By DAVID A. COOK
Earlier this month, Local 655 was fortunate to get some good news.
Goodwill workers at the Festus location reaffirmed that they wanted Local 655 to continue to serve as their bargaining representative as they continue the fight for better wages and benefits.
After months of aggressively promoting an anti-union campaign, Goodwill failed to convince the majority of its employees that they would be better off without a Union.
Goodwill workers at the Festus store voted 18 months ago, overwhelmingly supporting a Union family.
Sadly, Goodwill did not seem interested in negotiating a contract. They delayed bargaining repeatedly by scheduling only a tiny number of meetings in narrow time windows. They made it clear early on that they wanted to delay this process as long as possible.
After a year of this, a decertification petition was circulated under less-than-honest pretenses and a decertification election was held. During this entire process, Goodwill refused to substantively discuss bargaining, citing the pending election.
Despite Goodwill’s best efforts, workers earlier this month repeated themselves: “yes, we want a Union, and we want a contract.”
RETRIBUTION WON’T BE TOLERATED
We immediately requested information to continue negotiations and demanded that Goodwill pay its Festus employees the same scheduled annual raise that their coworkers received at other locations. Yes, during a pandemic, Goodwill withheld a scheduled raise to its employees to punish them for joining a Union.
While I am thrilled to report that Goodwill workers continued to stay strong and united, I am less happy to report that Goodwill appears to be unwilling to see the light and come to the bargaining table.
We’ve received word that Goodwill is now taking their fight directly to the National Labor Relations Board in an effort to undermine the will of their employees. (See story on Page 1) That process will largely be out of our control, although we continue to ask Goodwill to meet with us to negotiate a good Union contract.
Sadly, Goodwill is making it clearer and clearer that they aren’t interested in negotiating with us until they are forced to do so.
GOODWILL NOT SO GOOD TO ITS EMPLOYEES
I’d like to be candid for a moment. The truth is, I’ve been in Organized Labor for most of my life, and I’ve had the pleasure of serving this local for decades. I’ve been in organizing, and I’ve seen countless organizing campaigns up close. I am accustomed to businesses doing everything in their power to exploit their workers for profit, and I’m accustomed to businesses using every trick in the book to fight back against their employees joining a Union. It’s the tragic reality we live in. However, I can honestly say I was not expecting this from Goodwill.
Goodwill is a company whose public image is built on their reputation as “community partners” who care about the places they operate in. The MERS Goodwill mission, according to their own website, is “changing lives through the power of work.”
What is a better way to change lives through the power of work than by ensuring that your workers have good wages and benefits?
Goodwill, which so often claims to care deeply about their community, which presents itself to the public as a good and wholesome company that wants to make the world a better place, is now actively refusing to listen to their own workers who have twice voted for union representation.
Goodwill has deliberately misled their workers about Local 655, withheld wages during a global pandemic and economic crisis, and wasted precious time and resources by making absurd allegations. I’ve seen plenty of bad employers in my time, but I never thought one of them would be a company like Goodwill.
It’s never our goal to have hostile relationships with our employers, because it doesn’t help serve the mission of anyone. We will disagree with our employers certainly, but we do not seek out to antagonize them.
Sadly, too many employers see their workers joining a Union as a threat that must be neutralized at all costs. It’s simply shocking what companies are willing to do to keep their workers from having a voice at work and a decent contract.
Goodwill, a company that the average person probably thinks is good and wholesome, is no different. Despite what you may think, Goodwill has shown time and time again that they simply do not care about their workers who want to join a union. Profits continue to reign supreme, and working people continue to suffer.
WORKING FOR CHANGE, SHOUTING FROM THE ROOFTOPS
I sincerely hope things change soon. I hope Goodwill understands that we want to work with them to bargain a contract that gives their employees the wages and benefits they deserve while also preserving Goodwill’s ability to conduct their business effectively. Local 655 is willing to put the past behind us at any time and return to the bargaining table in good faith.
If Goodwill chooses not to respect their workers, if they continue frivolous time-wasting lawsuits, if they ignore the demands of the hard-working men and women that keep their company running, then Local 655 will have no choice but to take our message to the general public.
We will be forced to shout from the rooftops that Goodwill has not fulfilled their legal and moral obligations, and we will help the St. Louis public discover that they can take their donations elsewhere until this company learns to actually fulfill the words of their mission.
Local 655 is prepared to let bygones be bygones and bargain a contract. If Goodwill is not prepared to live up to their mission, then we will simply have to make sure the whole world knows about it.