Today in Labor History: December 24
Seventy-two copper miners’ children die in panic caused by a company stooge at Calumet, Mich., who shouted “fire” up the stairs into a crowded hall where the children had gathered. They were crushed against closed doors when they tried to flee – 1913
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Member Tip: Is Direct Action Better Than Filing a Grievance?
Because of the drawbacks that can accompany the use of a grievance procedure, sometimes employees and their unions are better off if they can take direct action to force a wayward employer to mend its ways. Especially with a cynical employer, one who may count on the passage of time or the limited relief available through a grievance procedure working in its favor, what’s needed is a direct, quick, “in your face” demonstration of the employees’ will. Take, for example, the all too common situation of an employer determined to remove work being done by unionized employees from the protections of the union contract. In one case, a company sought to contract out the cafeteria work in its building to a non-union company and to cast off the unionized workers. The workers’ union might well have had a strong grievance challenging the employer’s move to throw its members out on the street, and a year or so later might have gotten an arbitrator to rule in its favor. But the unionized employees in the building came up with a much quicker and more dramatic way to demonstrate to the employer that its planned actions would have serious consequences: everyone (except for managers, of course) stopped buying food in the cafeteria. The message to the employer was clear and immediate: unless you reach an acceptable accommodation with us as to who’s going to work in this cafeteria, this cafeteria isn’t going to do much business! The employer got the message, and all of the cafeteria workers stayed on the company payroll.
—Adapted from The Union Member’s Complete Guide, by Michael Mauer