Photo By: 
George Pankewytch

Scabs on Trial: Scabbing Doesn't Pay

With CWA Local 1109 in Brooklyn bringing charges to a few picket-line crossing scabs, they are doing us all a solid

Kris LaGrange's picture
Apr 25, 2017

During the sanctioned Communications Workers of America (CWA) Strike against Verizon in the Spring of 2016, CWA Local 1109 had two members who made the cowardly and selfish decision to cross the sanctioned picket line and scab.  Last week, Local 1109 held trials to bring charges against these members and recover their illegal earnings.

Under Local 1109’s constitution and bylaws – a binding document that the members of the union get to vote on, update and change; the Local has the right to hold a trial and collect money that was illegally earned when a member crosses a picket line.  This is a process that Local 1109 has not needed to use for 25 years. But the gross actions of these two putting their immediate personal interests over those of their coworkers prompted the union to take some action.  As per the constitution these members, Pamela Ivy and Cheryl Allison, were given a trial by a jury of their peers.  To form this, volunteers of Local 1109’s steward’s names were put into a hat and 7 were drawn.  Also picked were a Judge, a Court Reporter and a Prosecutor.  The constitution limits participation by the union’s Officers of Executive Board. Having stewards fill these difficult role’s make perfect sense, since stewards often have to deal with sensitive and personal issues that affect the workplace. Stewards, by the nature of their charged tasks, know the difference between members who lie, managers who lie, and all the bullshit in-between. Good stewards are often patient with their problem members, and often give them the benefit of the doubt. Three strikes and you’re out is not just a baseball or law enforcement term.

During the trial, the scabs are given every opportunity to defend themselves.  However, On April 19th, the day of the hearings, the first accused scab failed to show up on time and was found guilty.  During the second trial, both of the accused arrived, but only the one currently on trial was allowed to enter into proceedings.  As you can imagine, accused became heated and stormed out, she was found guilty as well. Both were ordered to pay back the wages that they illegally earned at Verizon by crossing a sanctioned picket line. They were also ordered to pay back any overtime and travel reimbursements that they may have received.  They were both also fined a symbolic $1,109 as per the local’s by-laws.  In total, Ivy was fined $21,918.16 and Allison was fined $16,971.74.

When UCOMM heard of these enormous fines, we asked Local 1109 how they would be able to collect.  According to the 1109’s bylaws and constitution, the scabs have the right to appeal the fine, which they are expected to do. After that is exhausted, the scabs can either pay the fine or the local can bring them to civil court to recuperate the illegal income.

This story is worth sharing with the entire union community because it once again reiterates the fact that like crime, scabbing doesn’t pay.  All unions have a few shitty members, and they can be cancerous. Unions who have gone out on strike also experience workplace issues that some unions may never experience – when going back to work after a strike you can just imagine how much everyone hates those who scabbed. There is incredible resentment, and the workplace is never cordial or comfortable when a scab is in the room.

This is one of the main goals of the National Right to Work Foundation, which takes a play out of the proverbial “Divide and Conquer” playbook.  As UCOMM has reported in our When Scabs Strike Back story back in September 2016 -  federal law makes clear that a worker may not be compelled against his will to participate in a strike. But the members in question violated their contract of employment by crossing a union sanctioned picket line and as a result earned illegal wages as a result. The National Right to Work Foundation finds incredible value in disloyal and selfish union members – since their ungrateful and divisive behavior and attitudes, if gone unchecked, can lead to union de-certification campaigns. Local 1109 was absolutely correct in doing what they did and any good unionist would agree.

Nice work to CWA Local 1109 for going through this very lengthy and expensive process. Let’s hope that, resulting from actions like this, scabbing by union members will become a cowardly and selfish action of the past.

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