Grievance Manager Case Study: Communications Workers of America

We were contacted by District 3 about help with their grievance process in late 2015, and scheduled an online/phone conference call and screen demonstration with top-level District officers and staff, including CWA Vice President Richard Honeycutt and Assistant to the VP Nick Hawkins.  Using a screen-sharing conference tool (GoToMeeting), District 3 officers and staff were able to join this conference from various locations, which made the meeting easy to schedule and attend.

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About CWA District 3

The District is a large regional jurisdiction of the Communication Workers of America (CWA), representing 65,000 workers in over 100 locals in the Southeastern US.  District 3 includes Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina, North Carolina and Puerto Rico.  The District represents both public and private sector employment in diverse industries that include telecommunications, airline, health care, public service, printing and news media, broadcast and cable television, higher education and corrections.

During our online meeting, we learned that the District handles grievance appeals at Step 3 and arbitration from most of their Locals across a wide array of bargaining units, and they needed a unified system to help them manage the volume and diversity of grievances while maintaining and strengthening a consistent District-level process for managing details, processes and timelines for these important cases.

Discussion of Issues

The District wanted a uniform, consistent and centralized processing and document tracking system for their grievance processes.  The system needed to:

1. Provide all case record-keeping and document storage in a single database, accessible to the District and all Locals via the internet. 
2. Provide the ability to require required information standards across the District.
3. Provide flexibility to accommodate a wide variety of bargaining units and contracts and a substantial degree of Local specialization in all steps.
4. Provide reminder emails for approaching case due dates. 
5. Provide reports and other administrative and end-user features to increase the visibility and utility of archived data and documents.

To accomplish these goals, we needed to provide District Staff with the ability to:

1. Design and create multi-screen procedures potentially specific to each local and bargaining unit, using an administrative “back end” application, as well as copy those procedures to other Locals as needed. 
2. Set time-line email alerts per Local, per bargaining unit procedure. 
3. Upload Contract provisions, per bargaining unit procedure, for easy reference and citation in grievances.

The Planning Process

First, we worked with District staff to determine the District-wide standard for information requirements, using forms and procedures that they had been using to that point.  We created a set of charts and data sheets for review and correction by District staff, and eventual inclusion in the formal Project Plan.

Next, we began to design the application’s data relationships and schema, and created flow and data relationship diagrams for internal review and testing.

Drafting and Finalizing Specifications

We drafted screen specifications as “wire-frame” mock-ups for District Staff review.  These included individual screens with information on inputs and on-screen information display.  This began a process of edits and discussions about specific display and navigation features.  Several rounds of revisions were made and the Proposal was submitted.

The Administrative back-end was planned to be as clear and transparent as possible, with the goal of making administrative processes self-evident from the screen layouts and on-screen information.

District 3 accepted the proposed plan, specifications and consideration, beginning a 120 day timeline to produce the application for client beta testing.

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Development Process

Development was done on a LAMP platform using object oriented PHP, MySQL, Javascript and JQuery.  These tools were chosen for their flexibility and widespread support across platforms and the software development industry.

Before development began, project management procedures were implemented using collaboration and work management software.  This was designed to keep the project on a schedule and to mitigate any slippage.  Progress and schedule were charted with tabular and Gantt chart reports throughout the development and non-developer alpha testing process.

Testing ended and the application was presented ready to the client within the agreed timeline.

Implementation

District staff was trained online to use the Administrator’s back end to create Local and CBA specific procedures.  Because the application was designed specifically for these processes and staff was previously engaged in the design, this was a short and easy training session of around 30 minutes.

The District 3 staff are now using Grievance Manager, and will be gradually rolling it out to their locals to enter sample sets of grievances representing various processing scenarios and obtaining feedback.

District Staff will be working with locals to determine whether procedures met local requirements and practices.  Changes were made to the District Standards. According to feedback and other considerations, procedures were modified by Administrators and some newly added inputs were made District Standard.

As the implementation process continued, several changes were made to standardized data inputs as well as the structure of the application.  Knowing all along that the planning process is never perfect, this flexibility was key to making the application achieve its original goals.

Use in The Field

The application has been in use for several months, and has been embraced by District 3.  This is a continuing process, but seems to be going well.  When we asked for comment, Assistant VP Nick Hawkins responded:

“Union Built PC’s Grievance Manager is changing the way we do business in District 3 and enabling us to better serve our members.  I can’t express how wonderful their staff has been in designing a program that is custom built for the specific needs of our District.”

Learn More about Grievance Manager

Download the Grievance Manager Brochure
Request a Demo of Grievance Manager
Watch A Brief Grievance Manager Demo
Download the UB-2017 Grievance Manager Tablet Brochure

Microsoft Admits Windows 10 Has A Serious Problem

There’s the thing about Windows 10; you give up control. Control over updates and control over privacy, but Microsoft has finally admitted the latter is a serious problem and is taking action…

In a blog post Terry Myerson, Microsoft’s Executive Vice President of the Windows and Devices Group, said the words millions have been waiting to hear:

“Many of you have asked for more control over your data, a greater understanding of how data is collected, and the benefits this brings for a more personalized experience. Based on your feedback, we are launching two new experiences to help ensure you are in control of your privacy.”

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Arguably even more important, however, are two changes being made to the Windows 10 Creators Update when it is released in the next few months (and yes, it’s still a stupid name – ‘Windows 10.2’ would be fine!).

1. Overhauled Privacy Settings On Install/Update
Say goodbye to the rubbish ‘Express Settings’ screen on first install, with the Windows 10 Creators Update you’ll get clear but simply worded explanations and toggle switches. Users upgrading to the Creators Update will also be prompted to use after updating.

2. Simplified Diagnostic Data
More detail is needed here before judging the benefits but three collections levels are being cut down to just two: ‘Basic’ and ‘Full’. Basic will have only “data that is vital to the operation of Windows” which Microsoft defines are central to “keep Windows and apps secure, up-to-date, and running properly”.

Again you’ll be prompted to review your choice after installing the Creators Update.

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New Windows 10 ‘Basic’ privacy settings deliver more user control
Image credit: Microsoft

Why So Long? And New Questions On The Horizon

It is said the first step towards admitting you have a problem is admitting you have a problem. But Microsoft has skipped this by both (finally) admitting its problem and coming up with some solutions in a single step. That’s commendable, though we’d prefer to have had an admission much earlier and a “We’re working on it!” message.

On top of this, the Creators Update looks set to raise as many questions as it answers due to something it will add called ‘Dynamic Lock’. This uses your PC’s web camera to monitor when you are sat in front of it so it can be automatically locked when you step away. Users will be able to disable Dynamic Lock, which solves my concerns, but it is likely to start a whole new wave of conspiracy theories.

Furthermore, Microsoft must still address the issue of control over Windows 10 updates. The Creators Update introduces the option to delay the installation of non-security updates for up to 35 days, but only Windows 10 Professional, Education and Enterprise versions qualify.

This means Microsoft recognizes users’ need for control but the company continues to treat mainstream Windows 10 Home users as guinea pigs for the stability of new updates before they are provided to big business. That needs to stop and users of all versions deserve the right to have control over their PCs, should they want it.

Despite all this, it is clear Microsoft is making significant steps in the right direction with Windows 10. It just shouldn’t have taken so many obviously wrong ones in the first place.

YOUR TURN

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What Does a Trump Presidency Mean for Tech?

The eight-year bromance between Barack Obama — who appointed the first chief technology officer for the US — and the tech industry is ending. Now what?

That’s the question the tech industry has been asking since a real-estate mogul turned reality star, with a spotty reputation with tech, was voted in as 45th president of the United States.

President Obama, a self-proclaimed geek and Trekkie, was the most tech-focused president in modern history, committing billions of dollars to support initiatives to spur tech innovation, improve education and encourage exploration and discovery. Unlike Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump said very little during the campaign about where he stands on most tech-related issues — though he did call for a boycott of Apple products over the company’s stance on privacy in its fight with the FBI

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One thing is clear. Silicon Valley in general isn’t excited about the next four years. In July, 150 tech leaders, including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and Vint Cerf, considered the “father of the Internet,” wrote an open letter calling a Trump presidency “a disaster for innovation.” Some in the industry, notably broadband service providers, criticized him for policies they believe would stifle investment in infrastructure.

The outlook is “beyond grim,” weighted down by fear that the industry and world would suffer from this election, the New York Times reported Thursday.

Ouch.

Since Trump, 70, didn’t say all that much about tech during the campaign (he did call out “the cyber” when talking about cybersecurity concerns during one debate), industry watchers are left reading whatever tea leaves they can find until the president-elect reveals more-definitive policies.

Given that the tech industry accounts for 12 percent of all jobs, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, and given Trump’s message about improving America’s economy and competitiveness, his technology policies will have a long-lasting impact.

“The onus is on him to convince us that what we have seen in the past, the erratic behavior that has been defining character of the campaign, is not what will lead policy and that we’ll see a more pragmatic approach,” said Evan Swarztrauber, communications director for the DC-based think tank TechFreedom.

Here’s what little we do know about Trump’s stand on some important tech issues.

Net Neutrality

Net neutrality became a relatively big deal in the 2008 election, but little was said during this election cycle about last year’s policy.

Net neutrality is the idea that all traffic on the internet should be treated equally. This means your broadband provider, which controls your access to the internet, can’t block or slow down the services or applications you use over the web.

That said, we do know Trump isn’t a fan of the FCC’s current regulations. In 2014, at the height of the debate to rewrite the rules around Net neutrality, he tweeted, “Obama’s attack on the internet is another top down power grab. Net neutrality is the Fairness Doctrine. Will target conservative media.”

It’s possible that an FCC led by Republicans could eliminate all or part of the rules and strip the FCC of some of its authority. If that happens, broadband providers could create so-called fast lanes and charge internet companies, like Netflix, different rates to deliver their services.

Loosening regulations around telecom will likely benefit broadband and wireless carriers. The NCTA, the Internet and Television Association, which lobbies for the cable industry, said it’s eager to work with President-elect Trump.

“We look forward to participating in a constructive and robust discussion about policies that will continue to make America a global technology and entertainment leader,” they said in a statement Wednesday.

Industry Consolidation and Broadband

Trump also seems to have taken a populist view against mergers and acquisitions. That could spell trouble for big pending mergers, including AT&T’s $85 billion takeover of entertainment giant Time Warner. When that deal was announced last month, Trump vowed to block the merger if he was elected.

“As an example of the power structure I’m fighting, AT&T is buying Time Warner and thus CNN, a deal we will not approve in my administration because it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few,” he said.

AT&T’s executives still like their chances of getting the deal approved by the US, pointing to statements Trump made in his victory speech about investing in “infrastructure.”

“His policies and his discussions about infrastructure investment, economic development and American innovation all fit right in with AT&T’s goals,” Chief Financial Officer John J. Stephens said Wednesday. “We’ve been the leading investor in this country for more than five years running, and our Time Warner transaction is all about innovation and economic development, consumer choice, and investment in infrastructure with regard to providing a great 5G mobile broadband experience.”

Encryption and Cybersecurity

The president-elect has made only vague statements about privacy and security, and downplayed Russia’s alleged hacking into the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s campaign email servers. Still, when the Justice Department tussled with Apple over unlocking the iPhone of the terrorist suspect in the San Bernardino shooting, he called for a boycott of Apple products.

What he has said about cyber security is that there should be a review of US cyber defenses by a “Cyber Review Team.” He also told the The New York Times in July that “certainly cyber has to be in our thought process, very strongly in our thought process… Inconceivable the power of cyber… you can make countries nonfunctioning with a strong use of cyber.”

RELATED: The Union Built Cloud Secure Data Storage Solution

Tax Policy

The biggest boost to the tech industry could come from Trump’s plans to lower corporate tax rates to encourage companies to invest their money in the US.

There’s a good chance that money could be invested in the US, said Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF). But it’s not a given. In 2004, the US allowed American companies to bring in the profit they’d earned overseas in the hope they would hire more workers. Most of the money went to executives and shareholders, instead.

Trump has also called for high import taxes on products, which could drive up prices for consumers on tech goods. In January, Trump said in a stump speech, “We’re going to get Apple to build their damn computers and things in this country instead of in other countries.”

Apple, which declined to comment on Trump’s statements at the time, designs its products at its Silicon Valley headquarters, but uses a Chinese contractor to build them. If Apple products were manufactured in the US, the price of an iPhone could rise to as much as $900 to offset worker wages versus the $650 cost of an iPhone today.

YOUR TURN

How do you think Trump will affect YOUR industry? Sound off in Comments, on the Union Built PC Facebook Page, or on our Twitter or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to the monthly Union Strong email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.
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Additional Reporting by CNET

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Statement by Governor Cuomo and CWA Pres. Shelton on VZW Closings

Thursday, October 13, 2016

STATEMENTS FROM GOVERNOR CUOMO SPOKESPERSON RICH AZZOPARDI AND PRESIDENT OF THE COMMUNICATIONS WORKERS OF AMERICA CHRIS SHELTON ON VERIZON’S PLAN TO CLOSE TWO CALL CENTERS IN NEW YORK

Statement from Governor Cuomo Spokesperson Rich Azzopardi:

“Today, with 20 minutes notice on one of the highest holy days for those of the Jewish faith, Verizon Wireless notified the Governor’s office that it would be closing two call centers in New York as part of a nationwide consolidation plan. This is an egregious example of corporate abuse – among the worst we have witnessed during the six years of this administration. Verizon’s negligence is astounding and as a result, hard-working New Yorkers will lose their jobs.

“New York is invested in our workforce and we remain committed to keeping and creating well-paying jobs across the state. Governor Cuomo has directed the New York State Department of Labor to dispatch its Rapid Response team to assist employees during their time of transition, and we will work to reverse the impact of Verizon’s reckless decision. In this state, we will continue to stand up to those who put profit ahead of people.”

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Statement from Chris Shelton, President of the Communications Workers of America:

“Verizon Communications brags about being the nation’s biggest wireless carrier. It’s an extremely profitable company. In July 2016, Verizon’s stock hit its highest price since 2000. It’s spending $4.83 billion to buy Yahoo’s Internet business.

“So why is Verizon closing call centers in New York? Why is it laying off 3,200 retail store workers nationwide, especially going into the busiest shopping period of the year?

“It’s corporate greed at its worst. Does this mean more jobs and more customer service problems will be shipped to Verizon overseas operations in the Philippines and other countries?

“CWA has been working with Verizon Wireless workers at call centers and retail stores, to help workers get the union voice and representation they want and so clearly need. In fact, workers at VZW stores in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Everett, Mass., just won a first contract just this year. We will keep up the fight against ‘very greedy’ Verizon.”

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For media inquiries, call CWA Communications at 202-434-1168, or email Candice Johnson. To read about CWA Members, Leadership or Industries, visit the Communications Workers of America website.

Stealing the Economy in 6 Easy Steps

So… How Does So Much Wealth End Up in the Pockets of CEOs and Wall Street Firms?

1. Companies buy other companies using borrowed money.
Since the 1980s, corporate raiders, corporations and hedge funds have looked to take over any company they could. But here’s their secret.

2. Raiders use the assets of the targeted company to pay for the costs of the acquisition.
The target company is weakened because it has to pay back millions of dollars. Worse, the corporate raiders pay themselves from the assets of the acquired company, too, in fees and special dividends. The CEOs and bankers get their cut as well. Not much left to share with the workers from a once-successful company.

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3. CEOs get paid with stock incentives.
That means when a company’s stock goes up, CEOs get even more money.
Unfortunately, in the U.S., most CEOs are focused on very short-term goals, like improving their own compensation. They most likely aren’t looking at long terms goals like increasing productivity or reinvesting in research and development. They aren’t interested in increasing workers’ real wages and benefits. So what does the CEO do?

4. CEOs use company earnings not to invest in better equipment or operations, not to pass along gains to workers, but to buy more stock.
That raises the stock prices and raises the CEO’s salary.

5. CEOS IMPLEMENT “THE SQUEEZE.”
The company downsizes, and workers get laid off. Jobs are shipped offshore. Pension funds are frozen. Wages and benefits are cut.

6. Results
The earnings of the corporation are redistributed to executives and Wall Street bankers.

What’s left for workers?

NOT MUCH.

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CWA Union Preparing for A Strike; Will AT&T Learn from Verizon’s Mistake?

Amid inconclusive discussions between CWA and AT&T’s internet division, the union gave hint of a strike call in the near future

Recently, The Communications Workers of America (CWA) has announced that its members have given a go ahead to call for a strike, if fair contract is not reached with the internet division of AT&T Inc. The negotiations are underway for 2,000 internet services members’ renewed contracts that work in supporting customers department, call centers, and as technicians.

The previous contract of these workers got expired on July 23, 2016. Since then, the two parties are on the bargaining desk. In its recent statement, the union claimed that this bargaining is getting tougher, as the management is not cooperating on workers’ key issues, which includes wage and benefits increase.

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This news has brought anxiety among AT&T investors, because the same kind of strike was called upon by CWA and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) together against Verizon Communications Inc. earlier this year, which stretched up to 45 days. That strike not only brought above 40,000 workers and their relatives on roads nationwide, but also slammed heavy losses on Verizon’s financial books. The extent of strike pushed Obama-led government to intervene and resolve the outstanding issue. Such a step provided further strength to the union, and it is now ready to strike at its will anywhere any time.

CWA Agreement with AT&T Mobility Division

Even though the company’s Internet division has not reached any definite conclusion for 2,000 members, last week its mobility division entered into a tentative agreement with CWA for 42,000 nationwide workers. The proposed tentative agreement covered healthcare and other benefits.

This contract has been forwarded to union members for ratification and currently awaits result. It is pertinent to note that last month, the members had voted down the agreed contract between the management and the union, for which the two parties again sat on table talk to come up with this revised contract.

Stay Abreast of the News

To follow the status of the potential CWA strike against AT&T visit CWA News Page or Like us on Facebook and subscribe to the Union Built PC monthly eNewsletter for the latest news.

The Strike At Trump’s Atlantic City Casino Is a Flashpoint for the Entire Labor Movement

What those striking are now bravely confronting in Atlantic City should resonate deeply with American workers, their unions, and beyond

In Atlantic City workers at the Trump Taj Mahal casino hotel, members of UNITE HERE Local 54 wagered a struggle that should make it one of those crystallizing flashpoints that garner national attention and mobilize support from the entire labor movement, progressives, and working people at large.

Such flashpoints arise only occasionally in workers’ struggles for justice. In living memory, for example, Eastern Airlines, PATCO, Pittston, the Decatur wars, UPS, and most recently Verizon are among those that have attained that status.

Those flashpoints of national concern and mobilization occur when what particular groups of workers are fighting for and against connects with broader tendencies and concerns in workplaces and the society in general. Downsizing, speedup, outsourcing, privatization, capital flight, unsafe working conditions, profitable employers’ demands for concessions that imperil workers’ standard of living are all among conditions that have triggered those moments.

The striking Trump Taj Mahal workers are involved in precisely such a fundamental struggle now, one that should resonate far and wide among American workers and their unions.

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How It Started

Nearly 1,000 cooks, bartenders, housekeepers, cocktail servers and other workers there went on strike on July 1—the culmination of a twenty-month struggle to restore pay and benefit cuts that Donald Trump’s crony and notorious billionaire corporate raider Carl Icahn imposed on workers after obtaining permission to do so from a bankruptcy judge. Last year, it should be noted, Trump indicated that if elected he “would love to bring my friend Carl Icahn” to his administration as Treasury Secretary.

The Trump Taj Mahal Bankruptcy Ruling’s Devastation

Following the bankruptcy ruling, Trump Taj Mahal workers lost health insurance, pensions, even severance pay. Workers have seen their average total compensation cut by more than a third. One striker with a chronic medical condition recently died alone at home without access to medical care, and there is no reason to believe that his case is unique. There are many other horror stories, including workers faced with losing their homes and apartments in addition to suffering other material and emotional hardships.

Why This Fight is Everybody’s Fight

The Trump Taj Mahal strike is an important moment for us all because these workers are on the frontline against forces that threaten us all and that lay bare what a Donald Trump presidency would have in store for millions of American workers.

trump-quotesBoth Trump, who built the Taj Mahal, and Icahn, who is the current owner, have taken millions from the property, driven it into bankruptcy, and left the workers holding the bag. Icahn, as Trump Taj Mahal’s sole debtholder between 2010 and 2014, took $350 million out of the business. Icahn has a long history—going back nearly thirty years to his takeover of TWA airlines—of bleeding companies of assets, gutting pensions and benefits, and then tossing aside the firms’ hollowed out carcasses. Manipulation of employer-friendly bankruptcy laws has also been a Trump specialty, one that he has used on several occasions to stiff contractors, going back to when he was the original “too big to fail” scamster at the beginning of the 1990s. Combined, Trump and Icahn have used the bankruptcy tool at the Taj Mahal multiple times.

Another reason we need to see the Trump Taj Mahal strike as all our fight—in addition to the outrageous injustice and hardship Icahn has perpetrated on these workers—is that this struggle in Atlantic City sheds light on some important mystifications that need to be clarified if we hope to turn the tide against the intensifying predatory assaults on American workers’ standard of living.

The Taj Mahal fight is a frontline battle in the systematic attacks on working people’s living standards in this country perpetrated by the likes of Donald Trump and Carl Icahn and their ideological affiliates Mike Pence, Scott Walker, Bruce Rauner, Pat McCrory, Paul Ryan and the Congressional Republicans, the education “reform” billionaires, the Koch brothers and ALEC, the many tentacles of the carceral state, all of whom are intent on destroying public goods and services, and good public jobs, if not the very idea of a public.  To keep the focus on Icahn and Trump, however, what better poster boys could there be for the predatory “billionaire class”?

If the Trump Taj Mahal was permitted to operate on the terms Icahn imposed, workers, the union, and the broader community understand that the result would be a local race to the bottom, as other casino operators would argue that they have to compete with Icahn’s sweatshop model to remain viable. As by far the dominant industry in the city, the hospitality and gaming sector is directly linked to the economic health and well-being not only of casino workers but of the community at large. It is decent hospitality sector jobs that enable workers to buy houses and provide the backbone for the entire local economy.

And Atlantic City is not alone. Icahn’s attack on Taj Mahal workers is of a piece with broader right-wing attempts to drive down workers’ living standards everywhere. This is what is behind the systematic attacks on teachers’ unions and other public sector unions and efforts to destroy the national postal service. Partly it stems from a desire to eliminate any organized expressions of workers’ power, to clear the way to realizing the other objective: creation of a world in which we would have no alternative other than to accept work on whatever terms employers choose to offer it.

That, of course, would be employers’ utopia and workers’ hell.

Key Takeaway

The issues at the core of the Trump Taj Mahal strike reflect the concerns shared broadly by workers in this country. The struggle presents a clear window onto the danger within the false promises Trump seems to offer some, and the strikers and their union provide a clear, practical model of the sort of movement we will need to change this country’s political direction to center on the needs of working people.

Making this fight a national issue on the order of those earlier key labor flashpoints certainly seems like a no-brainer.