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This Is What It's Like To Sit Through An Anti-Union Meeting At Work

One day last fall, employees of Iron Mountain, a Boston-based records management company, were subjected to what union organizers like to call a captive audience meeting.

Employers hold these anti-union meetings once they've gotten wind of an organizing campaign in their midst. Whether the meeting is led by in-house managers or outside consultants, the gist is usually the same: Joining a union is totally your call. But it's a really bad idea, and we're disappointed it's come to this.

The spiel at an Iron Mountain facility near Atlanta, where the Teamsters were trying to organize truck drivers, wasn't unlike the anti-union speeches commonly delivered at other companies. What made this meeting different was that a pro-union worker in attendance was surreptitiously recording it.

"We have the right to educate you," the Iron Mountain manager lectured his employees. "And we're going to exercise that right."

Ben Speight, a Teamsters organizer in Atlanta, later posted the audio to SoundCloud, and it was picked up by Gawker, Salon, Al Jazeera and The Huffington Post, among other outlets. Since then, Speight has obtained a litany of similar recordings from meetings purportedly held at more recognizable companies, including Coca-Cola, Staples and FedEx.

Those recordings are posted below, [follow the hyperlink below] along with commentary from the workers who helped make them possible. The workers asked to remain anonymous for fear of jeopardizing their jobs.

Look for more of these in the future. The recordings have been made possible by the ubiquity of smartphones, Speight told HuffPost -- a trend that management is sure to take note of.

"Most people will work their whole lives and never sit through one of these meetings," Speight said.

Indeed, even most union workers will never sit through a captive audience meeting, Speight said, since they generally become members of unions by taking jobs at already-unionized workplaces. These meetings tend to happen in the midst of ongoing and often heated organizing campaigns that employers would very much like to scuttle.

The Teamsters local had previously used such recordings primarily for what Speight calls "inoculation" -- to give closeted pro-union workers a taste of the pressure they can expect once their organizing becomes known. But now Speight is using the recordings in part to embarrass the companies for what he calls their "relentless pressure and misinformation and half-truths."
"The atmosphere is coercive by nature," Speight said.

As noted in their statements below, [follow the hyperlink below] the companies in question see things differently. What unions view as captive audience meetings are often framed by employers as nothing more than helpful "information" sessions. And even though unions aren't given the same platform in the workplace, it's perfectly legal under U.S labor law for companies to require workers to attend such meetings, so long as their language isn't overtly coercive, threatening or retaliatory.

Companies wouldn't hold the meetings if they weren't effective. A 2009 study authored by Cornell labor expert Kate Bronfenbrenner and published by the Economic Policy Institute found that workers were significantly more likely to vote against the union in cases where employers held captive audience meetings.

Full text of article by Dave Jamieson found at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/03/captive-audience-meetings-anti-union_n_5754330.html

As originally published on www.huffingtonpost.com 

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Testimonial

"I have been a member of Teamsters Local 464 for 23 years and have seen many of the executives come and go. Some of the previous executives nearly ran the Local into bankruptcy including losing our pension.  Bobby Kornhass, Bob Ryder and Paul Barton brought us back from the brink. Since they took over in 2000, we at Dairyland (Saputo) have had the best contracts I have seen since I have been there."

- Randy Onyschak

For 35 years I have been a Teamster and a Dairyworker, I was a young kid needing a job in tough economic times. I found a place to work and make a living, I learned to work together with others having varying and different backgrounds than my own.

Much has changed for me personally and professionally, I got married to my beautiful wife of almost 25 years and we have raised two amazing children, both of whom are presently studying abroad. Both of my children were recipients of Hoffa Memorial Scholarship Funding.

So much of my success I can credit to having a well paying union job. The Teamsters have been a great union for me, negotiating strong collective agreements that held good wage and benefit packages as well as the cornerstone beliefs of seniority and workers’ rights. The Teamsters gave me a good wage and a voice.

I have always been an active Teamster, and now I sit on Local 464's Executive Board.

There can be a great degree of personal feelings when the word union is mentioned, but so often I look at professional associations and realize the name may be different, but the thought is the same...strength in numbers.

As I get toward the end of my career, I look forward to the thought of receiving the Teamsters Canada Pension Plan, and I am so grateful for the belief others had before me that Teamsters deserved a good and decent retirement...thank you.

Drew


- Drew Speirs

"I was there when we brought the Union in. The first-time contract they won for us was unbelievable. It changed the quality of my life. I am now a Shop Steward and enjoy working with my Union and looking after my fellow workers. "

- Paul Landrecht - Shop Steward. Island Farms Dairy.