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Behind the Veil: Secretly Recorded Captive Audience Meetings Expose Big Company Anti-Unionism

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For some unfortunate workers, a job at a big company means having to sit through captive audience meetings where employer representatives tell you that, “you have the right to organize, but it would be a very bad idea.”  A new trend of workers secretly recording these meetings, however, could expose this flawed though legal practice and give the outside world a glimpse at what companies will do to keep the status quo unchecked.  

Labor reporter Dave Jamieson published a piece this week covering three companies — Coca-Cola, FedEx, and Staples — which have had their captive audience meetings recorded by attendees.  The similarities are uncanny, right down to the employees’ questions about why they are being forced to attend.

The audio of all three of these meetings can be found on HuffingtonPost.

In the case of Coca-Cola, workers were quick to realize they were not, “just being informed of their options.”  The tone of the meeting is always anti-union, with suggestions such as: “When a union comes in […] they’re seeking money from employees.”

In rare cases these meetings may actually provide needed information to workers, but they also give workers the opportunity to confront the lies they are being told, often with hilarious results.  Here’s another excerpt from the Coca-Cola meeting:

When the man says that all unions want is money, one worker asks him how much he is being paid to hold the information session.

“How much is your salary for this meeting, as far as you talking about unions and stuff like that?”

“My salary doesn’t matter,” the man replies. “This is my job. I work for Coke just like you do.”

After being warned about the costs of union representation, the worker responds, “I wouldn’t mind paying for representation, because I don’t feel like anyone is representing me [now].”

“Why would people go seek a third party?” one worker asks. “You get what I’m saying? There has to be a problem.”

“You put so much emphasis on discouraging people about the union,” another worker says. “Why wouldn’t you put the same emphasis on finding out what problems the employees have and try to make them better?”

The worker who recorded the meeting told Jamieson that the thought of unionizing is necessary because “pay is not matching the labor.”

“Most guys believe that if I give a fair day’s work I should get a fair day’s pay,” he added.

These brief moments of absolute truth, with workers confronting management about their company’s priorities, are not exclusive to Coca-Cola.  Accidental confessions, when tempers flare and the meeting host break from “it’s up to you in the end” ruse, let their workers know how the company truly feels about unions.

That’s what happened in the recorded FedEx Freight meeting:

At one point, the company representative in the same recording mocks the Teamsters for their declining membership rolls.

“The Teamsters are literally a bunch of losers,” he says.

The speaker in the other recording is just as direct.

“We do not want a union at FedEx Freight, not under any circumstances. Okay?” he says. “This company by any legal means necessary will fight that. And everybody in this room and everybody who works for this organization needs to understand that. We don’t support it. We don’t think it fits with our business model. We don’t think it’s good for you or your families.”

None of these meetings’ legal protection can complicate the simple concept of worker protection. As one Teamsters supporter working at FedEx told Jamieson, “I think it’s about time we had a voice.”


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