Drivers Force Toll Group to Drop Disappearing Act and Return to Negotiating Table
June 19, 2012
Step Nine in 12-Step recovery programs is to make amends. Toll seems to be struggling with this one in particular though: The historic April 11th union election victory was supposed to mark the beginning of positive change at Toll Group’s L.A. facilities. Management could have used the opportunity to wipe the slate clean by negotiating a fair contract in good faith.
But old habits die hard. Toll’s addiction to union busting is reflected in their choice to instead hire a firm that specializes in helping keep workplaces union-free and getting courts to go easy on employers in sexual harassment suits. These lovely people –outside attorney consultants who would be perfectly cast in the film “Thank You for Smoking” – abruptly cancelled a set of scheduled bargaining sessions earlier this month.
The drivers, who learned how to act like a union long before their employer was forced to recognize one in their workplace, sure weren’t having it. They made their demands known in a collective action this past Thursday. A worker delegation including Jose Ortega Jr., whom appeared in the Australia Broadcasting Corporation’s damning Lateline report on Toll, personally delivered the signed petitions tsk-tsking management for their disappearing act.
Obviously, the Teamsters and the Transport Workers Union weren’t going to enable Toll either. And in the face of all this unity, what do you know, management had no choice but to indicate they would return to the table today. (Oy, when will Toll learn? It’s as if they are addicted to the threat of more workplace disruption and more billable hours to the outside attorneys.)
The petitions arrived to the L.A. front office on the heels of a letter written by a very disappointed Fred Potter and Eric Tate, the national and local elected leaders from the Teamsters union. They admonished CEO Brian Kruger to instruct his underlings to end the anti-union behavior and negotiate in good faith.
At the same time, a Fair Work Australia commissioner chastised Toll for making scandalous accusations without merit against three delegates from the Transport Workers Union in Sydney who made a fact-finding mission in solidarity exchange with their American workmates in March. The company has had to retreat from its bogus, backfired PR investigation into the workers’ innocuous behavior as TWU officials initiate a formal inquiry into the spurious allegations and seek an apology if they were defamatory or unlawful.
As we reported earlier, this activity reflects the historic global solidarity charter agreement between the Teamsters and the TWU that commits the two unions to share staff resources and design joint campaigns around mutual employers that have yet to learn how to fairly reward and value their workers. It challenges Mr. Kruger to put his money where his mouth is when it comes to a “One Toll” vision for the company across the globe. As contract talks resume, Toll will once again have the opportunity to reverse the damage to its tarnished image by beginning to negotiate in good faith. Will Mr. Kruger make amends and steer this ship in the right direction, or will he rely on the tired (and failed) tactics of his addicted-to-union-busting consultants? Stay tuned.