Workers speak out on how Goodwill treats them; has failed to earn their trust
By ED FINKELSTEIN
In its vicious, dishonest anti-union campaign against workers at its Festus store seeking union representation, MERS Goodwill has put the issue of “trust” at the forefront of its efforts to try to get the workers to vote against UFCW Local 655 in a decertification vote now underway.
A company flyer states: “When you vote in the upcoming election, you will be deciding whom you trust – the union or MERS Goodwill.”
EMPLOYEES SPEAK OUT
Here’s how employees responded on the issue of “trust” in interviews with the Labor Tribune – demonstrating clearly why they voted by 89 percent to join Local 655 some 13 months ago, and where they stand today after 23 negotiating sessions that involved almost 100 hours of talks:
- MERS bosses consistently show favoritism among workers: favored employees get more hours and breaks than others.
- MERS transferred three pro-union supervisors – originally part of the bargaining unit – from the store after management successfully complained to the National Labor Relations Board that they should not be in the union. Prior to the union’s campaign, the supervisors did not have management level authority to hire or fire employees. However, MERS changed that after employees approved the union, thus allowing the Labor Board to take them out of the bargaining unit.
- MERS supervisors often “were bullying people, except for their friends.”
WHEN UNION CAME IN, WAGES WENT UP
- Before Local 655 began its organizing efforts, MERS Goodwill employee raises were some 20 cents an hour on their anniversary date, if that. Although the company denies it, as a result of Local 655’s organizing efforts in 2019, employees got a $1 an hour increase this year with a “promise” of another $1 next year.
- While not providing Christmas bonuses for some years, suddenly MERS decided to give a $200 bonus to workers this Christmas, claiming, of course, it had nothing to do with the union negotiations. In truth, Local 655 raised the issue earlier in talks and the answer was “no.” MERS apparently had a change of heart but, as with the employee raises, the change is obviously directly related to the union’s negotiating efforts.
It’s worth noting that MERS CEO David Kutchback in 2019 received a $100,000 bonus in 2019 and $150,000 in 2018, while employees got none.
• MERS eliminated monthly performance bonuses and reduced holidays for its workers but not for its headquarters staff or officers.
‘ONLY THINK OF MONEY’
Some other issues employees raised:
- Not wanting to be liable for unemployment benefit costs, MERS would consistently suspend bad workers instead of firing them (despite the impact on worker morale).
- “Ungodly turnover because people don’t like they way they are treated.”
- “They (MERS Goodwill) may want to look good (to the public) but they don’t take care of their people… [they] only think of money.”
- MERS management falsely told workers the union was going to have them all replaced.
- MERS favoritism would allow some employees to use their vacation time to cover extended illnesses, but would deny others the same opportunity.
‘THE UNION WILL HELP US’
Said MERS employee Nicole Robinson, who agreed to use her name, “We hope we can get back in the union. The union will help us get better wages and stand with us against bad management.”
Negotiating ploy by MERS Goodwill
The latest “trust me” moment between MERS Goodwill and UFCW Local 655 came last Friday when negotiations (via Zoom) were scheduled but were postponed by the union negotiating committee because Goodwill did not provide the information about health benefits the union asked for on Dec. 7.
Local 655 had asked for information on what it costs MERS for employee dental and vision benefits. Instead, Goodwill provided what each employee pays, information the union already has.
“Without the information requested, there was no need to meet,” said Local 655 Secretary-Treasurer Garry Torpea.
The company immediately put out a letter to employees implying that the union was stalling because they would not meet that day, without explaining that it was the company, not the union, that caused the delay. The truth is that MERS Goodwill has stalled talks throughout the past year — 23 meetings and almost 100 hours of talks — to allow for enough time to pass to legally allow for a decertification vote.
“The negotiating meeting was simply a management ploy to try to make Goodwill look like the good guy…because the decertification ballots are already out for a vote,” said Director of Organizing Billy Myers. Employees have until Jan. 11 to return their secret ballots to the Labor Board where MERS will have no access to how workers voted.
“We need accurate data in order to finalize a solid proposal that will benefit employees in terms of wages and benefits,” stressed Torpea. “They did not provide it as requested despite having 11 days to provide it, a simple matter.
“When employees vote ‘No’ on decertification, which is a vote in THEIR own best interest and future, it will force Goodwill to do what it should have been doing all along: come to the table and finally begin treating their employees like the valued workers they are, the very people that make Goodwill the positive community resource it is.”