Geico workers accuse company of aggressive tactics to deter unions | american unions

Workers at an office of US insurance giant Geico have embarked on an organizing campaign in the face of what they say are aggressive and unfair management tactics to prevent them from forming a union.

Workers at the roughly 2,500-employee office in Amherst, New York, near Buffalo, say they have faced deteriorating working conditions over the past two years under Geico CEO Todd Combs. Combs is an investment manager and protege of billionaire Warren Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway company owns Geico – known in the US for ads featuring its English-accented gecko mascot.

The organizing effort, Geico United, went public shortly after Geico sent a company-wide email in August 2022 asking workers to call the police if they feel uncomfortable with union organizers collecting union authorization signatures.

“The NLRB [National Labor Relations Board] says an employer should not interfere with your business, but they did,” said Lila Bilali, employee and organizer at Geico.

Another email was sent by Geico shortly afterwards which included several references to the Starbucks labor campaign, in an attempt to deter and deter the labor organization by claiming that the campaign had brought no benefit to the workers.

Then meetings with Geico management took place and the union was discussed. After one of the meetings, Bilali said the bulletin board where union flyers were displayed was removed from the office.

The union has deposit accusations of unfair labor practices with the NLRB. New York State Legislators sent a letter to Geico over the emails and actions, calling on the company to allow its employees to organize freely.

The workers explained that the organizing campaign took off in response to the changes and problems that arose under Geico’s new CEO and the Covid-19 pandemic.

“When the pandemic happened I think I was completely disillusioned when I realized that Geico was not what I thought they weren’t what they present themselves as being at least as a as an employer,” added Bilali.

Lonnie Konikoff, a longtime Geico employee in Amherst, New York, said this was exemplified by a subreddit of Geico employees full of sentiment about worsening working conditions over the past two years.

“We want to help Geico, we want to make Geico a better place to work,” Konikoff said. “We are just human beings who want to have a better working environment for ourselves and our colleagues and to be compensated fairly. I think that’s what every American worker wants and we just don’t get it at Geico.

Several workers who spoke to the Guardian asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals.

Workers cited numerous changes since Combs was appointed in January 2020, including the closing of 38 offices in California, the elimination of the research and development department, the modification of sales measures and disciplinary policies, insufficient training of new recruits, inadequate equipment and technology, as well as failing to reimburse workers who had to work from home and buy their own equipment at the start of the pandemic.

“There were a lot of good reasons to work for Geico, there was profit sharing, all kinds of incentives. All that has since changed and now they expect us to be almost like a computer, taking back-to-back calls consistently,” a worker at Amherst said.

A Geico employee outside New York, who is also working to organize a union and asked to keep his location and name secret for fear of retaliation, echoed similar sentiments.

The worker explained that amid drastic staff reductions and consolidation of departments, there are not enough staff to complete the necessary work, and they are losing staff to competitors where salaries, benefits and working conditions are better.

“Due to our staffing issues, there aren’t enough people to do all the work that needs to be done, and that’s having a huge, crazy snowball effect,” the worker added.

Another Geico worker organizing in a separate office pointed to similar issues, citing cuts, consolidations and lack of job security as pressing concerns for workers that the company ignored.

“We need to organize ourselves so that we have a voice and a seat at the bargaining table to advocate for better pay, better job security, more vacation and sick days for us- same, better opportunities for advancement within the company,” they said.

A Geico spokesperson said, “In areas where we have been overstaffed due to lower volumes, we have offered associate positions in other departments with comparable pay and better opportunities, and the company offers additional benefits if associates are displaced by major business changes.We care about our associates and work hard to find them better opportunities within the company while adapting to changing customer demands.

The spokesperson added, “Geico associates have the right to support or oppose union representation. We respect these important rights. We believe that the allegations contained in the charges filed with the National Labor Relations Board are completely baseless. »

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