Selling Security, and Winning it Too:
N.C. ADT Employees Vote for a Voice on the Job
August 19, 2013
Seventeen ADT employees who install and service security systems are the newest members of Winston-Salem, N.C., Local 342.
ADT alarm system installers know that when they finish work at a new customer’s home, they’re offering something priceless – greater peace of mind for the whole family.
The irony, many say, is that their own jobs have been lacking in that respect.
Citing the need for greater work/life balance and fairer scheduling, employees in northwestern North Carolina raised their voices June 26 when they decided to go IBEW.
The 17-member unit – comprised of installation specialists and service technicians who provide home and business security services – voted in a National Labor Relations Board-certified election to become the newest members of Winston-Salem Local 342.
With first contract talks approaching, “We expect a solid opportunity to negotiate a fair agreement,” said Regional Organizing Coordinator John Murphy, who leads organizing efforts across Arkansas, Tennessee and the Carolinas:
Our goal is always a win-win situation for the company and members. Plus, we’ve proven to ADT that they can be profitable and successful with IBEW contracts. It’s still hard work [to negotiate], but we believe it will be the continuation of a professional relationship that exists in other locals across the country.
Informing employees about the typical ways companies can often push back against union drives paid dividends, said organizer David Haynes. “The employees saw many of the stereotypical methods corporations use. When the company pulled everyone in for the first captive audience meeting, our guys were prepared. They expected a misinformation campaign against the IBEW, the usual talk about ‘having a third party speaking for you’ – things like that. But our group didn’t buckle.”
The IBEW already represents more than 1,800 ADT employees at nearly 30 sites nationwide. That infrastructure helped bolster morale for the employees, while giving them a chance to study examples of agreements that their fellow workers across the country had already won. “We gave them some older contracts to review so they could learn what an official agreement looks like,” said Local 342 Business Manager Alvin Warwick. “This group is engaged and focused – and they are always eager to get more information about the process.”
This level of self-determination helped push the campaign over the top, Murphy said. “Organizers play a significant role, but the level of commitment by the workers looking for a voice is almost always what makes or breaks a campaign.”
“We have a long way to go, but I’m feeling optimistic,” said one worker who declined to be named. “I don’t feel like we’re asking for anything unreasonable, just some common courtesy, especially regarding our family lives. There used to be more of a back and forth between the employees and management. Now it’s just take, take, take.”
Florida-based ADT has operations in 35 countries. In 2011, the corporation posted $3.1 billion in annual revenue and claimed more than 6 million customers worldwide, according to company information.
The fact that these workers were successful in standing up for their rights is a major victory for employees in the state with the lowest union density – 2.9 percent – nationwide. “Any time workers can stand up and win representation, it’s a win for organized labor,” said IBEW International Representative Benny Hunnicutt, who represents and services local unions across the Carolinas and beyond.
ADT employees throughout the U.S. and Canada have been reaching out to the IBEW to help improve their work lives. To any workers looking for an added voice on the job, one anonymous employee says, “Be strong. Get the facts. See what the IBEW can do for you. In all my talks with the company, they couldn’t give me one example of an ADT employee having a bad experience with the IBEW. Be informed, and be willing to do some research instead of just listening to what the office tells you.”
Photo used under a Creative Commons License from Flickr user Mr. T in DC.