That ASLIU has “arrived” as a union with a highly committed membership was demonstrated beyond any doubt on May 5 when members took to the streets in a one-day strike to protest Purple’s imposition of changes to the health-care plan. Nearly all of Purple’s unionized employees in Denver, Oakland, San Diego and Tempe participated in the strike, even though only a minority of those employees, the full-timers, will be impacted by the increases in health-care costs.
Reports from the picket lines and from ASLIU local officers reveal that only three of the 150 employees in the four centers chose to cross the picket line and go to work that Monday.
How We Got Here
The May 5 strike was triggered by the company’s blatant disregard for ASLIU’s right to bargain over changes to the health-care plan.
Purple didn’t even bother to notify the union that it was contemplating increases in deductibles and in the employee share of dependent coverage until March 21. By that time, the deal on deductibles had already been cut with the insurance provider and the decision to change the employer/employee ratio of premium cost had already been made. There was no opportunity left for the union to bargain over the changes.
In two subsequent bargaining meetings, on March 27 and April 9, the union said it was willing to talk about the changes in the context of an entire contract, but did not agree to them as a stand-alone change of employee benefits.
Instead of withdrawing the proposed changes until they could be negotiated fairly, the company made an incredibly lame offer for a swap. In exchange for increasing the health-care costs for our members, they would offer internet access in the workstations. The offered “trade” was not only ludicrous on the face of it, it was essentially meaningless. The union had already negotiated a tentative contract clause for providing internet access once the contract is ratified.
When ASLIU negotiators rejected the company’s offer, they were informed that the health-care changes (and the internet access) would be implemented, anyway. At that point, ASLIU leaders felt that a strong response was required and began to plan the strike.
ASLIU has filed unfair labor practice charges in all four regions of the National Labor Relations Board where the union Purple centers are located. The union expects the charges to be upheld after the Board investigation and hearing process, which could take some time. One remedy of winning could well be that Purple will be ordered to reimburse employees for extra costs incurred as a result of the changes.
The union does not plan to be idle while the Board process plays out. Besides wanting to remedy Purple’s violation of the law, we still have our eye on the bigger prize: A contract. We are seeking to schedule another negotiating meeting with the company but, because of summer vacation scheduling conflicts, we don’t expect that to happen until sometime in mid-July. While we wait, we will continue to look for ways to exert pressure on this company to achieve our goals. We won’t stop until the more reasonable minds at Purple prevail and we have a fair contract. They certainly know now that our union – all of us – will fight for what we believe to be right. We are in this together, and we’re in for as long as it takes.