More Cingular workers go with labor

by Amy Kingsley

Dozens of Cingular Wireless technicians in Greensboro joined the Communication Workers of America (CWA) during a months-long organizing drive that ended Aug. 16, swelling the ranks of the organization that already represents 39,000 Cingular workers nationwide.

The organizing drive in North Carolina officially kicked off June 8 when the CWA started receiving consent membership cards, which employees use to indicate whether they are interested in having union representation. Cingular Wireless agreed to allow employees to unionize without lengthy National Labor Relations Board hearings if more than 50 percent indicated through the cards that they support the process.

“Cingular is a very progressive company,” said organizer Dave Coker with CWA Local 3607.

The agreement with Cingular has permitted the CWA to undertake highly successful organizing campaigns within the companies’ ranks. Nearly 90 percent of the company’s employees belong to the union. In Greensboro the CWA represents 800 Cingular workers. The most recent organizing campaign targeted technicians, but workers at call centers have also been organized, Coker said.

In exchange for its liberal policies concerning unionization, Cingular Wireless gets the support of the labor lobby on legislative issues unrelated to employment matters, Coker said.

Union representation puts Cingular workers on the fast track to the top pay grade, he said. The CWA contract with the company stipulates pay raises every six months and offers workers a family healthcare plan that can save workers as much as $1,300 a year.

“It’s significant that we’re getting these numbers in the South,” Coker said. “It just shows that given the choice, when workers aren’t intimidated or harassed, workers find that it is to their advantage to join with other workers.”

– Amy Kingsley