Marcus Bryant's Commentaries 

International Paper   Lexington, Kentucky

                                                                                                             

Updated : 08-13-07

 

Posted March 2007

Just In case anyone was wondering...

Over the last few months I have been approached several times by members of this workforce asking what's up with the Union Committee. They seem to think we are just way too quiet and mellow. Folks ask me when we are going to start another campaign and most that inquire voice support for our efforts. My stock answer is simple...we never stopped campaigning nor will we ever stop. It is this committee's stated purpose to organize the International Paper Lexington Container Plant for the purpose of collective bargaining and or mutual protection. That's a lot of big old legal sounding words for the simple fact we want to be Unionized with a legally binding contract that we the people of this facility all took a hand in creating. Anyone that assumes that we have fallen in love with management's bash'em over the head approach to running this joint would be very sadly mistaken.

However, I must congratulate this management team. They have raped what was left of our health benefits, drove up the price, and herded us like cattle toward this weak choke and gag "Employee Driven Health Plan" Our once decent vacation policy has now been overhauled to enhance management's ability to control and dictate over your life on as well as off the job. With a little slight of hand and the magic words "because we say so" they turned the attendance policy into a hangman's noose waiting to stretch the neck of anyone who runs into a streak of bad luck. Threats, write ups, intimidation, bullying, are just a few weapons in their arsenal.  Even after all that, they still manage to get the numbers they want and get their huge Management Incentive Plan Bonuses off  your backs! 

Anyone can beat a borrowed mule but to beat that mule AND make it run like a thoroughbred stallion is a true work of managerial art. Bravo I say!

What's up with the Union Committee you ask? We are still here. No less committed and no less dedicated to our primary goal... Just in case anyone was wondering.

A few thoughts from Marcus Bryant

Somebody looking for an exit?

Solvent (adj.) A word used to describe a debt free financial situation as in Weston Paper was once a "solvent company" until they were swallowed by the soulless corporate beast.

As of late, "this corporate beast" has been making some odd maneuvers such as offering to buy back its own stock, selling off massive amounts of its assets and doing everything in its power to generate a positive cash flow to to do what we haven't been told.  Two possibilities are most plausible to my way of thinking. First off, the CFO is expecting a large windfall and wants to amass as much stock as possible to drive up the company's net worth. Secondly, and more likely in my opinion is the possibility that one of our competitors has launched a hostile takeover attempt and our board of directors is liquidating as much of our corporate assets (Including millions of acres of tree land.) as possible to buy a better controlling interest or a stronger foot hold in this company. Truthfully speaking, how strong or worth while can this foothold be if your main valued assets are gone? We are a paper company that doesn't own a tree... Three things come to mind when I think of this. 1. Enron 2.WorldCom and 3.Tyco. Grab your retirement funds and RUN!!

IP over the last several years with their mass corporate acquisitions has spread themselves very thin financially. With the loss of it's standing on the Dow Jones Industrial and near subterranean low stock prices, theoretically IP has made a 100 year old corporation an ideal target for 1980's style corporate raiders.

How many people remember the nightmare of the last take over we went through? I urge everyone to consider how much easier that transition would have gone if we had a Union Contract as a foundation to begin building a new relationship with new company owners.

These are just a few thoughts from Marcus Bryant the barefoot hillbilly.

 

Enough is never enough

 

In the month of August, one of the hottest and most miserable months of the year, The people of International Paper Lexington Container ran record footage. We put up huge numbers like over 105 million square feet of board corrugated, over 101 million feet converted to boxes and over 100 million feet shipped with a 0.196 Man-hours per Manufactured Square Foot. All this with a 5.34 figure in controllable waste.

The problem with this happy story begins several months ago when our management team hung up a paper on the board detailing the footage we would have to generate to get out of working every weekend. This footage was just shy of 4 million square feet a day. We have exceeded these numbers many times and quite frankly decimated them in the month of August and the plant still ended up working almost 7 days a week every week of that month.

We have set plant records with numbers much higher than they originally asked for and still they refuse to keep their their end of the bargain.  For every 1000 feet we run, sales stuffs another 2000 feet in its place. That's why I say enough is never enough.

As a token of thanks for these records, our management team arranged for a very nice steak dinner for all of us which was, truly, greatly appreciated. Indigestion set in about the time Mike Delaney brought up his figures of how we could have gotten out of all these weekends if we could have run just 12 more boxes an hour. Just 12 more boxes!! Now folks, pro-union or not, why would you believe this when everything you see points this out as a fabrication from management's little story book? I honestly think they figured we would just swallow this hook line and sinker. I personally saw that as a hugely arrogant statement on the part of management. So aloft they have become that they no longer consider us cogent enough to to reason at their level of intelligence. A sad state indeed.

Driving a workforce like this takes a toll immeasurable by numbers alone. The human element is the most ignored and least cared for component of this operation. Management has families they want to get home to. They are not here all day everyday like the hourly workforce they schedule. How many Saturdays and Sundays would we work if they had to stay a full shift right here with us? Not many I think.  Something highly worthy of mention is the extreme state of dis-repair our machinery is falling into. Neglecting needed repairs for longer running hours has become a common practice at Lexington. Die cutters that won't open or print properly, bearings falling out of flexos, conveyor lines that have been scheduled and re-scheduled for repair so many times that we have lost count, safety switches tied open, line brakes unhooked and power buttons rigged with tape and rubber bands have become common. With all this, we still pass ourselves off as a VPP facility. Our maintenance staff is not to blame... they are willing and able to fix these problems but you can's fix what you can't work on.

PM used to stand for Preventative Maintenance I think it ought to be Power Mad according to what I have seen lately. 

When will the beatings and broken promises end you may ask. The answer is; when you have had enough! You allow management the ability to to drive you like this. They call it "freedom and flexibility."  Their freedom and flexibility comes from the fact we don't have a union to represent us. We don't have the ability to negotiate the terms of our employment. Without any say in our future, management will continue to dictate and contradict the rules as they see fit. I see the month of August as a prime example of why being Union free does not work in the best interest of people. 

A few thoughts by Marcus Bryant the barefoot hillbilly.

 

 

Our house is on fire...

As to not cause any confusion, I will first deliver the simple facts of the following incident as they were reported to me by the witnesses. It is these facts I will draw upon to pose my questions and formulate my conclusions.

1. On May 8, 2006 on the third shift there was a fire in or around the "hot plate" section of our corrugator.

2. Employees battled and extinguished the flame and all following flare ups using in excess of 10 handheld fire extinguishers.

3. Even though the smoke content of the air was reportedly very bad, no fire alarms were triggered and no employees were asked to evacuate the building

These are the facts as I understand them.

I wish I understood the thinking or better yet the lack of thinking that went into continuing to work employees in an obviously unsafe environment. The fact no one was hurt is irrelevant to the subject at hand and that subject is respect. Respect for the safety of the working people of this plant took a horrible beating this morning when people were forced to work in a smoke filled plant inhaling god only knows what and taking a chance with their lives that the fire would indeed be contained.

It has come to my attention that the reason no smoke detectors triggered the fire alarm could be directly linked to the fact the smoke detectors were removed some time ago and replaced with, what I believe to be, less effective heat detectors.  Lightly roasted factory worker anyone?

It is truly no laughing matter when you think of what could have happened. It is always better safe than sorry.

As a Union Facility, we would be able to address these threats to our safety in a more employee friendly manner. Ask yourself this, If it came down to being late on an order or forcing you to run production in a burning factory, which would the company choose?

That answer became obvious on 5-08-06

 

Why Should I Care?

Well, the year 2005 has come and gone and we are, yet again, worse for the wear.  Insurance is heading up and raises are practically non existent.  The pay group I am in, has lost money for the third year in a row due to insurance hikes and either no raise or such a small raise it gets swallowed by the increase in insurance rates. Quite frankly, I am tired of harping about what this company is doing and what I think should be done about it. I live by the motto "If you can stand it, so can I!"  So, if nothing that is happening here at The Lexington Plant is bothering you...then, why should it bother me?  Why should I care if The Lexington Plant Management Team is doing everything they can to create a turnover amongst its senior employees?  Why should I care if our attendance policy, which was already strict, is now nightmare designed to "weed out" employees of this facility?  Why should it bother me if benefits we have earned by the sweat of out brows are wiped out in the name of the greater and growing greed of a money hungry corporation? Take a Friday off and you get nothing more than that Friday off? No Saturday? That shouldn't bother me at all now should it? Miss a few days because of a family emergency with no doctor's note and you are out of a job. That's nothing to be concerned about is it?  Management will tell you these policies are not designed to target anyone in particular just those who break the rules. It's funny to me how they always wants to talk about us breaking the rules when they can't follow the "rules" themselves and when you ask them to follow the rules and it doesn't suit them, they change the rules to follow whatever quirk or twitch that may have come over them.

Some people have begun to believe it's simple constipation that brings on these mood swings in management. I don't know for certain...just what I heard

Please don't get me started on management's lack of respect for the so called committees who were supposed to help design the rules here at Lexington. They were forgotten  faster than last Tuesdays lunch. I mean how darn convenient was it that management just whizzed right by that little promise? 

I really don't feel that I need to point out anything else. Our intelligence has been insulted, our faces have been slapped, and our jobs have been put in jeopardy.  And I ask you... "Why should I care?" ... "Do You?"

 

 

When does the bleeding stop?

     We are hemorrhaging money and benefits every day. We have not received a true raise since IP took over this plant.  Any money we have gained has been tossed out the window to health care increases. The worn out story we hear is "health care is on the rise all across the country."  You know what? I really don't want to hear that cover up story any more! Health care is not the only thing on the rise everywhere...so are the salaries and bonus checks of CEO's and upper management.   These blood sucking leaches never get full. Inside of 20 years, if things continue as they are now, the average American working man or woman will be reduces to the poverty level  because of the greed and lust for excess that our, so called, leaders have. 

International Paper's management style has become a prime example of what's wrong with this country.  IP cries that they are a poor company when it comes to giving it's hourly workers a raise and decent and affordable benefits but when it comes time to give the Board of Directors or the CEO a raise a million dollars becomes chump change. 

The Magic Tricks

The best tricks that corporations including IP have managed to pull over on their hourly work forces is: #1 The feeling that there is nothing you can do to change things. This helpless feeling is what IP wishes to perpetuate among all of it's non-union workforce.  #2 Make you feel that the company is doing you a favor allowing you to work for them.  IP wants people to feel like they owe the company something more than a fair days work for a fair days pay.

Insulted intelligence 

All companies take for granted that people that sweat for a living are not smart enough to figure out their grand design. IP is guilty of this as recent as the last Union Campaign. In the weeks leading up to the Union's Petition for election, Don Noort ranted and raved and managed to piss everyone off to the breaking point. Just prior to the actual vote, IP sent in the smiley squad, the fun bunch, the guys in white hats, our heroes coming to save us from a propped up scarecrow of their own devise. They attacked with carefully scripted double talk and played a pre-rehearsed, pre-planned shell game with what we perceived to be the problem. Now we have the Wizard of OZ and the man behind the curtain pulling the strings and flipping the switches.  Everyone wants to believe that somewhere in this company there is someone that cares about us as people. The way IP takes advantage of that is the true insult.  

Working for the Company Store

     In the old days coal miners would work in the mines and live on the owners property. The owner had the only source of supplies available to these miners. An over priced place called the "company store." The company store would extend credit to the workers and their families and take the payment out of the worker's checks. The company made sure to price their goods high enough and pay their employees low enough to keep the workers in debt to the company for life creating indentured servants or slaves to the company.  That story is as true today as it was a century ago.  Companies have not gotten nicer or more concerned with our well being. They have just gotten smarter and more organized with each other.  Why make a vehicle more affordable or pay the people enough to afford it  when you can extend the finance terms out to seven years or more or even better than that, just lease it and never truly own it.  Corporate America has become a beast that is feeding off all our tables and we have only one legal recourse to stand up to it. UNION.  

To Sum It Up

Here in our plant we are non union. We are at will employees of a corporation that clearly does not value it's hourly employees and makes that statement clear by pouring money out to it's chosen elite while ignoring the backbone and foundation of this company.  As non union employees we are helpless to make changes relating to our employment, benefits or pay because the company does not have to ask for our compliance to do anything. We are simply told that's the way it is, like it or leave. Contract employees (Union) are not treated like that. In order for the company to make changes in a contract employees working condition the company is required to negotiate these changes with the employee's elected representatives. 

Corporations have discovered what unions have known for years; there is power in organizing collectively toward a common goal. This is how what is referred to as Corporate America was formed. Sadly enough, these same corporations will raise total hell with their employees that attempt to organize a union to make their living conditions better.  Looks two faced to me.

To win the last election, the company tricked several of us. I hope that these tricks are now evident so we wont fall for them again

2-18- 2006 is drawing closer. 

MB

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The close of election 2005

In closing another chapter of this campaign, I would be amiss not to speak about the actions of this committee. How we not only stood our ground but stood in the rain and cold to hand out literature to our co-workers. Our fellowship and brotherhood has made us more than what we are individually. I am proud to be among these fine people and to stand with them even in a losing effort is an honor indeed. I would also like to take a moment to thank all the people who voted in this election. It is my opinion management dodged a bullet on Friday the 18th of February 2005 when they claimed their victory by a 2-vote margin. But a win is a win nonetheless. What management chooses to do with this win is up to them. They can simply throw it away or they can learn from it. That choice rests with them.   

 In Solidarity

Marcus Bryant

1-31-05

Do You Remember?

Anybody remember what got us here in the midst of this Union Campaign? I haven’t heard it mentioned in quite a while. I was just wondering if you have forgotten.  It becomes easier to forget as time goes on.  What’s it been now…5 or 6 long weeks since management handed you a $600 slap in the face showing you that your production has little bearing on this plant’s profitability?  Remember what the percentage of our yearly raise was?  0% 

That is 0% for, what has been described as... "the second best year in the history of this plant." Remember being snidely asked “anyone not happy with this?” and then told “that’s the best we can do?” Adding insult to injury, Don posted another slap in the face on the bulletin board laughing, with his office friends, at the $600 we got.

 

How many times in just the last six months leading up to this petition have members of this management team ignored rules in the company’s handbook? Ignored the Attendance Policy, Ignored the Overtime Policy, Ignored the Peer Review Policy.

 

How Many times in the last 12 months have you been told things like, “if you are not happy here maybe you should go somewhere else?” 

 

Remember, less than 2 months ago, when an entire department (Die Cutters) was told something to the effect of they were 4 spots out of last place. Recently (after this petition was signed and headed to the NLRB) the people of this same department received glowing employee reviews. Described by some as the best reviews they ever had.

 

These issues are not made up to scare you. Most people are well aware of them.  They are part of our day-to-day existence here at this plant. But, it becomes easy to forget them when you have a master of his trade like Tom Curran working the floor.  Mr. Curran wants you to focus on what he is saying and forget any and all other problems. He digs up the most negative information on organized labor he can find and displays it to be the norm in union plants everywhere. Like a headliner band does an opening act, Tom Curran has, effectively, swept local management out of the spotlight and placed himself into that position. Be aware, Mr. Curran is not concerned with the fact you may or may not like him. With him it is not a popularity contest.  He is paid to do a job and, quite frankly, that is the only reason he came to Lexington… to do a job.  Unfortunately for us, we are the main part of that job. With everybody paying attention to Mr. Curran it becomes easy for him to redirect peoples anger and frustration with management to fear of the unknown with a Union. At that point, the seeds of self-doubt have been planted and half of his battle is won.

 

It is up to you to remember how we got here in the middle of this Union Campaign

Is it worth fighting for? Should we throw this opportunity away like we have in the past? That decision is yours to remember or forget.  

 
Updated  12-30-04

0% Raise and a $600 one time (Before Gift Tax) bonus. I usually look for something cute to say about bad situations in our plant to lighten the mood but what could I possibly say that would lighten something like this? At last report, this plant had brought in about 3 Million Dollars net profit for this corporation. This plant has been granted 3 Million Dollars worth of Capitol Project money. We are quite sure that Don Noort has received a healthy bonus for all the improved production and improved ROI. On the IP Intranet it was disclosed that most all management was getting a 3% raise this year. Everybody got theirs except us. We got the short end of a worn out stick. 

I once used a story about an old mule and a carrot as a comparison to the way Don holds our raises over our heads. The carrot is gone, the mule is dead and the only thing any of us have left is each other.  After a bold smack in the face, like the company handed us, failing to make a stand now would be a grave mistake. If management sees they can get away with this once...they will not hesitate to give us nothing at all the next time.  Sign your Union Petition. Support the efforts of your In-Plant Union Committee. We may not be able to to make everything better but at least we will work for the best interest of the people and do our best to serve that goal. That, in itself, is far better than anything Don or IP has offered.  

Marcus Bryant 

Updated 7-19-04

               Just last week we saw Management attempt to set up and terminate Tony Bellamy, an employee with over 20 years service to this facility, on the grounds of job abandonment. (which was a false charge due to the fact Tony asked his supervisor, in the presence of witnesses, if he could leave and was told he could.)   Bill Childress suspended Tony pending an investigation which turned up nothing to support their claims. Bill, Instead of admitting his mistake, used our sorry excuse for a employee handbook to drum up some idiotic charge to cover his ass and issued Tony a verbal warning on a lesser charge. This has the true stink of a set up. A man with 20 years experience knows what job abandonment is and not to do it. What happens the next time one of us needs to go home? Are we going to be charged with job abandonment and suspended? You can't say it wouldn't happen because it already has. Tony is just the latest victim, who will be next? You?  Me? 

It is my personal opinion that this attempted set up stems from a personal vendetta Bill Childress has declared on Tony and myself and it is also my opinion that Bill's vendetta will spill over to include anyone that disagrees with him in any way.  

Management is so hell bent on getting "payback"  for the truth we speak and the rights we as a Union Committee exercise that they will go to all extremes to silence us and hide their shame from the rest of this corporation and the world. Don Noort and Bill Childress have proven themselves time and time again to be deceitful and untrustworthy in their dealings with plant employees. Not to mention their business practices! We all know about those! 

Don and Bill act like vultures circling the employees, waiting for one of us to commit a human error so they can swoop in and either justify their continued employment to someone higher up the line or simply gratify the need they both have to bully the employees in their charge. It is this brand of bullying micro-management and lack of respect for the rights of working people that perpetuates the ongoing union campaign at this facility. 

Corporate wants you to believe that we organize for some other reason than protecting the rights of the people. Corporate wants you to believe we do this because we like it and nothing else besides Union will satisfy us as a Committee. To this I say, show me a different way that doesn't involve pride less pandering to a tyrant and we will follow that way. Until a new way is shown, we will continue to fight for the rights of the people in the only way we know how.  

Under Federal Law, we not only have the right to organize for the purpose of collective bargaining we have the right to organize for the purpose of mutual protection.  We need protection from the revenge motivated punishments dealt out by management. We need protection from a Corporation that allows our management team to step on our civil rights at will. We need protection from being made scapegoats to cover management based mistakes. We need the protection that a legally binding Union Contract can provide.  

New Information found about this subject

Since the publishing of my last article about the smoking ban, I have discovered new information that may be of interest to you. It is my opinion that Don Noort either did not understand this law or did not want to understand it. Either way, we got hosed as usual. 

It is extremely hard to stand your ground when you don't know where you stand.  Rules are tossed out like last weeks bathwater and to coin an old phrase, most times, they toss out the baby with the bathwater. This meaning, no consideration is given to or for rules that are good for the employees and their morale. With Don in charge, it is a constant state of change and upheaval at this plant. We are in dire need of the security that only a Union Contract can provide. When was the last time you saw a rule changed at this facility that you can truly say was changed for the good in relation to the employees?  Everything that is changed has resulted in either us loosing something or more responsibility being added to our jobs. The noose of restrictions is tightening around our necks and management is holding all the rope. It is time for management to cut us some slack and the only way to get that slack is by forming a Union and negotiating for it. With each signature we get on our petition the choice is drawing nearer. You can hang by the hand of management, or you can stand by the side of your brethren. The choice is yours... the rope is theirs.               

  Here you will find past articles I have posted.

More updates to come...

 

Send e-mail to Marcus.

 

 

This network is created and managed by Marcus Bryant & Tony Bellamy   with the sole intentions of exercising their  legal right to organize for the  purpose of collective bargaining. 
Your in-plant organizing committee is: Tony Bellamy,  Roger "3 O'clock" Clark,  Roy "Daddy" Cates,  Dennis "The Enforcer" Brannock,  James Davenport,  Greg Pelfrey,  Jim Rohr,  Shane Nolan,   Quentin Gay,  Tommy Wells,  Brian Hill,  Rodney Clem,  Hugh Reed, Emery "The Big E" Addison,  Derek Webb And Marcus Bryant.  

We serve notice to all that, under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, we are participating in a Federally Protected Activity to organize the workforce of International Paper Lexington for the purpose of collective bargaining.   Any and all of the contents of this website is used, exclusively,  for that stated purpose. No other meaning should be assigned or implied to said content. By Federal Law, any misrepresentation or alteration of the original copyrighted material  contained in this website is forbidden.  

 

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Last modified: August 12, 2007.