December 2010

Organizing Wire
index.html Home    Print    Email

Go to
At Comcast, Fighting Intimidation with Sunlight

Comcast is infamous for union busting, so when more than two dozen technicians at a Comcast facility in central Massachusetts decided to join Middleboro, Mass., Local 2322, they wanted to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they had a strong majority behind them.

Employees were dissatisfied over the company's unfair disciplinary procedures and cutbacks to health care coverage, said International Organizer Steve Smith.

"If you had to go back to a house and rework a job, it was held against you, even if it wasn't your fault," Smith said.

After signing up the workers, Local 2322 invited leading lawmakers, including Rep. Stephen Lynch, Fall River Mayor William Flanagan and other community leaders to publically check the list of Comcast employees against signed union authorization cards.

Lynch and Flanagan found that the majority of unit employees had signed cards, and urged Comcast in a letter to management to "respect the employee majority and voluntarily recognize Local 2322 as their representative."

"We have to build up enough public pressure," Smith said. "We want recognition from Comcast for the union."

Workers decided to pursue public support for majority sign-up instead of going to the National Labor Relations Board for a formal election because Comcast is known for dragging out the election process and punishing pro-union workers through illegal firings and harassment—busting the union through a combination of fear and delay.

"We realized the way we were doing things wasn't working," Smith said. "We had to make the process open and public."

Comcast still refuses to negotiate, but Smith said the workers' actions have inspired other employees throughout the state to check out the union. "We're getting more inquiries from other garages," he said.

It is also inspiring Comcast organizers across the county.

"I'm keeping my eye on Massachusetts," says Downers Grove, Ill., Local 21 Business Representative Dave Webster. Webster has been trying to organize hundreds of Chicago Comcast employees at the company's South Side location for years.

"The biggest obstacle we face is fear—workers' fear of losing their jobs," he said.

Webster says Local 21 is trying to counteract Comcast's anit-union campaign by letting employees know about their rights on the job, including the right to join a union.

"We are signing cards again and hopefully can move toward recognition before the end of the year," he said.

Rep. Stephen Lynch,seated at left, Fall River Mayor William Flanagan and Jobs with Justice Workers' Rights Board member Kim Wilson certify Comcast workers in Massachusetts signed union cards to join Middleboro Local 2322.