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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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