Unions find video outperforms leafletsForget handing out...


July 02, 1993|By Kim Clark | Kim Clark,Staff Writer

Unions find video outperforms leaflets

Forget handing out paper leaflets and pounding the pavement as a picket. Unions are discovering that it can be easier and more effective to use video.

In San Francisco, members of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees union won a contract in April with the Parc 55 hotel. One of the winning tactics, said union official Mike Casey, was a "video picket line."

The union hired a video crew to make a 12-minute videotape in which workers described working conditions and local celebrities urged customers to check out of the hotel.

The union set up a large-screen television, videocassette playeand generator on the sidewalk outside the downtown hotel to show the video over and over again.

Across the country, in Ithaca, N.Y., a United Auto Workers locahired Pamela Kieffer, a video producer who was also regional organizing director for the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers in Maryland, to produce a 20-minute documentary about the effects of low wages on Cornell University employees.

The union distributed copies of these "video leaflets" to students, alumni and teachers, and eventually won raises for its workers, said Al Davidoff, president of UAW Local 2300.

Ms. Kieffer, who left Maryland last week for an ACTWU organizing job in New York, said she thinks using videos to organize and win contracts is the way of the future.

Just yesterday, she said, she noticed members of the United Farm Workers union handing out cassettes of their new grape boycott video on the streets of Manhattan.

As a veteran organizer, she said she has noticed for years that video "is pervasive in American working-class life. I've done a lot of house visits where people were clustered around a rental video," she said.

Ms. Kieffer said the Cornell videocassette worked well because she used union member volunteers to do everything from carry lights to edit -- which made the members part of the process.

6* "This is a great way to go," she said.

Company's benefits include free massage

Now, from the company that told us that family-leave benefits were the wave of the future comes what may be the next benefit trend: free massages.

The 200 employees of the Calvert Group, a manager of "socially responsible" mutual funds in Bethesda, can get 15-minute massages at work.

And though the idea rubs officials of other companies the wrong way, Calvert officials insist there is a real payoff to the $200-per-week masseuse cost.

Jeffrey Hough, Calvert's director of corporate citizenship, and a regular at the company's massage stool, says he finds "it is a great way to relieve stress. You feel like a new man or woman."

Besides, the benefit sends a good message to workers, he said.

Calvert tries to practice what it preaches and set an example for socially responsible management. The company, for example, offered family leave long before it was required by law, offers flextime, job sharing, a "cafeteria style" benefits program and paid time off for community volunteering, he said.

And for the last 2 1/2 years, the company has hired a massage therapist for four hours a week. (The subjects remain clothed during their massages.)

The benefit has proved so popular that workers are asked to limit themselves to one massage every two weeks.

But when Mr. Hough attends meetings where he meets officialof other companies, and touts the massage benefit, he said he

gets "a lot of glassy-eyed stares."

Woman charges 'casual dress' bias

As more managers loosen up on dress codes, and "casual days" become more popular in workplaces, some women complain they are being held to different "casual" standards.

Barbara Castanon, of North Potomac, has sued her former employer, Hughes Network Systems Inc. of Germantown, accusing it of discriminating against her.

As a part of her claim, filed in federal court in Baltimore, Mrs. Castanon said that on Fridays, which are designated "casual days" at Hughes, many male employees wear blue jeans to work.

But when she wore blue jeans, she alleged, her boss reprimanded her, saying that female employees in jeans sent the wrong message.

Hughes' attorney, Barbara Brown of Washington, said the company denies all of Mrs. Castanon's allegations.

Mrs. Castanon's attorney, Thomas Bowden of Baltimore, said this is the first case of "casual dress" discrimination he's heard of.

But it may not be the last. A poll last year of 504 human resource managers found two-thirds allow their employees to dress casually at least one day a week, and more than a third of those had adopted the looser policy within the last five years.

Last-minute sick calls soaring in cost

Are workers getting sicker quicker?

Businesses report the cost of unscheduled absences is soaring.

A survey by the 1993 Commerce Clearing House found that the && cost of last-minute sick calls rose 38 percent for small and midsized companies between 1992 and 1993.

As reported in Human Resources Magazine, companies with less than 250 workers said the absences cost them $62,636 in 1993, up from $45,302 last year.

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