March 21, 2008 Volume 109 Number 6
IBEW launches union campaign at Comcast
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers announced March 12 that it will try to unionize Comcast, a telecommunications giant that last year took in $25 billion in revenue.
Matt Carroll, IBEW Local 89 president and lead Northwest organizer on the Comcast campaign, says less than 2 percent of Comcast’s 90,000 employees are unionized. IBEW represents Comcast workers in Chicago, Philadelphia, New Jersey and Alabama, and Communications Workers of America represents Comcast workers at facilities in California, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. But the company has successfully resisted further unionization.
So IBEW is trying a new approach — a “virtual” campaign. Organizers and volunteers show up outside Comcast workplaces with a banner and fliers that direct workers to a Web site. In mid-March, the union campaign kicked off in the Pacific Northwest, New England, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Florida.
The Web site for the Northwest, www.comcastworkers.com, enables workers to download and mail in union authorization cards. If the union collects enough cards, it can request an election to be overseen by the National Labor Relations Board.
The Northwest campaign is being headed up by IBEW Local 89 — an Everett, Wash., telecommunications local with members in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Northern California, at Verizon and two rural telecom companies, CenturyTel and Frontier.
Comcast management appears to be reacting swiftly. In Auburn, Wash., managers held an emergency meeting when the union banner appeared, and then came out to watch the entrance while employees drove out in their company vans.
In the first several days of the Northwest campaign, IBEW staff and volunteers hit every Comcast work site from the Canadian border to Corvallis, Carroll said.
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