In CWA District 3, where formal bargaining begins Monday June 24, some folks decided to pump $20.19 worth of gas into their AT&T work-trucks to demonstrate a desire for change in 2019 and also to show solidarity with their fellow workers. Typical of AT&T management, there were some bad reactions to this lawful protected concerted activity and disciplined was threatened by some bosses towards these motivated workers.
Management cried about this to Labor Relations and Human Resources, and Labor sent a note to District 3 demanding answers and threatening discipline. District 3 correctly responded with a muscular discussion of FU (Fairness and Unity) and warned AT&T that they would not lay down for nonsense and would vigorously protect the rights of CWA members on the job. District 3 also had no idea what was going on with this and had to ask the Locals what was up.
This display of hate and discontent from CWA rank-and-file members so inspired Districts United that we wrote a post about it, and asked like-minded folks around the country to join in on the fun. It seems they did:
The “activity” is “protected” because it is “concerted”
We are speaking of PCA, or “protected concerted activity.” Above is the four days of activity on the post, from around the country. We include the top ten states, but ultimately received attention in 28 states and 4 countries. We also saw many, many photos of gas-pump solidarity on various social media platforms. One common side effect of such large participation is that AT&T cannot discipline some, but not all, without appearing discriminatory in front of the NLRB. Yet, HR knows it is too hard to get lazy managers to do their job all over the country and so the word from on high became, “Ignore it and levy no discipline.” Reacting as one across the country provided “mutual aid and protection”; this is called solidarity.
I thought we were not allowed to coordinate bargaining across Districts?
Well, sort of. Union leadership and bargaining teams are not. Each CWA District has a different contract with AT&T and US labor law does not permit a bargaining team in, say, District 4 to stall bargaining in hopes of waiting for District 3’s contract to expire. This would be deemed “bad faith bargaining” by the National Labor Relations Board pretty quickly and AT&T would be allowed to impose whatever jacked-up crap they want on us with no say.
But, if say, an entire District performed a “grass-roots” job action that they cared about that coincidentally happened to help another District get movement at the table on an issue that coincided with their own (like, massive layoffs, maybe?) ..And it was coordinated untraceably using Signal or WhatsApp..And no union leadership knew about this..Then we just have a bunch of protected concerted activity that happened all at once everywhere. What a coincidence!
Job actions that drive chaos, angst and especially that holy grail of results, management tears, are best developed by rank-and-file members. Activists should be encouraged to develop their own networks of troublemakers who can be called on, using secure communication tools, to disrupt and create mayhem. It is the role of the Local to provide them education on our rights and to support rank-and-file “trouble-makers” fiercely. It is the role of the District to respond to our job actions by exploiting the opportunities we create by bargaining the solutions that we are demanding.
What is your Local doing to support trouble-making?