Interesting Times II

Here’s the news we’ve all been waiting for: the results of the investigation. Huzzah! After running their cherry-picked* interview statements past Legal and HR, the most that management could manage was a counseling notice for insubordination. As far as punishments go, it’s like a slap on the back of the hand and a giggled, “You naughty girl, stahp!” I’m wondering if that’s because Legal said something like, “WTF? Are you trying to get sued for millions?”

I’m vastly amused. Disappointed, but amused.

Where do we go from here? Well, my two ethics complaints (one for my manager’s legally questionable termination, and one for my legally-questionable suspension) are still in play. They have a counseling notice I refused to sign (politely! Wouldn’t want them to think I was being insubordinate or anything!). I have a disciplinary action against me that gets the union’s foot in the door for a grievance. What they seem to be doing to me is trying to stretch a tripwire across my path, since shutting me up has proved to be such a spectacular failure. What I’m doing is hopping right over it with a grin and a whistle. What do they have? A very weak sauce. What do I have? A heaping helping of wasabi – a documented pattern of behavior that looks for all the world like retaliation. Oh, honey.

I have also got a hostile work environment. I feel ganged up on and targeted. I have coworkers who are either terrified or despairing – but after what happened to me and my manager, the terror and despair have begun to turn into a righteous outrage. People are tired of living in fear. They’re uniting to make things better. And it is beautiful.

Still. It should never have come to this.

Under the microscope, I shall continue on my quest to improve working conditions, with my union and my co-workers at my side. We won’t be stopped.

Meanwhile, my manager has only just begun to sue.

Stay tuned.

The giant gavel of justice at the Ohio Judicial Center in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Image and caption courtesy Sam Howzit via Wikimedia Commons.

The giant gavel of justice at the Ohio Judicial Center in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Image and caption courtesy Sam Howzit via Wikimedia Commons.

*I say this because witnesses who were standing right there who happened to be my peers were, oddly enough, never interviewed. One of them is my friend and a union steward, and lo, she was never called upon. Interesting coinky-dink, that, and leads to the strong impression that this investigation may have failed to meet the minimal qualifications for totally unbiased. Color me shocked.

Interesting Times

So Friday was a bit of a strange day. It started with management splitting up my former manager’s team and parceling us out other managers. It continued with me filing an ethics complaint because of my concerns over the legality of his firing. It concluded with them suspending me with pay “pending investigation.” Investigating what? They wouldn’t say. Not to me, and not to the union steward. Why did they suspend me, then? They said they were investigating to find that out. True fucking story. What they appeared to be doing is getting me out of the way while they attempted to find something they could use to intimidate me into silence. That’s certainly how it seemed.

That impression intensified Monday, when they tried to intimidate me with some pretty weak tea. Alas for them, witnesses witnessed, and they have nothing. They ended up returning me to duty after a brief attempt at silencing me about the whole affair, which I nixed by pointing out that such attempt is very possibly illegal and I would have to seek advice, after which the request changed from silence to “discretion” with a quickness. They’re still “investigating.” I have no way to be certain, but it looks very much like a spirited attempt at retaliation, boys and girls. This appearance is creating what we in the business call “a hostile work environment.” This could lead to Very Interesting Times, indeed. I’m certainly finding them fascinating so far.

I’m not ready to tell the whole story just yet. I have certain avenues I’m pursuing, and shall hold my tongue publicly until I have professional legal advice. I will, however, make the observation that both my manager and myself found our jobs threatened or ended just after filing ethics complaints. I believe that fact will prove to be of some interest to various parties going forward.

Thank you, those of you who forwarded the names of attorneys. That will be very helpful to both my former manager and myself, and possibly others.

A few things I want to make sure are crystal clear:

1. I don’t want you to worry about me (this means you, Mom and Dad!).

2. Please don’t die of curiosity. I know this is all rather vague, but depending on certain outcomes, it may not be vague for long.

3. I’m fine. Seriously, fine. I was prepared for this eventuality, and I have time now to prepare even further. So see #1

I may at some point need to hold out the tip jar. You’re under no obligation to fill it if so, but anyone who can help when that time comes will have my undying gratitude and possibly swag. I’ll do me best to make it worth your while. And I beg your patience in advance, because there may be some days when I have to neglect the blog in favor of working on this stuff. Hopefully, it won’t last long.

Wish me luck, my darlings.

The giant gavel of justice at the Ohio Judicial Center in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Image and caption courtesy Sam Howzit via Wikimedia Commons.

The giant gavel of justice at the Ohio Judicial Center in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Image and caption courtesy Sam Howzit via Wikimedia Commons.

Why Bush’s Bailout of the Auto Industry Fucks Up Some Cunning Con Plans

Bush flashes Cons the middle finger, bails out the auto industry:

Senate Republicans can block congressional action, but they can’t, oddly enough, prevent their friend at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue from bailing out U.S. auto manufacturers.

President Bush on Friday announced $13.4 billion in emergency loans to prevent the collapse of General Motors and Chrysler, and another $4 billion available for the hobbled automakers in February with the entire bailout conditioned on the companies undertaking sweeping reorganization plans to show that they can return to profitability.

Mr. Bush made his announcement a week after Senate Republicans blocked legislation to aid the automakers that had been negotiated by the White House and Congressional Democrats, and the loan package announced by the president includes roughly the identical requirements in that bill, which had been approved by the House.

[snip]

The rescue package comes in the form of government loans, but the money comes with all kinds of strings attached, including a March 31 deadline for company restructuring. Among the conditions are requirements that the companies cut their debt obligations by two-thirds and, in a move that will make the GOP happy, renegotiate the contract with the United Auto Workers to make compensation packages more competitive with foreign manufacturers with plants in the U.S.

So, are Corker, Shelby, and DeMint getting what they wanted, by forcing American workers to get paid less? That depends on how this shakes out — the NYT explained that Bush’s plan makes the requirements “non-binding, allowing the automakers to reach different arrangements with the union, provided that they explain how those alternative plans will keep them on a path toward financial viability.”

Considering how well Bush does with even binding agreements, I think the automakers can consider this pretty much free money. Corker et all tried to hold out for the entire pot and ended up walking out clutching nothing but their underpants.

Now, you may wonder why Corker and his ilk are so dead-set on union busting. It’s not just the normal anti-union pathology so many Cons and their conned followers display. No, there’s a larger strategy here, and it has a lot to do with the way unions force other companies to pay decent wages:

The foreign nonunion auto companies located in the South have a plan to reduce wages and benefits at their factories in the United States. And to do it, they need to destroy the United Auto Workers.

[snip]

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger realized that the existence of the union was under attack, which is why he refused to give in to the Senate Republicans’ demands that the UAW make further concessions. I say “further” because the union has already conceded a lot. Its 2007 contract introduced a two-tier contract to pay new hires $15 an hour (instead of $28) with no defined pension plan and dramatic cuts to their health insurance. In addition, the UAW agreed that healthcare benefits for existing retirees would be transferred from the auto companies to an independent trust. With the transferring of the healthcare costs, the labor cost gap between the Big Three and the foreign transplants will be almost eliminated by the end of the current contracts.

These concessions go some distance toward leveling the playing field (retiree costs are still a factor for the Big Three). But what the foreign car companies want is to level — which is to say, wipe out — the union. They currently discourage their workforce from organizing by paying wages comparable to the Big Three’s UAW contracts. In fact, Toyota’s per-hour wages are actually above UAW wages.

However, an internal Toyota report, leaked to the Detroit Free Press last year, reveals that the company wants to slash $300 million out of its rising labor costs by 2011. The report indicated that Toyota no longer wants to “tie [itself] so closely to the U.S. auto industry.” Instead, the company intends to benchmark the prevailing manufacturing wage in the state in which a plant is located. The Free Press reported that in Kentucky, where the company is headquartered, this wage is $12.64 an hour, according to federal labor statistics, less than half Toyota’s $30-an-hour wage.

If the companies, with the support of their senators, can wipe out or greatly weaken the UAW, they will be free to implement their plan.

Did that make your eyes pop? It certainly did mine. We’ve been hearing so much about this supposed wage disparity between the foreign car companies and our own Big Three that I hadn’t thought to look at the wages. It’s interesting, to say the least, that the disparity actually turns out to be on the foreign side.

(And if you really want your eyes to explode, go have a gander at the rest of that article and see where wages for the auto industry are in relation to the financial industry.)

All of it boils down to the typical contempt Cons seem to have when it comes to blue collar workers. They want to break the unions so that the fat cats on top can pay (even more) miserable wages to their workers, and so that other companies can join in the gang rape. They tried to win it all, and lost big – Obama’s going to be the one handling any restructuring after the loan money runs out, which, after his appointment of Solis as Secretary of Labor, has got to have the anti-union brigade wetting themselves in terror. You can tell they’re terrified just based on the anti-union screeching going on in the WSJ’s pages.

I love it when Con plans gang aft agley.

Welcome to the Company! Here’s How We Plan to Fuck You Over

This cuts a little too close to the truth, but it’s still funny:

Let me just say a few words here. Corporations fear unions. I worked for a company that brought in union busters once: we didn’t unionize, and that company has now closed its doors, putting a lot of my friends out of a job.

The company I work for now does have a union, but one of our divisions that wasn’t unionized decided it didn’t need no stinkin’ union between it and the management. They were too valuable to screw over, they thought. I’m not sure what they’re thinking now, because that department got outsourced to India.

While companies make record profits on the backs of their workers, while CEOs get outrageous bonus packages, employees get… higher health care costs. Seriously. Right now, my union is working to ensure that we don’t get shafted on benefits next year. Without that union, we’d be looking at the following choices in benefit packages: expensive, hideously expensive, and fucking insanely expensive.

Companies like to scream about how unions kill their bottom line and make it impossible for them to be competitive and other such bullshit. That’s all it is – bullshit. What the company’s really saying is, they don’t want to have to pay their workers a dollar more and their CEOs a million dollars less.

So take a moment to sign this petition. Make it easier for workers to unionize. Make sure there’s someone there to help you stand up for your rights and share in the wealth you’re creating.