Ill. ADT Techs Negotiating First Contract
June 2, 2014
Nearly 2,000 ADT employees across the U.S. and Canada enjoy better job security, fair wages and other benefits of an IBEW contract.
But getting there can often be a taxing long-distance run, as Dan Novitske is learning.
After a dynamic organizing campaign that tapped the initiative and skill of service and installation techs, Novitske and six of his co-workers voted overwhelmingly to join Rock Island, Ill., Local 145 last summer. The employees install and service home and small business security systems over a 1,000-mile region from southern Illinois all the way north to Minneapolis and Wisconsin.
Novitske, a three-year employee with nearly a decade in the industry, says there have been genuine perks to his job. “The pay opportunity has been good,” he said. “We have been on a piecework plan, where you get paid for how hard you work and how much quality service you provide.”
But that appears to be changing, he said, as the company looks to move toward an hourly pay plan that could drive down wages and dampen workers’ initiative.
“The setup that they want to move to would slash pay about 30 percent across the board,” Novitske said.
Newer problems persist, too. Many techs are currently working 10-hour days but only getting paid for eight hours, as the company frequently doesn’t pay for travel time to and from certain assignments. “We’re basically working for free part of every day,” Novitske said. “That’s one of the reasons we contacted the IBEW.”
IBEW Local 145 Assistant Business Manager Cory Bergfeld was the lead organizer on last year’s campaign and is now helping with negotiations. “The volunteer organizing committee has been solid,” he said. “They have a very clear vision for how they want to improve their quality of life on the job, and they are taking the high road in these first contract talks.”
Bergfeld said that assistance from outside locals has been valuable. He thanked activists from St. Louis Local 1; Peoria, Ill., Local 34; Minneapolis Local 292; and Rockford, Ill., Local 364. Illinois State Organizing Coordinator Dave Burns has also lent support and expertise, Bergfeld said.
Both Novitske and Bergfeld say that they are focusing on trying to ensure that there is a sense of back-and-forth dialogue when meeting with ADT representatives.
“I think we are proposing an acceptable hourly wage plan,” Novitske said. “But the company is so far saying ‘no.’ We want to move forward. We’re all hard workers, we help make the company successful, and we’re just looking for a fair deal.”
Florida-based ADT is the largest security company in North America with nearly 7 million customers. ADT posted $837 million in revenue for the second quarter of the current fiscal year – up nearly 2 percent since 2013, according to a company press release.
“With the piecework, these guys got a chance to really go out there to sell and service the equipment,” Bergfeld said. “If you hustled and put in the time, you could make good wages. But ADT is saying that they don’t think pay should be tied to their performance. If that’s the case, what’s the motivator for these guys to try to do a good job?”
While Novitske says the road to their contract is tough at the moment, he encourages other ADT employees in similar positions to stand up for their rights on the job.
“They only way you are going to accomplish anything is through numbers,” he said. “One person won’t make a difference. It’s much easier to get a company as big as ADT to listen to you when you can say, ‘Look, all these people feel the same way.’ When it’s thousands of employees raising their voices together, it’s a different story.”
Check back with ibew.org for more reporting on organizing and negotiating efforts at ADT.