N.Y. Local Wins Bargaining Rights at U.N
December 13, 2013
|Members of Local 1212 have been broadcasting sound and video programs from the U.N. headquarters in New York City since 1945.
Longtime members of N.Y. Local 1212 who perform all video, editing and broadcasting at the U.N. were deeply worried.
Bargaining unit members had diligently covered the New York City-based forum for global dialogue since 1945, but the U.N. had signed a contract with a new nonunion company, Team People, to manage production in their areas of expertise.
U.S. labor law does not govern employer-employee relations at the U.N. With no rights to bargain directly with the U.N., would they remain part of a union team? Or, would they be shoved into “at- will” status, subject to termination at the new company’s whim?
While U.S. labor law was no help bargaining with the U.N., it applies to the relationship between the local and Team People. Taking no chances, Local 1212 filed charges at the National Labor Relations Board asserting rights to bargain with Team People over wages, working conditions and terms of employment.
In December, Team People agreed to recognize Local 1212 in return for the local dropping its NLRB charge. One bargaining session has already been held on a new agreement. Two sessions are scheduled for January.
“The outcome will make for a great holiday season for our members,” says Business Manager Ralph Avigliano. He says the unit was recognized because it was clear that a majority—26 out of 34—employees were loyal members of Local 1212.
|Local 1212’s leaders and members are hopeful that a constructive relationship will be built with Team People, their new employer at the U.N.
“IBEW Local 1212 is looking forward to meeting with Team People’s managers and building a constructive, mutually-beneficial relationship ,” says Avigliano.
“Members were surprised that we could get back in,” says Assistant Business Manager Vinnie Butler, a second-generation U.N. broadcast worker.
The recent victory follows years of conflict and concessions by members of Local 1212. In 2011, the U.N. removed 17 positions from the bargaining unit, costing those workers their right to collectively bargain.
Since the organization’s founding in 1945, Local 1212 members working for the U.N. were employed by a series of broadcasting contractors. When the last one went bankrupt in 2009, members continued working, voluntarily giving up their pay until a new company could be secured.
“There was a brotherhood there and a sense of fairness,” a 35-year U.N. veteran Mark Robbins told the Labor Press. “We were the wheels of the U.N. We never let it down. Ever.”
One of the U.N.’s missions is to promote “rights at work and encourage decent employment opportunities,” but IBEW and other unions at the U.N. have, in recent years, challenged the organization for not living up to that mission.
“We are hopeful that we can reach an agreement with Team People, says Butler. “Our members deserve to have their high-quality work at the U.N. rewarded with decent wages and benefits and a contract that preserves their right to due process and bargaining over workplace changes.”
(UN) Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user United Nations Photo