Friday, January 24, 2014

Save Our South Slope Draws Big Crowd

As an in-town Iowa Citian, I was long jealous of my neighbors a little farther out in Tiffin and North Liberty or Ely who could get their cable, phone and internet from South Slope. The company had a great reputation for quality and community-mindedness.

But lately South Slope is suffering from some self-inflicted wounds, damaging their reputation with their customers and workers.

South Slope employees have been without a contract since a lock-out in November, as the company refuses to budge on a tiered wage system that would pay new workers less and undercut the Communication Workers of America bargaining unit.

"CEO salary and benefits (have) suddenly skyrocketed," said Tracy Leone of the Iowa Federation of Labor at a Save Our South Slope rally last night, yet "management is trying to force 30% wage cuts for new hires and current employees who transfer."

Without an agreement, management has unilaterally imposed its "final" terms that, in addition to wages, include scheduling changes and an end to minimum pay for "call-out" in emergency situations.

South Slope, like many telecoms that started out as small rural phone companies, is a co-op. But employees and members have found it impossible to find out when the board meets or when elections are scheduled, and staff and members say board members have been unresponsive.

"Because the co-op is a nonprofit, said attorney Paul McAndrew,  " I expect that earnings will be reinvested in the co-op, returned to members as dividends, or used to compensate skilled workers, not used to pad CEO pay or compensate Board members."

The rally was originally planned for outside the South Slope offices, but was moved to the North Liberty Community Center due to weather. South Slope CEO Justyn Miller was on hand, despite a notice distributed which stated "management's presence at this union-sponsored event constitutes illegal surveillance and intimidation of employees."

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