Connecticut: First prevention, then delay

12. Juni 2012: In July 2011 technicians at T-Mobile in Connecticut voted for a trade union in a ballot. With only 15 employees, this was a small business unit. Negotiations for the first collective wage agreement have been dragging on for nine months now. To date, management has systematically prevented an agreement from being reached.

The majority of the workforce supported establishing the trade union when a proposal to vote for workers’ representation was presented in May 2011. The company responded with various tactics: supervisors made derogatory comments about trade unions in general and specifically about the Communication Workers of America (CWA).

Managers held 1-to-1 talks with employees as well as group meetings. At these meetings managers voiced their opposition to the trade union. Company management isolated supporters of the trade union and targeted employees who remained undecided about the trade union. The company flew in the Vice President of Human Resources to meet with employees and dissuade them from joining the trade union.Nevertheless, a narrow majority of eight to seven voted for the trade union.

Collective bargaining started in September 2011. Chief negotiator for the employers is Mark Theodore, a lawyer from Proskauer Rose LLC.
According to his website, Theodore devotes his practice “almost exclusively to representing management in traditional labour law matters all across the US, with a focus on representing union-free employers.” Theodore refuses to accept the current corporate manual which defines the rules and conditions for employment.

The mistrust of the workforce increased when company managers delayed and postponed the negotiation schedule. A manager was demoted so that he is now no longer part of management but part of the negotiating unit. This means that support for the trade union is now eight to eight. According to law, a new ballot can be held in July 2012 in order to see if a majority of employees still support the trade union. The fear now is that the trade union will be disallowed at the next vote. This way of negotiating is just another strategy for preventing trade unions under another name.