VIDEO: Security Alarm Company Locks Out Techs

Home security company ADT has locked out employees in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, who are seeking their first union contract. The company's "final offer" would have slashed pay by up to 30 percent. To support the locked-out workers, donate to their relief fund here. Video: IBEW.

After months of stalled negotiations and obstructionist tactics, on February 13 the home security company ADT locked out 19 employees in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, who are seeking their first union contract.

The move came a month after the workers had voted decisively to stick with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 342.

The giant Florida-based corporation provides home and business security service to 6 million U.S. customers. The IBEW represents about 1,000 of its employees nationwide. Others are represented by the Communication Workers or the Office and Professional Employees.

Its 19 installation specialists and service technicians in Winston-Salem voted for representation by the IBEW in 2013. They’ve been negotiating for a first contract ever since.

“ADT has dragged out talks for nearly two years, using every trick in the book to prevent us from coming to an agreement,” said Local 342 Business Manager Alvin Warwick.

The company’s “final offer” would have slashed employee pay by up to 30 percent. ADT texted notice to employees of an updated offer March 8—but with no substantial improvements. The locked out workers voted to reject it. Now they’re mobilizing informational pickets in Florida and North Carolina.

“They don’t want to pay us a fair wage,” technician Brook Tolar said in a video released by the union. (See it, above.) “They want us to work till you drop—no family values whatsoever.”

Unheard-of Step

Prompted by ADT’s insistence on wage cuts, last October workers voted 9-9 for decertification. (Unfairly, a tie counts as a win for the company in both certification and decertification elections.)

A clock starts ticking the day a new union is certified. One year later, if there’s no contract, a minority of workers can petition for a decertification vote. So a resistant boss will often make the first year of bargaining an exercise in delay.

In this case, the company had hired a number of new employees and segregated them from the pro-union majority, then convinced enough to support a decertification effort.

“Sophisticated employers know how to play the game,” said Lucas Aubrey, an IBEW attorney. “Companies will drag out contract talks until some workers start to dissent, then some will call for a decertification.”



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But the union filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board, challenging the fairness of the vote and charging that ADT had illegally pressured employees during the period leading up to it.

The Labor Board agreed, and negotiated with management for a January 14 rerun. This time workers chose the IBEW by more than 2 to 1.

The company’s extreme next step—locking workers out—is unheard-of in a first-contract fight.

‘Absolute Corporate Greed’

To perform the locked-out workers’ jobs, management has brought in replacement workers, including out-of-area contractors, some of whom have little experience installing ADT systems.

The union is planning actions in North Carolina and in Boca Raton, Florida, where the company has its headquarters, and asking the public to donate to an IBEW ADT Employee Relief Fund.

This isn’t the first time ADT has been accused of violating workers’ rights. The IBEW has filed numerous unfair labor practice charges against the company.

In 2012 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ordered ADT to reinstate its collective bargaining agreement in Kalamazoo, Michigan, after it tried to shut down the union facility and shift jobs to nonunion employees.

Despite its efforts to squeeze wages in North Carolina, ADT’s top officers are paid handsomely. Together they’re received more than $31 million in total compensation since the company was spun off from its Swiss-based parent, Tyco International Ltd., in 2012.

CEO Naren Gursahaney alone got $17.5 million over the last three years.

“This is a profitable operation in Winston-Salem,” said Warwick. “Locking out their workers is absolute corporate greed.”

David Haynes is an IBEW organizer assisting workers in North and South Carolina. To support the locked-out workers, donate to their relief fund here.