November 27, 2023 at 8:52 pm

He Started A Union After Their CEO Voided A Verbal Agreement And Got A Massive Settlement As A Result

by Matthew Gilligan

Source: Reddit/AITA/Unsplash/@brookeowinters

Unions are a good thing overall, but it’s an understatement to say that most management types are not fan of those organizations at all.

But when the higher-ups push the workers too far, sometimes they have to unite to make sure it won’t happen anymore.

In this Reddit story, the writer said that they used to work as s driver seven nights a week.

CEO voids a verbal agreement… enjoy the new union!

“25 years ago I worked 7 nights a week as a driver, subcontracted to the local newspaper to deliver bundles to stores and carriers.

At 18, I was the youngest driver with his own route, having first been brought in by a family friend when I was 16 as a spare driver then moving up. My days were at college studying comp-sci or working computer repair jobs.

Verbal Agreement Gets Voided

The rural route I was offered had the greatest number of km’s with a relatively lower number of newspapers compared to other routes. I made an agreement with the manager, bought a heavy duty cargo van which had been converted to run on propane (far cheaper back then), then got to work. Most other trucks would not have made a profit doing this route.

The boss wanted to have a word with them.

After several months on the job, I was called into the office by the CEO (of distribution company) who was mad that I had been getting paid more for my km’s in comparison to other in-city routes.

The manager backed me up saying he had OK’d the rate to balance out the longer hours with fewer bundles. The CEO yelled at the manager in front of the whole office and asked if there was a signed contract to state the agreed terms. When the manager admitted it was a verbal contract, the CEO said it then didn’t count and was void.

Well, they asked for it…

I Get Organized

Stuck with having to pay off the cargo van, and I really did enjoy the job itself, I kept at it… but documented EVERYTHING including all negotiations, calls asking me to come early, requests to set the order of my route, times waiting at press, times entering/leaving loading bay, who was before and after me, route completion times, return home times, fuel costs, km’s driven, and press breakdowns.

Six months later I wanted to take some time off but was refused. None of the company spares would agree to do my route since it cost them too much in time and fuel. Working 7 nights a week gets draining. I threatened to quit and the company relented, agreeing to pay the spares more (but not me). This situation made me madder than ever and I started reading.

It was time to get others invovled.

I Get Organizing

I learned of the magical difference between a dependent and an independent contractor and how a dependent contractor is granted many of the same rights as employees… like overtime and holiday pay. I knew this was a temporary job for me, but I was mad enough to devote a large amount of my time to make the owner pay.

I filed a comprehensive personal employment standards complaint using all those records I had been keeping, plus I offered my records to around 10 other drivers who followed my lead into filing their own complaints. A key part of my records was proving how much control the company had on how we performed our jobs.

They were now fully committed to the cause.

Talk of unionizing was always in the background, but it was at this point I joined the cause with a fervour. We attracted one of the country’s largest unions who devoted a fair amount of resources to backing us even before they were voted in.

My records went to the union who referred to them consistently. Because I had years of spare experience, I also had in-depth knowledge of many of the other routes and the lopsided pay. I helped convince several of the other drivers to join up, including some of the spares.

Forming a union is a long process, so be aware there were multiple votes interspersed with the events below with each vote favouring the union position. There were also several other enthusiastic organizers who were tired of how things were.

The company, predictably, wasn’t happy.

The Company Fights Back

The company played hardball and went after us on multiple fronts. A number of union-friendly spares were fired, drivers lost their routes due to strategic amalgamations, and I was let go under the excuse that I had less seniority than the CEO’s son-in-law who had worked as a spare a couple of times over the last few years. My own departure didn’t last long.

The newspaper itself demanded I be put back on my route following major problems and delays from the son-in-law doing it (bad drops, loads of complaints by carriers and customers). The union filed complaints to the labour board calling it obvious union busting. I filed a complaint to the employment standards tribunal which had been set up for my personal case.

Since the company had played the seniority card, it was determined I had greater seniority than a number of “company men” given I had worked as a spare since I was 16. The labour board said I should be given the opportunity to “bump” any of those with less seniority and take their route. Both the company and union asked me not to pursue this if I agreed to an immediate increase to my current route and to be paid for all days missed. I agreed 🙂

Things were still being worked out.

Negotiations Pay Off

Now two years later from the start of my story, negotiations were still ongoing but several interim agreements had been reached. A universal pay algorithm was agreed on, with drivers receiving backpay to when the negotiations started. I received one of the biggest cheques.

One thing I did not agree to was to let the union negotiate away my employment standards complaint. I was the lone hold-out here, so as such I had equal standing in some labour board tribunals with CEO and union negotiators.

I will always relish the disdain the CEO had for me at those meetings, to the point of placing his briefcase on the negotiating table to block my view of him… and me reclining back ever so slowly in those nice comfy chairs to grin at him while offering water.

The employment standards tribunal determined I was a dependant contractor. They awarded me everything I had asked for and more including penalties and interest. They made a point to mention how egregiously the company had behaved after the complaint had first been submitted. The “dependent contractor” determination greatly strengthened the union’s position for future negotiations.

It seems like it all worked out for this person!

I Move On To My Career… And Steak

I quit shortly afterwards since I had finished with college and was full into the tech world. It did take a couple more years for the company to finally agree to pay the full amount awarded.

The CEO delayed it as long as he could. Every few months I refused lowball settlement offers.

That final cheque with his personal signature paid off my student loans and a steak dinner.”

And now let’s see how people reacted.

This person made a great point about the “return on investment of patience.”

Source: Reddit/AITA

Another individual said you can never trust a verbal agreement.

Source: Reddit/AITA

This person spoke THE TRUTH.

Source: Reddit/AITA

Another reader learned a hard lesson recently.

Source: Reddit/AITA

And this person pinned all of this on the CEO.

Source: Reddit/AITA

Mess around and find out.

That’ll show ’em!