Home > Uncategorized > NY Union Workers Prevail Despite Brutal Campaign by company against its workers

NY Union Workers Prevail Despite Brutal Campaign by company against its workers

Dec 1, 2011

Union Members Celebrate Win After Long Battle for Dignity, Fairness

Barbara Elliot
Local 1102 member Barbara Elliot, with CWA President Larry Cohen, speaks at the 2010 One Nation rally about the fight for a fair contract at EZ Pass.

EZ Pass call center workers in Staten Island, N.Y., have capped a three-year battle for dignity and justice by voting to ratify their first union contract at a company that fought them every step of the way.

The contract victory comes nearly two years after workers organized with CWA Local 1102 in August 2009. More than 70 percent of the workers petitioned for the election, igniting a vicious campaign by the Xerox-owned company. Management fired union activists, refused to accept the election results, then refused to bargain.

“This is a sweet victory for us considering what we went through for simply exercising our lawful right to form a union,” EZ Pass activist Barbara Elliot said. “Supervisors were free to intimidate and frighten us and made it near impossible for any pro-union worker to talk with our coworkers. Yet we stood firm, and today management must follow the terms of our new contract.”

Putting the battle on the national record, Elliot was a featured speaker at the historic One Nation rally in Washington, D.C., in 2010.

The contract’s benefits include badly needed just-cause language to end the company’s “at-will” discipline, a grievance procedure with binding arbitration, RIF protections, seniority rights and a prescription plan that offers generic medicines at no cost.

Importantly, the contract prevents management from leaving workers on temporary status for prolonged periods. Before, some workers were labeled “temporary” for up to two years, excluding them from receiving benefits. Now, all temporary workers will become regular employees 181 days after contract ratification, or after their original hire date. Management also agreed to an agency shop provision.

The workers’ chances for a fair contract seemed slim after the representation election, as management fired 14 union supporters, refused to bargain for more than 13 months, and appealed the election to the National Labor Relations Board. Bargaining finally got underway in October 2010, a month after the NLRB voted 2-1 to reject the company’s appeal.

“I can’t get over how excited workers are,” said District 1 Staff Representative Pat Telesco, who helped bargain the contract. “People who had been too afraid to even smile or talk to union supporters were pumping their fists and hugging us.”

Local 1102 President Ed Luster, Vice President Ed Doyle and Chief Steward John Castella, along with District 1 Organizing Coordinator Tim Dubnau and Counsel Amy Young, provided essential support during the campaign.

Luster said help and encouragement also came from many area CWA locals. “This victory is so rewarding after all of the turmoil the workers went through to get a union,” he said.

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