IBEW Local 21 Wins
with Comcast in Indiana
October 11, 2005
epic five-year contract campaign ended on September 25 in a union
victory at Comcast in Merrillville, Indiana when members of IBEW
Local 21 overwhelmingly approved a new agreement, slamming the
door on the company's drive to decertify the bargaining unit.
three-year agreement, ratified by 94 percent of the 56-member IBEW
work force, includes yearly raises of almost three percent, stronger
job security language and fairer disciplinary procedures.
workers achieved pay parity between represented and non-represented
workers and will be granted priority for jobs in the growing
fiber installation market.
Kastner, business manager of Downers Grove, Illinois, Local 21,
said that Comcast's goal from the start was to see the bargaining
unit decertified to send a message to the 3,100 unrepresented Comcast
workers in the greater Chicago market that unions were ineffective
against Comcast's clout. "We told Comcast to pay attention
to the fighting history of this bargaining unit, but they ignored
us," he added.
Merrillville members have endured through several ownership changes
in the always evolving cable industry. Some worked for U.S.
Cable, which was purchased by TCI Cable, one of the industry's
most notorious union-busters. IBEW members were still working under
a hard-fought U.S. Cable contract when AT&T Broadband acquired
TCI. When Comcast merged with AT&T Broadband in 2002, Brian
Roberts, Comcast CEO said that "wages would not be an issue" in
negotiating a contract with the IBEW in Merrillville. Then
he dug his heels in.
unionists reached out to clergy and community leaders in neighboring
Chicago in a public effort to bring Comcast to the bargaining table.
successfully lobbied Chicago's Board of Aldermen to include workers'
rights protections in its franchise agreement with newly merged
Comcast-AT&T Broadband. Other imaginative tactics drew
media attention to Comcast's poor service and anti-worker policies.
Halloween, members of the local went "trick or treating" at
the home of Comcast's Senior Vice President Joe Stackhouse. The
workers carried a casket symbolizing Comcast's "burying" of
workers' rights and staged a mock funeral.
May 11, as Stackhouse attended a luncheon at the Chicago City
Club, Local 21 activists handed out copies of a pamphlet produced
by American Rights at Work (www.americanrightsatwork.org),
detailing Comcast's vehement opposition to unions.
weeks later, Comcast demonstrated its new services in the Merrillville
facility's parking lot with a local radio station broadcasting
from the site. Members of the IBEW "Truth Squad," accompanied
by members of the Northwest Indiana Federation of Labor, drove
around the event in cars decorated with signs saying "Comcast
Does Not Care." (See "Hot
Summer at Comcast," IBEW
Journal, July/August 2005, pgs 14-16).
members of Local 21 have written themselves prominently into the
history of the IBEW," said IBEW International President Ed
Hill. "Our brothers and sisters in Merrillville have
proven yet again that corporate arrogance and the abuse of power
cannot defeat organized workers who tap into the deep roots of
support in their surrounding communities."