Posted March 2007
Just In case anyone was
Over the last few months I have been approached several
times by members of this workforce asking what's up with the Union
Committee. They seem to think we are just way too quiet and mellow. Folks
ask me when we are going to start another campaign and most that inquire
voice support for our efforts. My stock answer is simple...we never
stopped campaigning nor will we ever stop. It is this committee's
stated purpose to organize the International Paper Lexington Container
Plant for the purpose of collective bargaining and or mutual protection.
That's a lot of big old legal sounding words for the simple fact we want
to be Unionized with a legally binding contract that we the people of this
facility all took a hand in creating. Anyone that assumes that we have
fallen in love with management's bash'em over the head approach to running
this joint would be very sadly mistaken.
However, I must congratulate this management team. They
have raped what was left of our health benefits, drove up the price, and
herded us like cattle toward this weak choke and gag "Employee Driven
Health Plan" Our once decent vacation policy has now been overhauled to
enhance management's ability to control and dictate over your life on as
well as off the job. With a little slight of hand and the magic words
"because we say so" they turned the attendance policy into a hangman's
noose waiting to stretch the neck of anyone who runs into a streak of bad
luck. Threats, write ups, intimidation, bullying, are just a few weapons
in their arsenal. Even after all that, they still manage to get the
numbers they want and get their huge Management Incentive Plan Bonuses off
Anyone can beat a borrowed mule but to beat that mule
AND make it run like a thoroughbred stallion is a true work of managerial
art. Bravo I say!
What's up with the Union Committee you ask? We are
still here. No less committed and no less dedicated to our primary goal...
Just in case anyone was wondering.
A few thoughts from
Somebody looking for an exit?
Solvent (adj.) A word used to
describe a debt free financial situation as in Weston Paper was once a
"solvent company" until they were swallowed by the soulless corporate
As of late, "this corporate beast" has been
making some odd maneuvers such as offering to buy back its own stock,
selling off massive amounts of its assets and doing everything in its
power to generate a positive cash flow to to do what we haven't been told.
Two possibilities are most plausible to my way of thinking. First off, the
CFO is expecting a large windfall and wants to amass as much stock as
possible to drive up the company's net worth. Secondly, and more likely in
my opinion is the possibility that one of our competitors has launched a
hostile takeover attempt and our board of directors is liquidating as much
of our corporate assets (Including millions of acres of tree land.)
as possible to buy a better controlling interest or a stronger foot hold
in this company. Truthfully speaking, how strong or worth while can this
foothold be if your main valued assets are gone? We are a paper company
that doesn't own a tree... Three things come to mind when I think of this.
1. Enron 2.WorldCom and 3.Tyco. Grab your retirement funds and
IP over the last several years with their mass
corporate acquisitions has spread themselves very thin financially. With
the loss of it's standing on the Dow Jones Industrial and near
subterranean low stock prices, theoretically
IP has made a 100 year old corporation an ideal target for 1980's style
How many people remember the nightmare of the
last take over we went through? I urge everyone to consider how much
easier that transition would have gone if we had a Union Contract as a
foundation to begin building a new relationship with new company owners.
These are just a few thoughts from
Marcus Bryant the barefoot hillbilly.
Enough is never enough
In the month of August, one of the hottest and most
miserable months of the year, The people of International Paper Lexington
Container ran record footage. We put up huge numbers like over 105 million
square feet of board corrugated, over 101 million feet converted to boxes
and over 100 million feet shipped with a 0.196 Man-hours per Manufactured
Square Foot. All this with a 5.34 figure in controllable waste.
The problem with this happy story begins several months
ago when our management team hung up a paper on the board detailing the
footage we would have to generate to get out of working every weekend.
This footage was just shy of 4 million square feet a day. We have exceeded
these numbers many times and quite frankly decimated them in the month of
August and the plant still ended up working almost 7 days a week
every week of that month.
We have set plant records with numbers much higher than
they originally asked for and still they refuse to keep their their end of
the bargain. For every 1000 feet we run, sales stuffs another 2000
feet in its place. That's why I say enough is never enough.
As a token of thanks for these records, our
management team arranged for a very nice steak dinner for all of us which
was, truly, greatly appreciated. Indigestion set in about the time
Mike Delaney brought up his figures of how we could have gotten out of all
these weekends if we could have run just 12 more boxes an hour. Just 12
more boxes!! Now folks, pro-union or not, why would you believe this
when everything you see points this out as a fabrication from management's
little story book? I honestly think they figured we would just swallow
this hook line and sinker. I personally saw that as a hugely arrogant
statement on the part of management. So aloft they have become that they
no longer consider us cogent enough to to reason at their level of
intelligence. A sad state indeed.
Driving a workforce like this takes a toll immeasurable
by numbers alone. The human element is the most ignored and least cared
for component of this operation. Management has families they want to get
home to. They are not here all day everyday like the hourly workforce they
schedule. How many Saturdays and Sundays would we work if they had to stay
a full shift right here with us? Not many I think. Something highly
worthy of mention is the extreme state of dis-repair our machinery is
falling into. Neglecting needed repairs for longer running hours has
become a common practice at Lexington. Die cutters that won't open or
print properly, bearings falling out of flexos, conveyor lines that have
been scheduled and re-scheduled for repair so many times that we have lost
count, safety switches tied open, line brakes unhooked and power buttons rigged with tape and
rubber bands have become common. With all this, we still pass ourselves
off as a VPP facility. Our maintenance staff is not to blame... they are
willing and able to fix these problems but you can's fix what you can't
PM used to stand for Preventative Maintenance I think
it ought to be Power Mad according to what I have seen lately.
When will the beatings and broken promises end you may
ask. The answer is; when you have had enough! You allow management
the ability to to drive you like this. They call it "freedom and
flexibility." Their freedom and flexibility comes from the fact we
don't have a union to represent us. We don't have the ability to negotiate
the terms of our employment. Without any say in our future, management
will continue to dictate and contradict the rules as they see fit. I see
the month of August as a prime example of why being Union free does not
work in the best interest of people.
A few thoughts by Marcus Bryant the barefoot hillbilly.
Our house is on
As to not cause any
confusion, I will first deliver the simple facts of the following incident
as they were reported to me by the witnesses. It is these facts I will
draw upon to pose my questions and formulate my conclusions.
1. On May 8, 2006 on the
third shift there was a fire in or around the "hot plate" section of our
2. Employees battled and
extinguished the flame and all following flare ups using in excess of 10
handheld fire extinguishers.
3. Even though the smoke
content of the air was reportedly very bad, no fire alarms were
triggered and no employees were asked to evacuate the building
These are the facts as I
I wish I understood the
thinking or better yet the lack of thinking that went into continuing to
work employees in an obviously unsafe environment. The fact no one was
hurt is irrelevant
to the subject at hand and that subject is respect. Respect for the safety
of the working people of this plant took a horrible beating this morning
when people were forced to work in a smoke filled plant inhaling god only
knows what and taking a chance with their lives that the fire would indeed
It has come
to my attention that the reason no smoke detectors triggered the fire
alarm could be directly linked to the fact the smoke detectors were
removed some time ago and replaced with, what I believe to be, less
effective heat detectors. Lightly roasted factory worker anyone?
It is truly no laughing
matter when you think of what could have happened. It is always better
safe than sorry.
As a Union Facility, we
would be able to address these threats to our safety in a more employee
friendly manner. Ask yourself this, If it came down to being late on
an order or forcing you to run production in a burning factory, which
would the company choose?
That answer became
obvious on 5-08-06
Why Should I Care?
Well, the year 2005 has come and gone and we are, yet
again, worse for the wear. Insurance is heading up and raises are
practically non existent. The pay group I am in, has lost
money for the third year in a row due to insurance hikes and either no
raise or such a small raise it gets swallowed by the increase in insurance
rates. Quite frankly, I am tired of harping about what this company is
doing and what I think should be done about it. I live by the motto "If
you can stand it, so can I!" So, if nothing that is happening here
at The Lexington Plant is bothering you...then, why should it bother me?
Why should I care if The Lexington Plant Management Team is doing
everything they can to create a turnover amongst its senior employees?
Why should I care if our attendance policy, which was already strict, is
now nightmare designed to "weed out" employees of this facility? Why
should it bother me if benefits we have earned by the sweat of out brows
are wiped out in the name of the greater and growing greed of a money
hungry corporation? Take a Friday off and you get nothing more than that
Friday off? No Saturday? That shouldn't bother me at all now should it? Miss a few days
because of a family emergency with no doctor's note and you are out of a
job. That's nothing to be concerned about is it? Management will
tell you these policies are not designed to target anyone in particular
just those who break the rules. It's funny to me how they always wants to
talk about us breaking the rules when they can't follow the "rules"
themselves and when you ask them to follow the rules and it doesn't suit
them, they change the rules to follow whatever quirk or twitch that may
have come over them.
Some people have begun to believe it's simple
constipation that brings on these mood swings in management. I don't know
for certain...just what I heard
Please don't get me started on management's lack of
respect for the so called committees who were supposed to help design the
rules here at Lexington. They were forgotten faster than last
Tuesdays lunch. I mean how darn convenient was it that management just
whizzed right by that little promise?
I really don't feel that I need to point out anything
else. Our intelligence has been insulted, our faces have been slapped, and
our jobs have been put in jeopardy. And I ask you... "Why should I
care?" ... "Do You?"
does the bleeding stop?
We are hemorrhaging
money and benefits every day. We have not received a true raise since IP
took over this plant. Any money we have gained has been tossed out
the window to health care increases. The worn out story we hear is "health
care is on the rise all across the country."
You know what? I really don't want to hear that cover up story any more!
Health care is not the only
thing on the rise everywhere...so are the salaries and bonus
checks of CEO's and upper management. These blood
sucking leaches never get full. Inside of 20 years, if
things continue as they are now, the average American working man or
woman will be reduces to the poverty level because of the
greed and lust for excess that our, so called, leaders have.
International Paper's management
style has become a prime example of what's wrong with this
country. IP cries that they are a poor company when it comes
to giving it's hourly workers a raise and decent and affordable benefits
but when it comes time to give the Board of Directors or the CEO a raise
a million dollars becomes chump change.
tricks that corporations including IP have managed to pull over on their
hourly work forces is: #1
The feeling that there is nothing you can do to change things. This
helpless feeling is what IP wishes to perpetuate among all of it's
non-union workforce. #2
Make you feel that the company is doing you a favor allowing you to work
for them. IP wants people to feel like they owe the company
something more than a fair days work for a fair days pay.
companies take for granted that people that sweat for a living are not
smart enough to figure out their grand design. IP is guilty of this as
recent as the last Union Campaign. In the weeks leading up to the
Union's Petition for election, Don Noort ranted and raved and managed to
piss everyone off to the breaking point. Just prior to the actual vote,
IP sent in the smiley squad, the fun bunch, the guys in white hats, our heroes
coming to save us from a propped up scarecrow of their own devise. They
attacked with carefully scripted double talk and played a pre-rehearsed,
pre-planned shell game with what we perceived to be the problem. Now we
have the Wizard of OZ and the man behind the curtain pulling the strings
and flipping the switches. Everyone wants to believe that
somewhere in this company there is someone that cares about us as
people. The way IP takes advantage of that is the true
for the Company Store
In the old days coal
miners would work in the mines and live on the owners property. The
owner had the only source of supplies available to these miners. An over
priced place called the "company
store." The company store would extend credit to the workers
and their families and take the payment out of the worker's checks. The
company made sure to price their goods high enough and pay their
employees low enough to keep the workers in debt to the company for life
creating indentured servants or slaves to the company. That story
is as true today as it was a century ago. Companies
have not gotten nicer or more concerned with our well being. They have
just gotten smarter and more organized with each other.
Why make a vehicle more affordable or pay the people enough to afford
it when you can extend the finance terms out to seven years or
more or even better than that, just lease it and never truly own
it. Corporate America has
become a beast that is feeding off all our tables and we have only one
legal recourse to stand up to it. UNION.
Sum It Up
our plant we are non union. We are at
will employees of a corporation that clearly does not value
it's hourly employees and makes that statement clear by pouring money
out to it's chosen elite while ignoring the backbone and foundation of
this company. As non union
employees we are helpless to make changes relating to our employment,
benefits or pay because the company does not have to ask for our
compliance to do anything. We are simply told that's the way it
is, like it or leave. Contract employees (Union) are not treated like
that. In order for the company to make changes in a contract employees
working condition the company is required to negotiate these changes
with the employee's elected representatives.
have discovered what unions have known for years; there is power in
organizing collectively toward a common goal. This is how what is referred
to as Corporate America was formed. Sadly enough, these same
corporations will raise total hell with their employees that attempt to
organize a union to make their living conditions better. Looks two
faced to me.
win the last election, the company tricked several of us. I hope that
these tricks are now evident so we wont fall for them again.
2006 is drawing closer.
of election 2005
In closing another chapter
of this campaign, I would be amiss not to speak about the actions of
this committee. How we not only stood our ground but stood in the rain
and cold to hand out literature to our co-workers. Our fellowship and
brotherhood has made us more than what we are individually. I am proud
to be among these fine people and to stand with them even in a losing
effort is an honor indeed. I would also like to take a moment to thank
all the people who voted in this election. It is my opinion management
dodged a bullet on Friday the 18th of February 2005 when they
claimed their victory by a 2-vote margin. But a win is a win
nonetheless. What management chooses to do with this win is up to them.
They can simply throw it away or they can learn from it. That choice
rests with them.
Do You Remember?
remember what got us here in the midst of this Union Campaign? I
haven’t heard it mentioned in quite a while. I was just wondering if
you have forgotten. It becomes easier to forget as time goes on.
What’s it been now…5 or 6 long weeks since
management handed you a $600 slap in the face showing you that your
production has little bearing on this plant’s profitability?
Remember what the percentage of our yearly raise was?
That is 0%
for, what has been described as... "the second best year in the
history of this plant." Remember
being snidely asked “anyone not happy with this?” and then
told “that’s the best we can do?” Adding insult to injury,
Don posted another slap in the face on the bulletin board laughing, with
his office friends, at the $600 we got.
How many times
in just the last six months leading up to this petition have members of
this management team ignored rules in the company’s handbook? Ignored
the Attendance Policy, Ignored the Overtime Policy, Ignored the Peer
How Many times
in the last 12 months have you been told things like, “if you are not
happy here maybe you should go somewhere else?”
than 2 months ago, when an entire department (Die Cutters) was told
something to the effect of they were 4 spots out of last place. Recently
(after this petition was signed and headed to the NLRB) the people of
this same department received glowing employee reviews. Described by
some as the best reviews they ever had.
are not made up to scare you. Most people are well aware of them.
They are part of our day-to-day existence here at this plant.
But, it becomes easy to forget them when you have a master of his trade
like Tom Curran working the floor.
Mr. Curran wants you to focus on what he is saying and forget any
and all other problems. He digs up the most negative information on
organized labor he can find and displays it to be the norm in union
plants everywhere. Like a headliner band does an opening act, Tom Curran
has, effectively, swept local management out of the spotlight and placed
himself into that position. Be aware, Mr. Curran is not concerned with
the fact you may or may not like him. With him it is not a popularity
contest. He is paid to do a
job and, quite frankly, that is the only reason he came to
Lexington… to do a job. Unfortunately
for us, we are the main part of that job. With everybody paying
attention to Mr. Curran it becomes easy for him to redirect peoples
anger and frustration with management to fear of the unknown with a
Union. At that point, the seeds of self-doubt have been planted and half
of his battle is won.
It is up to you
to remember how we got here in the middle of this Union Campaign
Is it worth
fighting for? Should we throw this opportunity away like we have in the
past? That decision is yours to remember or forget.
Raise and a $600 one time (Before Gift Tax) bonus.
I usually look for something cute to say about bad situations in our
plant to lighten the mood but what could I possibly say that would
lighten something like this? At last report, this plant had brought in
about 3 Million Dollars net profit for this corporation.
This plant has been granted 3 Million Dollars worth of Capitol Project
money. We are quite sure that Don Noort has received a healthy bonus for
all the improved production and improved ROI. On the IP Intranet it was disclosed that most all management was
getting a 3% raise this year.
got theirs except us. We
got the short end of a worn out stick.
I once used a story about an old
mule and a carrot as a comparison to the way Don holds our raises over
our heads. The carrot is gone, the mule is dead and the only thing any
of us have left is each other. After
a bold smack in the face, like the company handed us, failing to make a
stand now would be a grave mistake. If management sees they can get away
with this once...they will not hesitate to give us nothing at all the
next time. Sign your
Union Petition. Support the efforts of your In-Plant Union Committee. We
may not be able to to make everything better but at least we will work
for the best interest of the people and do our best to serve that goal.
That, in itself, is far better than anything Don or IP has offered.
Just last week we saw Management attempt to set
up and terminate Tony Bellamy,
an employee with over 20 years service to this facility, on
the grounds of job abandonment. (which
was a false charge due to the fact Tony asked his supervisor, in the
presence of witnesses, if he could leave
and was told he could.) Bill Childress suspended Tony pending an investigation which turned up
nothing to support their claims. Bill, Instead of admitting his mistake,
used our sorry excuse for a employee handbook to drum up some idiotic
charge to cover his ass and issued Tony a verbal warning on a lesser
has the true stink of a set up. A man with 20
years experience knows what job abandonment is and not to do it.
What happens the next time one of us needs to go home? Are we going to
be charged with job abandonment and suspended? You can't say it wouldn't
happen because it already has. Tony is just the latest victim, who will
be next? You? Me?
is my personal opinion that this attempted set up stems from a personal vendetta
Bill Childress has declared on Tony and myself and it is
also my opinion that Bill's vendetta will spill over to include anyone
that disagrees with him in any way.
Management is so hell bent on getting "payback"
for the truth we speak and the rights we as a Union Committee exercise
that they will go to all extremes to silence us and hide their shame from the
rest of this corporation and the world. Don
Noort and Bill Childress have proven themselves time and time again to
be deceitful and untrustworthy in their dealings with plant employees.
Not to mention their business practices! We all know about those!
Don and Bill act like
vultures circling the employees, waiting for one of us to commit
a human error so they can swoop in and either justify their continued
employment to someone higher up the line or simply gratify the need they both have
to bully the employees in their charge.
this brand of bullying micro-management and lack of respect for the
rights of working people that perpetuates the ongoing union campaign at this facility.
Corporate wants you to believe that we organize for
some other reason than protecting the rights of the people. Corporate
wants you to believe we do this because we like it and nothing else
besides Union will satisfy us as a Committee. To this I say, show me a
different way that doesn't involve pride less pandering to a tyrant and
we will follow that way. Until a new way is shown, we will
continue to fight for the rights of the people in the only way we know
we not only have the right to organize for the purpose of collective
bargaining we have the right to organize for the purpose of mutual
protection. We need
protection from the revenge motivated punishments dealt out by
need protection from a Corporation that allows our management team to
step on our civil rights at will.
We need protection from being made scapegoats to cover management based
mistakes. We need the protection that a legally binding Union Contract
Information found about this subject
Since the publishing of my last article about the
smoking ban, I have
discovered new information that may be of interest to you. It is my opinion
that Don Noort either did not understand this law or did not want to
understand it. Either way, we got hosed as usual.
It is extremely hard to stand your ground when you
don't know where you stand. Rules are tossed out like last weeks
bathwater and to coin an old phrase, most times, they toss out the baby
with the bathwater. This meaning, no consideration is given to or for
rules that are good for the employees and their morale. With Don in
charge, it is a constant state of change and upheaval at this plant. We
are in dire need of the security that only a Union Contract can provide.
When was the last time you saw a
rule changed at this facility that you can truly say was changed for the
good in relation to the employees? Everything that is
changed has resulted in either us loosing something or more responsibility
being added to our jobs. The
noose of restrictions is tightening around our necks and management is
holding all the rope. It is time for management to cut us some
slack and the only way to get that slack is by forming a Union and
negotiating for it. With each signature we get on our petition the
choice is drawing nearer. You can hang by the hand of management, or you
can stand by the side of your brethren. The
choice is yours... the rope is theirs.
Here you will find past articles I have posted.
More updates to come...
Send e-mail to Marcus.