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  • I wanted to expand on the controversies over companies/public agencies mandating masks/vaccinations as people return to work. There has been a wide range of responses from union officers and provided an opportunity (no surprise) for a columnist in the Washington Post to bash us. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/07/29/unions-shouldnt-stand-way-vaccine-mandates/
    A couple of things: in the Recognition clause of our contracts, we have the right to bargain over “terms and conditions of employment,” and this means everything, including wearing masks. A proper objection from some union officers is that a unilateral command to wear masks or get vaccinated may be good policy but we will not accept unilateral commands. If a boss wants to bargain over masks or vaccinations, we should be ready to do so but should oppose a unilateral proclamation, because it becomes a practice that any boss will want to repeat.
    As for the masking/vaccination, I personally think it’s good workplace health and safety policy, even if some of our members disagree for different reasons.
    I was reminded of a similar situation more than 35 years ago (history repeats itself, right?) when I was a rep for the Philadelphia Newspaper Guild and our largest employer (about 1,450 members) announced that it wanted to ban smoking in the building. They were willing to bargain but some of our members insisted that they had a God-given, or Constitutional, right to smoke anywhere they wanted but I challenged that, and described the dangers of second-hand smoke, as well as direct health problems that smoking creates. (Confession: I was a recent quitter so I was personally sensitive to the health problems that smoking provokes). We had a couple of heated union meetings but the agreement passed and smoking was no more, and our right to bargain over terms ad conditions of employment was strengthened.
    This whole issue is not going away and it can be divisive in your local, but as an officer, you gotta do the right thing.

    Bill Barry
  • On an organizing campaign, the workers were subjected to several captive audience meetings a week. In one meeting, the plant manager (who was widely disliked) dismissed the workers’ issues by saying (I’m paraphrasing) “you should take all of these lemons and make them into lemonade!” I think he meant that the workers should take all of their issues and think of them as not real problems at all. Well, that might be what he meant, but it wasn’t how the committee took it. They felt dismissed and disrespected. So we hatched a plan: we bought ever artificial lemon we could get a hold of — small ones, large ones. And we had the committee write their issues on them: unfairness, no raise, disrespect, favoritism, etc. When the next meeting ended, the committee got up and went to the front of the room and put their lemon in front of the boss, one by one. They did it silently, but their message was loud and clear. The boss was stunned. At the next meeting, more workers were asking for lemons to write their issues on — even workers who were undecided or anti-union wanted to give the boss a lemon.

    Sandra

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