Organizing for the long haul
Building employee power in IBM

By Lee Conrad
National Coordinator
Alliance@IBM CWA Local 1701
 
 
The nature of employment inside IBM has changed dramatically over the years. For many employees the change has not been good. Employees have seen benefits and wages cut or scaled back; working hours increase as "work life balance" is replaced with "work life integration"; respect towards employees by senior management is a thing of the past; jobs are cut and work off-shored. Workers outsourced to IBM find out that verbal “promises” made become “promises” broken. Stress and fear rule the day.
 
The Alliance@IBM and its members believe these issues must be confronted and management needs to listen to the concerns of its employees. We also believe that workplace issues and conditions of employment need to be discussed and settled at the negotiating table.
 
The only way to do that and make an impact is by having an employee organization.
That organization is the Alliance@IBM.
 
What is the Alliance? The Alliance@IBM/CWA Local 1701 is a nationwide membership organization of IBM employees, retirees as well as outsourced/sold off IBM employees and contractors. Our members are IT specialists, manufacturing workers, engineers, programmers, software developers, and SSR's. Many of our members are mobile or work from home. We are part of the Communications Workers of America, a 650,000-member organization.
The Alliance has 5000 supporters and 300 dues paying members and 50 associate members located in almost every State.
We are a democratic organization, governed by Officers and a council of chapter delegates, all elected by our dues paying members. 
Our basic principle is that only by standing together with your fellow employees can you hope to keep the benefits you still have, restore the benefits you lost and address key concerns in the workplace like off-shoring, job security and working hours. 
 
Ever since IBM started taking away benefits that were promised to people when they were hired, the Alliance@IBM has striven to undo the injustices that IBM perpetrates in the name of short-term gain.
 
Members of the Alliance have taken and continue to take actions such as writing letters to Politicians and newspapers, launching workplace e-mail campaigns and petitions, organizing and attending large rallies and smaller meetings, introducing stockholder resolutions and holding stockholder actions, and circulating newsletters and e-mails in the workplace and community.  We are also involved in activism around IBM's toxic exposure of workers and residents in IBM communities.

The worldwide media watches the Alliance web site closely and we are considered the source of information on IBM employee issues.
We are an information source for other workers in the IT industry that share our concerns on off shoring and seek information on advocacy and organization.
The Alliance works closely with IBM unions and Works Councils around the world and participates in joint actions, dialogue and mutual support.
 
While our ultimate goal is a collective bargaining agreement between employees and IBM, there is much that can and must be done right now. 
 
IBM workers standing together can be very effective. IBM employees in a revolt against corporate management changing our pension plan to a cash balance plan, held mass meetings nationwide, testified to congress and took other actions that resulted in IBM backing down and restoring choice to over 30,000 US employees. IBM customer engineers in the South organized an e-mail and letter writing campaign to win an increase in mileage.
The recent pay cut for IT support and our active campaign and petition in opposition to the cuts forced IBM to send out management teams to quell the outrage of employees and to reevaluate some employees.
Our web site is very popular even with IBM employees who do not yet belong to the Alliance, because we are the voice for the voiceless inside the company.
 
Together we can challenge IBM directly, and we can reach out to other labor organizations and community based non-labor groups forming partnerships to address our mutual concerns. Some officers and members of the Alliance also serve as officers of State and Local AFL/CIO Federations
 
However, effectiveness is directly related to membership and finances. We need to ensure that the organization is financially viable and that includes having the money to keep the office open and all the expenses of running it.
Not only does the Alliance need to add members we need these members to actively participate in this struggle and recruit other employees to this cause.
 
For non-members of the Alliance: As critical issues impact IBM employees and American IT workers the choice is to remain silent and unorganized--or stand together. The future is up to you.
 
To our members: We thank you for your support and encourage you to talk to your co-workers about the value of joining the Alliance. United we can make a difference.