Visit uncharted.ca!
  • authored by BillPearson
  • published Tue, Feb 25, 2003

Down and Dirty In The Backrooms

I found this front page article Down and Dirty to be way to intriguing to pass up. One of the true joys of my job has been to be involved in collective bargaining. I first sat at the bargaining table in the early 70's as a very young and impressionable steward. I have been involved with or have been the lead in well over a hundred negotiations. The number means nothing, because the process only is important if the outcomes are good, or at least acceptable to the members.

I said in another thread, i have never seen a backroom deal. When i type that, i find myself wondering whats wrong with me? Because when i read RV's chronicles, i can't fathom anyone doing business like that. Let me be clear, i have been pulled away from the table by the federal mediator, and had side bars. I have left the table and told the employers lead negotiator, i had to have this or that. In either setting, i have always gone back and reported what i said, and what they said. In most cases, members have trusted me. I think that is essential, but again, that's not enough.

Using your head and building a solid strategy is critical. I had a simple philosophy, never have one style at the table. We literally reinvented ourselves every time we went to major negotiations. We were never predictable, and we seldom let them put us in a corner. I've watched some very good people get trapped, because they weren't willing to look at all the options and be willing to get creative.

I find the idea of backroom bargaining to be despicable. I would agree it happens, but i don't think it's the norm. I have the luxury to know the history of those chronicles, and i will tell you, anyone remotely related to them should spend the rest of their days repenting for their sins. God knows how many workers realized they were sold out, and have resented the labor movement for it.

The Borders negotiations is the most refreshing thing to happen in years. We are incorporating every oddball quirk into the equation we can think of. Ideas come out of left field, and no-one says, "thats dumb." Everything is up for grabs, and we have barely begun. I think it was RV who first called it transparency, and the term is perfect. There are no secrets. If you want an experience in bargaining like i've never witnessed, feel free to stop by bordersunion . The last thing in the world we will ever be accused of is a backroom deal on this one.

  • posted by <Boris FitzPatrick Cruzado>
  • Tue, Feb 25, 2003 11:04pm

Did you see that post on retailworker.com aobut the meetings between supermarket execs and Dority, et al? Isn't that the ultimate backroom deal in the works?

  • posted by BillPearson
  • Wed, Feb 26, 2003 3:31am

Boris: That meeting was requested by the big four, being Ahold, Krogers, Safeway and Albertsons. There was no specific contract negotiations, only what they saw as their immediate needs in the coming years. To the UFCW's credit, they immediately brought a bunch of the presidents into Washington and layed out the exact same presentation to us they had been given. We then broke into work groups with specific assignments, and crafted our position and responses.

I won't say it was 100% unanamous, but as close as you can get. No-one was interested in going backwords or bending over. Too many of us remember the carnage of the 80's and how once the concessions were done, you couldn't organize a two person parade on labor day. Simply put, i think the decision was this was where we had to fight, flight would be devastating.

  • posted by siggy
  • Wed, Feb 26, 2003 7:20am

quote:


That meeting was requested by the big four, being Ahold, Krogers, Safeway and Albertsons. There was no specific contract negotiations, only what they saw as their immediate needs in the coming years.


That is about as backroom as it gets. What went down isn't the issue in my mind, but then how would members know without another chronicle?

Next time they call tell them they can talk to the negotiating committees.

  • posted by BillPearson
  • Wed, Feb 26, 2003 12:22pm

quote:


That is about as backroom as it gets. What went down isn't the issue in my mind, but then how would members know without another chronicle?

Next time they call tell them they can talk to the negotiating committees


What negotiating committee? I have no problem being critical of things that should be critisized, but this wasn't one of them. The International was right on track with this approach. Never let resentments cloud your ability to see things for what they are. There was a follow up report to the entire membership about the meeting with the employer and of the committee's response in one of the past issues of the Internationals magazine.

NOPE, no back door deal here siGGy.

  • posted by siggy
  • Wed, Feb 26, 2003 12:57pm

quote:


What negotiating committee? I have no problem being critical of things that should be critisized, but this wasn't one of them. The International was right on track with this approach. Never let resentments cloud your ability to see things for what they are.


My criticism doesn't come from resentment and I resent you suggesting it does.
Actually the criticism comes from years of being kept in the dark and having our collective rug pulled out from under us .

quote:


There was a follow up report to the entire membership about the meeting with the employer and of the committee's response in one of the past issues of the Internationals magazine.


Isn't that special?

quote:


NOPE, no back door deal here siGGy.


YEP, there was a backroom deal BP. if the company (big 4 ) have immediate needs in the coming years then put them in front of a few thousand employees, investors and let them talk, let them plead their case.

Screw the backroom pleas shrouded in secrecy and the manuevering to save their bad companies from bad management decisions. They went to the backroom to fool someone and if it wasn't employees/members then it was the investment world.

  • posted by weiser
  • Wed, Feb 26, 2003 1:30pm

Bill, the International you know and the one we know seem like separate entities.

Here's the International that we know.

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Wed, Feb 26, 2003 1:42pm

While the kind of backroom dealing described in the Chronicles series may not go on all over the map and while some unions most definitely do not engage in this kind of trading, some most certainly do.

Here in Canada, it's been going on for a long time and there are indications that it's becoming established as an acceptable practice, especially in certain industries.

It's not all that uncommon for employers who know they'll probably face a union organizing drive, to pick up the phone and "invite" a union to organize their staff. Why do you think they do this? There's a certain expectation that the union will give them something in return - an easy ride at bargaining or maybe acceptance of an employer demand for more flexibility, more part time positions, loosening up of requirements for overtime pay and other concessions along these lines.

Later on, when I have a bit more time, I'll post something fairly recent that will show you a real live example of the kind of exchange that takes place and how popular this is becoming.

What's doubly disturbing about this practice is that it seems more prevalent in the service industry, where the most vulnerable of workers are further disadvantaged by wheeling and dealing that they'll never even know about much less be able to do anything about.

This stuff is real BP. It's got to be acknowledged and stopped. That's one of the many reasons why I think that what your local is doing at Borders is so important. Transparency is the answer to a lot of problems that are holding working people back. You're showing the mainstream labour leaders that secrecy is not necessary and not helpful.

What's the International saying about what's going on at Borders BTW?

  • posted by siggy
  • Wed, Feb 26, 2003 2:22pm

The big 4 was granted audience with ufcw to present their needs. Those company presentations resulted in;

"To the UFCW's credit, they immediately brought a bunch of the presidents into Washington and layed out the exact same presentation to us they had been given. We then broke into work groups with specific assignments, and crafted our position and responses.".

Did the company's position/needs influence how and what the outcomes were in the group breakouts. Of course they did, of course it impacted.

Now I could feel a little better about this if, when the International's audience was requested, they prepared a presentation of our own. One stating the employees needs in the coming years. Truly if the company was concerned with viability or survival then worker/employee concerns would be part of that. Were they?

One more question; When the companies returned to the board rooms, did they too break out into groups and give serious consideration to the workers needs in their plans to proceed?

  • posted by <Boris FitzPatrick Cruzado>
  • Wed, Feb 26, 2003 5:50pm

I'm starting to Pearson was on track with the "resentment" remark. It seems to me that MFD core members made a decision at some point that they would give up on forming an actual organization and embrace a passive "journalistic" stance - adopting an odd combination of naive idealism (regarding their own views), and cynicism (regarding everything else), the result being a web publication that veers senselessly from tabloid-style exposees to feel-good prescriptions for the future.

Because there is no (conscious) ideological foundation to either component, the critiques and the prescriptions both emanate from rather personal subjective positions - many of the critiques seemed based on petty personal jealousies. There is no critique of power, just a knee-jerk reaction to any and all of its expressions.

  • posted by siggy
  • Wed, Feb 26, 2003 5:56pm

quote:


There is no critique of power, just a knee-jerk reaction to any and all of its expressions.


And ... your point is?

  • posted by BillPearson
  • Wed, Feb 26, 2003 6:33pm

quote:


There was a follow up report to the entire membership about the meeting with the employer and of the committee's response in one of the past issues of the Internationals magazine.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Isn't that special?


Nope it's not special, it's exactly what should have happened.

quote:


Screw the backroom pleas shrouded in secrecy and the manuevering to save their bad companies from bad management decisions. They went to the backroom to fool someone and if it wasn't employees/members then it was the investment world.


I must have stones in mouth and am mumbling, because it's hardly a secret if it's presented for the world to see. Their fear is over Walmart, and with good cause. In the article One Nation Under Walmart, David Glass says it's entirely possible that they triple in size in the next 5 years.

quote:


Bill, the International you know and the one we know seem like separate entities


I've read the Westfair foods case and some of the other things that have foundation. I understand the anger over those items. Having said that, i think the loss of objectivity regarding this big 4 meeting over perceived slights of the membership only enhance Boris's assessment of "petty personal jealousies."

And if you ask the powers that be at the international, i don't think you will find many who think i am their cheerleader.

quote:


Transparency is the answer to a lot of problems that are holding working people back. You're showing the mainstream labour leaders that secrecy is not necessary and not helpful.
What's the International saying about what's going on at Borders BTW?


There-in lies my frustration rv, they are pulling a sargeant schultz, and they are saying nothing, or was that i know nothing. In either case, the outcome is the same. As cutting edge as this is, it's not even on their radar screen. You'd think with the way locals are tanking at the bargaining table these days, they would be looking for any and all options to break out of the shit storm.

  • posted by siggy
  • Wed, Feb 26, 2003 7:18pm

quote:


I must have stones in mouth and am mumbling, because it's hardly a secret if it's presented for the world to see.


Spit out the stones and point to the information please.

quote:


Their fear is over Walmart, and with good cause.


Here in B.C. before the sellout, sorry ... concessionary contract, the fear was Westfair and as the information on this site (and others) indicates, with not so "good cause".

I'll have to admit that petty personal jealousy over the latest backroom discussions was causing many bells to go off in my head, but your response BP has answered alot of questions for me. I was having a difficult time trying to figure out how the Safeway dispute was going to play out. Now it's much clearer.

  • posted by sleK
  • Wed, Feb 26, 2003 10:44pm

Boris,

While I find your pseudo-intellectual attempts to define all of us entertaining, you clearly have no purpose here other than to troll.

This fact is evidenced by your incessant need to turn any discussion into an attack on the site and its inhabitants.

Criticism is welcome, valid criticism is even better, but I can't have you de-railing discussions into pointless semantic debates whenever it suits your agenda.

Feel free to start a new thread whenever you want to trade blows with "MFD" but let's try to keep other forum members' discussions on topic mmmmkay?

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Thu, Feb 27, 2003 4:02am

Boris doesn't understand us slek. He is firming rooted in the current paradigm. We are creating the next one. He keeps applying the rules and measures of the old system to us not understanding that they mean nothing to us and we don't care about them. He tries to sound like an intellectual sort of guy, but he's pretty transparent. If was the brain wave he lets on to be, he'd debate us instead of resorting to shallow criticisms.

I get a kick out of guys like this. They highlight for me the differences between us and the mainstreamers (labour, business, government or cheerleader).

  • posted by <Boris FitzPatrick Cruzado>
  • Thu, Feb 27, 2003 12:29pm

I understand you better than you understand yourselves.

Please, continue on with the next cyber-utopian cliche.

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Thu, Feb 27, 2003 4:30pm

Here's something interesting on the subject of backroom dealing. It's becoming apparent to me that the concept is being sanitized into desirable behaviour on the part of unions and employers. It's not called backroom dealing anymore, it's called "partnering" and it's being promoted publicly.

At this link you will find an outline of a presentation given by a management guy at a conference attended by various labour and management representatives in Toronto a while ago. The conference was called "Reinventing Union-Management Partnerships" and was all about how labour and management can partner up and work more effectively together. This management fellow was speaking about how his company "invited" a union to organize their staff.

The company and its union partner subsequently went on to negotiate a deal that involved the workers getting paid in company shares instead of wages for a certain number of scheduled overtime hours each week. We discussed this a while ago in this thread.

If you read the bottom line of this management guy's presentation, you'll see what the whole partnership thing was really all about.

What did the union give up? Oh just a few things...

  • posted by <Boris FitzPatrick Cruzado>
  • Thu, Feb 27, 2003 4:42pm

quote:


The company and its union partner subsequently went on to negotiate a deal that involved the workers getting paid in company shares instead of wages for a certain number of scheduled overtime hours each week.


And let's not forget the heavenly rewards for a pious life and a job well done. Fortunately, most stock options will vest before eternity does!

  • posted by <unionnow>
  • Fri, Feb 28, 2003 9:25pm

I love it! Dority meets the Big 4. Is this a remake of Bozo the Clown meets Frankenstein?

The International has always been the epitome of failure over the years and would be more than willing to cut the member wages as long as they can find a way to increase their dues.

An organization with such potential to have failed us so regularly should never be trusted. In our case we have to tolerate them, we have no choice.

Wal-Mart has the potential to damage the UFCW and they are scrambling. What is the International doing? Trying to raise members dues to fight Wal-Mart and control the money that is being raised by the locals for more staff that is nothing more than meaningless chaff.

The smart locals are not trusting the International with this new revenue source and thank Darwin for that! The locals are better able to run their own campaigns and many are smart enough not to let the International touch the green stuff.

When I see the UFCW becoming smart and somewhat ethical, I will change my tune.

  • posted by sleK
  • Sat, Mar 1, 2003 12:39am

In regard to the meeting between the "Big 4" and Dority, why the hell does the union have anything to do with this to begin with?

It's not the unions' responsibility to ensure that a company stays profitable.

Why don't the companies get together amongst themselves and mount a campaign to expose the evils of wal-mart?

Why can't/won't Ahold, Krogers, Safeway and Albertsons put their little brains together to devise a strategy to defend their market share?

Why is labour being handed the responsibility to find a solution?

Why would Dority accept this responsibility?

This is waaaaay beyond fishy! This is encroaching upon putrid!

  • posted by BillPearson
  • Sat, Mar 1, 2003 5:09am

quote:


The smart locals are not trusting the International with this new revenue source and thank Darwin for that! The locals are better able to run their own campaigns and many are smart enough not to let the International touch the green stuff.


Amen, brother, Amen.

quote:


It's not the unions' responsibility to ensure that a company stays profitable


Twice in one year S, we agree, it's not.

quote:


Why is labour being handed the responsibility to find a solution?


When the company can pass it off as our responsibility, it makes it easier to attack us at the bargaining table, because we failed.

quote:


Why would Dority accept this responsibility?


He hasn't and we didn't. As i said, he came to the presidents and asked how we felt about doing a "deal" with the shit they were proposing, and we weren't interested. No-one from Washington was advocating for this to happen.

  • posted by licatsplit
  • Sat, Mar 1, 2003 5:32am

quote:


There-in lies my frustration rv, they are pulling a sargeant schultz, and they are saying nothing, or was that i know nothing. In either case, the outcome is the same. As cutting edge as this is, it's not even on their radar screen. You'd think with the way locals are tanking at the bargaining table these days, they would be looking for any and all options to break out of the shit storm.


This is what continues to amaze me! Inspiration and cutting edge never seem to move the political based internationals. It continues to be 'business as usual' even though the causes for the downhill slide of labor unions and the answers for correcting this situation continues to elude them. C'mon people, "Is that coffee I smell?". The train is pulling out, "All Aboard!".

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Sat, Mar 1, 2003 3:08pm

I am not sure that any of the current biz union leaders will ever see the light. To want to embark upon the kind of renewal that would have to occur within unions like the UFCW, AU, SEIU, HERE and many others would require a formidable effort of the will and one where the payoff will be for others not for the leader. The biz union leaders are opportunists. They are the least likely to undertake such an initiative. After all, there's nothing in it for them that they don't already have (nothing that they value anyway). The biz union leaders, if they see the end coming, probably have a fall back plan and that is: Bail out with a big fat pension and spend the rest of your days on the golf course. That's what these guys are all about anyway, so why should the fall back plan scare them?

I think that we are likely to see a few things happen in the future:

We'll see some locals of the big biz unions go off in their own direction (some may disaffiliate completely while others will just go off on their own while still under the parent union's umbrella - like Local 789).

Some unions may undergo a big change in leadership. Reformers will score some surprise upsets (the Internet has loads of potential for local election campaigning). These unions will have a hope of survival because their new leaders will begin creating grassroots organizations.

Some new unions will be created. It's entirely possible that we'll see a network of small local unions affiliated only through their common goals and no formal structure.

How likely is this? Well, here's an interesting theory about evolution from a guy called Steven J. Gould who was a world reknowned evolutionary biologist (he died last year). Gould had a theory about evolution that ran contrary to convention. He said that evolution is not a long continuous linear process where the same species slowly evolves over a period of time. Evolution, according to Gould, happened in short bursts.

quote:


Gould's best-known contribution to evolutionary theory is called punctuated equilibrium. This states that most evolution occurs in short bursts, interspersed with long periods of stasis. Gould published the theory in 1972 with palaeontologist Niles Eldredge, now at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.


These bursts tend to happen on the fringes of established species Gould said.

quote:


"If a small segment of an ancestral population is isolated at the periphery of its accustomed range, it may give way to a new species. Also, the population is stressed intensely because it is living at the edge of its tolerance. Favourable peripheral variations spread quickly. Small peripheral isolates are the laboratory of evolutionary change.

The new paradigm attributes evolution to periodic leaps by small groups. ...This opens us up to the possibility of rapid evolution in our own time."


This explanation of Gould's theory is taken from a book about transformational thinking, The Aquarian Conspiracy, by Margaret Ferguson.

It's quite interesting in that it describes what could well happen to the labour movement. Progress won't be made when the Dority's, the Maddaloni's or the Wilhelm's wake up and see the light. It will be made by the stressed members isolated on the periphery of the labour movement. They're evolving the next movement in the shadow of the present one.

More from Gould:

quote:


He emphasized evolution's tendency to cobble together from available materials, or to put something that evolved for one purpose to a different use.


Does this put you in mind of anything?

  • posted by siggy
  • Sat, Mar 1, 2003 7:59pm

quote:


from ufcw 1518:

"These companies can't have it both ways," says Sundin. "Either they join in the fight or they keep their mouths shut about how hard it is to compete against Wal Mart. But one thing is sure; they are not going to be able to convince us that the answer to their problems with Wal Mart will be solved by taking away wages and benefits from our members."


quote:


sleK said:

Why don't the companies get together amongst themselves and mount a campaign to expose the evils of wal-mart?


sleK, me thinks you should quit with the Arizona Green Tea. First; have you noticed BP is agreeing with you and now you are saying the same stuff as ... as ... O shoot I can't even say it.

  • posted by sleK
  • Sun, Mar 2, 2003 1:46am

quote:


He hasn't and we didn't. As i said, he came to the presidents and asked how we felt about doing a "deal" with the shit they were proposing, and we weren't interested. No-one from Washington was advocating for this to happen.


That doesn't mean it won't. Stupider things have happened in the hands of the international. The fact that Dority even went to meet with the companies is not conducive to a strong, militant and capable union - three attributes the UFCW needs to attain to regain its' relevancy.

Had Dority declined, with a brief "this is not our responsibility, we'll see you at the negotiating table."**, the UFCW would have set a precedent that may provide the upper hand in the coming onslaught of concession-seeking companies in the grocery biz'.

But no, the UFCW agrees to "meet" instead.

** note that, if the UFCW really wanted to connect with the "youth" crowd, the proper response to the meeting invitation would be something like: "What? Are you retarded or something? - Biyatch!".

Oh! And Bill, I'm sorry about the "agreeing" thing.
I'll have to work on that!

************

quote:


How likely is this? Well, here's an interesting theory about evolution from a guy called Steven J. Gould who was a world reknowned evolutionary biologist (he died last year). Gould had a theory about evolution that ran contrary to convention...


heh, I finished I Have Landed: The End of a Beginning in Natural History a few days ago and started diggin' back into The Structure of Evolutionary Theory.

Gould's ability to observe and expound the fascinating features of seemingly mundane and inconsequential things is unmatched IMO.

******

quote:


sleK, me thinks you should quit with the Arizona Green Tea. First; have you noticed BP is agreeing with you and now you are saying the same stuff as ... as ... O shoot I can't even say it.




Common (well, scarce I suppose) sense. And I haven't had a green tea in months... switched to nestea. Hmm, maybe I should be switchin' back!?

  • posted by unionnow
  • Sun, Mar 2, 2003 12:35pm

Working on a study for my local I found some interesting facts. Over 2000 retail chain stores closed in 2002. It was the worst in the history of retail since the depression (the Wal grew like gangbusters).

The Wall plans to add something between 10 and 14 million square feet of retail in California in the next 5 years.

Something is going to give, and that give will come from unionized grocery chains, (among others). As I have tried to communicate with you, capitalism has some harsh realities to it that we all must face.

I am not saying that I agree with that position, it is merely a harsh reality that we face as unionized grocery workers. Our companies will shrink, the Wal will continue to grow and the International will continue to be incapable of dealing with the problem.

It is not a problem we should run away from. The longshoreman, Teamsters and the UFCW are all threatened. The Wal wants to build a port in Mexico to import all their goods and bypass longshore union jobs in our ports. They are behind the push to allow Mexican trucking companies to deliver goods throughout the U. S. and Canada bypassing Teamster jobs and placing downward pressure on wages.

They are pushing ballot initiatives in all the weaker union supporting states in the US to force them to become right to work states. They have succeeded in Oklahoma and are targeting 8 other states.

This company has some grand plans for us and the world that they are capable of completing and with the decline in labor; they may put the coupe de gras on the labor movement in the US and Canada.

  • posted by BillPearson
  • Sun, Mar 2, 2003 3:12pm

Unionnow is exactly on target, and walmarts goal to destroy workers rights is a strategic and well thought out plan of action. Not only are Teamsters and Longshoremen and Retail Workers at risk, but walmarts game plan includes manufacturing plants, automobile makers (its true, they are trying to develope a car overseas to private label for walmart) and a host of others. They are the largest contributor to the effort to eliminate the minimum wage laws in the US.

Walmart has one weakness, and frankly, it is in direct contrast to what is our strength. They do take it off the backs of their workers. Over the years, the UFCW had contracts that were exceptional in relationship to non-union employers. In Unionow's home state of CA, their agreements are heads and shoulders above anything walmart would ever think of doing. The chink in their armour is the employees. We need to exploit that, and it won't be by doing back door deals, or destroying our contracts so union employers can become more walmart like.

Dority had no reason to refuse to meet with the big 4. He did have a great reason to say HELL NO. The last settlements with safeway have been pathetic at best. As we cave in and do the backwards deals, members will throw union leaders out of office like never before in the UFCW's history. The next 5 years will not be pretty, and our fate may well rest with the leadership that hasn't show much to date.

If we are to survive, it will only happen when someone says it's balls-to-the-walls time. Fancy trips to Florida need to be gone, high salaries for guys who produce nothing have to be cut, locals have to be given the resources back to fight the fight at local levels. Guys like Mike Leonard are doing a great job, but putting one or two people in at the international level to take out walmart is laughable. Top to bottom retstructuring is the only hope there is. Don't hold your breath.

It certainly appears the braintrust is going the opposite direction. Making the beauracracy bigger, with higher percaps to both the AFL-CIO and the International looks like the agenda. God help us if that is the case, and God help the members, because if that is the direction, we all will be working for walmart someday. Funny, i just can't picture myself a greeter at the neighborhood walmart.

  • posted by licatsplit
  • Mon, Mar 3, 2003 5:14am

Wal-Mart's strategy of blanketing the world is working and it does seem impossible to slow, much less to stop! I agree with BP, the only hope lies within their employee base. The only way to make them accountable is through the inside, not the outside. I've always been told that "Big Money Eats Little Money"! I don't believe there is enough money available to fight that sort of fight and the bureaucracies better realize this. The tree will die if the roots aren't supported! If monies are increased, they should go to the local, community bases to fight a grassroots fight. The existing workers along with the future workers will be the "ball busters" of Wal-Mart, IMHO. This seems such a slow process, but I believe the tide will turn through information, education, and through people willing to put it on the line. Wal-Mart is like a fever; I believe it will run it's course, and the Wal-Virus will eventually burn itself out. The only problem is, what it will leave in it's wake, as it destroys practically every communtiy based business and employment base it comes into contact with. The longer it thrives, the more damage it does!

© 2017 Members for Democracy