BWI OnLine – August 17, 2011

Swedwood Supervisors Seek to Fast Track Family Members Instead of Union Supporter

August 15, 2011:  Since the election Swedwood management in Danville has promoted family members, reneged on verbal contracts, and are now attempting to set up family members for future promotions.

A new list of workers just posted for the training required for promotions includes the nephew of Supervisor Fillingame even though this worker is still in their trial service period.  This means that this new hire would be eligible for promotions over senior workers.  This happened right after management revoked a promotion for a pro union worker by stating that due to the union vote, management had to follow seniority.  Seems like Swedwood Danville is speaking out of both sides of its mouth.  Check out BWI blogs here.

Safety for Workers Not a Priority at Swedwood

August 7, 2011:  On second shift yesterday, August, 7, 2011, the management decided to shut down the “Complete” line and transferred the entire line crew to the Band and Bore line which has a history of lacerations and time loss injuries.  Antony Morton, lacerated his finger and was removed for medical care and sutures. 

The union stewards immediately conducted a poll and discovered that many if not all of the “Complete” line workers had either no or inadequate experience on the Band and Bore line.  Many responded that they did not know how to run the line efficiency or safely.  Following this poll, the union stewards then notified new shift new supervisor, Shawn Hopkins, that to continue to run with untrained staff on the line was both a safety risk and would not generate efficient production.  Supervisor Hopkins, himself not trained as a supervisor, replied that he had his orders and was going to follow them.

Concerned about the continued safety of the workers, Union Steward Tawanda Tarpley then contacted her union representative on her mobile phone for a call that lasted less than 5 minutes to inquire as to what options she had to insure that no more accidents occurr and how to make sure the workplace was being operated in a safe manner. 

Supervisor Jim Fillingame, then told her to get off the phone and instructed her not to conduct “union” business on the phone falling to make any distinctions between “union” business and worker safety.

This is a classic example of Swedwood putting production ahead of the safety of workers and a worker unfortunately paid the price.  No doubt the company’s safety investigation will reveal “operator” error and will not note the pressure placed on untrained workers and a new untrained supervisor to engage in unsafe acts since the workers were not and are not trained on the different lines each of which has its own unique technological challenges and safety risks.

The proper process would have been to determine if Complete line workers could safely operate the Band and Bore line before assigning them to it.  Or discovering that these workers did not know the proper safety protocols take the necessary time to orient them to the SOP’s and then assure them that if they had any doubts they should stop the line before they put their body parts in harms way.  (See BWI blogs here.)

Swedwood Management Still Refuses to Negotiate

August 1, 2011:  On Monday, August 1, the IAMAW faxed a request to the Swedwood management in Danville, Virginia for dates to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement.  The Machinists had offered to start negotiations on August 8th.  However, neither the Swedwood management nor Jackson Lewis, the law firm that Swedwood hired to negotiate has yet to respond.  The count-down for negotiations is at 12 days.  

In the meantime, there is considerable confusion inside Danville as Union Stewards attempt to ensure dignity and respect in the workplace with Supervisors who take offense and react inappropriately.  Without a union contract the situation inside the plant will undoubtedly deteriorate.   

On July 28th IKEA issued a statement that they would respect their decision of the workers who voted for a union.  Yet, now 15 days later, they still have not been able to find a single date when they could meet with their workers and their duly elected union representatives.

Jackson Lewis the anti union law firm is famous for stalling in order to demonstrate to the workers the futility of joining a union and to give Supervisors additional time to intimidate and mistreat workers inside.  It appears as if they are following their usual playbook practice.  (See BWI blogs here.)

Swedwood Management “Bullying Tactics” Continues

August 10, 2011:  The fight for dignity and respect in Danville, Virginia received reinforcements today in the form of 21 IAMAW steward trainees.  These Steward trainees started advocating for due process inside the Danville plant yesterday.  As of today they have reported 6 incidents, where workers have exercised their legal right to be represented by a union steward in interactions with Supervisors that the worker believes may lead to discipline.

The absence of fair and complete investigations by frontline managers became immediately apparent.  Rather than fact based corrective discipline, frontline supervisors continue to attempt to rule through intimidation and behaviors that are judged unequal and border on “bullying”. 

In the past 24 hours, a pro-union fork lift driver has been ordered to take a drug test following a near miss with a union hostile witness even though the last actual fork lift accident involving an anti union operator appears to have not resulted in a drug test.  Another pro union worker is being disciplined for not following the direction of their Team Captain, a job according to the Swedwood that has no effective supervisory authority, even though the shift manager gave an explicit order to the worker which was contradicted by the Team Captain.  These types of “gotcha” disciplines arising from the failure of Swedwood management to have clear and consistent lines of communications required to prevent bullying and abuses, is all too common.

Swedwood management continues to attempt to instill fear by disciplining workers for their “attitude” and their lack of a “sense of urgency”, even though neither term has ever been defined in such a way as to allow workers to avoid discipline. If a worker is “sluggish” when working in an workplace where the heat index routine exceeds 105F perhaps the solution would be to cool the building rather than firing up the worker by administering random and inconsistent discipline to those who support the union.  (See BWI blogs here.)

Swedwood Worker Represented by a Union Shop Steward for the First Time

August 8, 2011:  The first Swedwood worker to request representation has been represented by a union shop steward.  It is a wonderful day, made more so by the fact that Swedwood management did not have an immediate reaction.  With only one Steward trainee for 318 workers there is still much work to be done but the right to representation is vital to creating dignity and respect on the shop floor.  Since the union election, eight more workers have received their initial training.

The Jackson Lewis Attorney and the IAMAW have agreed to allow the Machinists a 45 minute mini-tour of the operation just to see the operations and to specifically examine the Number 2 print line where two workers were injured last week.  This will be followed up with an in-depth tour later with the Plant Manager.

In addition, the IAMAW has agreed to give Swedwood three extra days to deliver the  Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 300 logs to the union beyond what the law requires.   The OSHA 300 logs have become increasingly more important since stories are now coming to light about the number of workers who have been scarred by hot and toxic chemicals used on the print line.  (See BWI blogs here.)