, close the facility, or take away benefits because the employees voted for a union.

  • C&S management is prohibited from bribing you.
They can't promise you a raise if you vote against.

  • Bargaining Order
C&S engages in a massive pattern of unfair labor practices, everyone who works there knows this. When the union proves majority support, the board may order the C&S to bargain despite a union election loss. This referred to "Gissell" order.

  • C &S Wholesale is prohibited from dominating support of a union
Management can not provide support to a particular union or employee group as a way of discouraging independent union activity, nor can the employer fund anti-union committees. Keep your eyes open for this one. There's going to be some little turd who's been promised something coming in with hand-outs bought with C&S money.

  • Know What to expect

    It is against the law for C&S Wholesale grocers to retaliate against you for participating in union proceedings.

    will be fired~ C&S is allowed to fire supervisors who support the union. It is against the law however for them to fire a supervisor for refusing to break any of the above laws.

    Undocumented Workers will be snitched on~ it is against the law for C&S to call in the Immigration and Naturalization Service to report pro union employees. C&S Wholesale management may not "interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees" in the exercise of their rights.
  • C&S Wholesale management may not discriminate against employees with regard to the tenure of their employment or any terms or conditions of employment in order to discourage union activity or concerted activity.

Well we're up and running

But still have a lot of work to do. In the meantime, please read this wonderful essay.

Day in the Life of Joe Middle-Class Republican
By John Gray Cincinnati, Ohio

Joe gets up at 6:00am to prepare his morning coffee. He fills his pot full of good clean drinking water because some liberal fought for minimum water quality standards. He takes his daily medication with his first swallow of coffee. His medications are safe to take because some liberal fought to insure their safety and work as advertised.
All but $10.00 of his medications are paid for by his employers medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance, now Joe gets it too. He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs this day. Joe's bacon is safe to eat because some liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.
Joe takes his morning shower reaching for his shampoo; His bottle is properly labeled with every ingredient and the amount of its contents because some liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained. Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some tree hugging liberal fought for laws to stop industries from polluting our air. He walks to the subway station for his government subsidized ride to work; it saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees. You see, some liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.
Joe begins his work day; he has a good job with excellent pay, medicals benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe's employer pays these standards because Joe's employer doesn't want his employees to call the union. If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed he'll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some liberal didn't think he should loose his home because of his temporary misfortune.
Its noon time, Joe needs to make a Bank Deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe's deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some liberal wanted to protect Joe's money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the depression.
Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae underwritten Mortgage and his below market federal student loan because some stupid liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his life-time.
Joe is home from work, he plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive to dads; his car is among the safest in the world because some liberal fought for car safety standards. He arrives at his boyhood home. He was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers Home Administration because bankers didn't want to make rural loans. The house didn't have electric until some big government liberal stuck his nose where it didn't belong and demanded rural electrification. (Those rural Republican's would still be sitting in the dark)
He is happy to see his dad who is now retired. His dad lives on Social Security and his union pension because some liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn't have to. After his visit with dad he gets back in his car for the ride home.
He turns on a radio talk show, the host's keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. (He doesn't tell Joe that his beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day) Joe agrees, "We don't need those big government liberals ruining our lives; after all, I'm a self made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have".
By John Gray