At Piedmont, "We Encourage People to Have Each Other's Back"

Jamie Lynn McClay has been devoted to unions pretty much her whole life. Her parents, both members of the New Jersey Education Association teachers' union, brought her to her first union action at age three. A lot of kids talk about sports and school events at the dinner table, but as a high school freshman, Jamie was busy helping with grievances—and winning! Today, she is the Secretary-Treasurer for CWA Local 7040 and proudly serves Piedmont agents in the western United States from her base in Phoenix, Arizona.

We asked Jamie to tell us what’s happening out west with Piedmont mobilization and supporting workers. Here's what she had to say:

We’re definitely trying to engage with all the chief stewards in our region. We want them to know they are in control and to make sure they understand what’s happening in bargaining our contract each step of the way.

We just got done with a station conference, and we are doing two per month at different stations now. We want to connect with the members in as many ways as possible, so our stewards do meetings, but they also do texts and emails and phone calls.

One of our big goals is to get our agents to see the stewards as real resources—as contacts to empower them. And it’s great because we have more and more stewards signing up every day. And where we don’t have stewards, we now have what we call "silent witnesses." These are volunteers who will go with an agent if a manager wants to have a meeting when there is no steward available. The silent witness isn’t authorized to negotiate, but he or she can take notes and provide support—and then get all the information back to the steward. More than anything, we encourage people to have each other’s back. That's what it's all about.

Lately, we've seen an increase in involvement, and it’s amazing to see people stepping up. I think it’s because of the positive changes they’re seeing. Nothing happens overnight, but we have a team now with Rick Brower as President of Local 7040, and we all work well together. Rick’s been around the block a few times, so he knows how to get things done. We see that a lot of people are eager and willing to help out, and if they have the heart and the desire, we want them.

One thing mainline agents may not be aware of is that in some areas, minimum wage laws affect regional agents' pay. Recently, in Arizona and in Colorado, voters raised the minimum wage, which led to an increase in the minimum at several stations. But the company wasn’t taking any action, so we took action. And when the company indicated they would be paying new hires at a higher rate that would be more than some of the folks who had worked here five years—the union said that just won’t fly. In the end, in those stations where the minimum wage legislation went into effect, we increased our differential and we’ve all just gotten pay increases, as we should.

In terms of the contract that's being negotiated now for everyone, we were also able to rectify a situation that was going to mean we would have no annual raises and bonuses after December 31, 2016, when our contract was up. I’m really proud we were able to get a Letter of Agreement that extended raises and bonuses to 2017, which was great.

As I look at what's happening in 2017, I’m looking forward to continuing to mobilize and support our members as bargaining continues this year. With the team we have in place at Local 7040, I'm definitely optimistic—the possibilities are endless!

To sign up for updates on bargaining and mobilization at Piedmont, click here.