OGDEN, NY — Security guards bully workers. Workers call police to protect them from guards. Police arrive and hassle workers. Security company turns out to be owned by the brother of one of the cops. That cop is also moonlighting as a security guard. Welcome to Ogden!
The Ogden Police are routinely called to the picket line at Caldwell Manufacturing, where the workers have been on strike since August. Ted Boucher, owner of Caldwell Manufacturing, brought in scabs to staff the production lines, and he also hired guards from C.O.P. Security to direct the cars out of the parking lot as the workers marched across the entrance. That the workers are legally entitled to picket in that spot is of no consequence to the guards who enforce Caldwell’s anti-union policies.
Recently, the C.O.P. Security guards have been roughing up the strikers. Security guards have knocked down workers. Just days ago, one of the guards shoved a woman with both hands. In the face of this escalation, the union (IUE-CWA Local 331) has begun calling the police on their own behalf. But when the police arrive — even when they’ve been called by the union — they immediately bypass the workers and head straight for the guards to get the story. Turns out that one of the security guards is Sergeant Dale Barton of the Ogden Police Department. Thatâ€™s right, he works for C.O.P. Security and for the police force the workers depend on to protect them from C.O.P. Security. Better still, Dale Bartonâ€™s brother is Rick Barton â€“ the president of C.O.P. Security.
Why are the workers on strike? Because Ted Boucher, the owner of the company, decided not to bargain in good faith with the workers. He was censured by the NLRB, and he has appealed that ruling.
As Joan Collins-Lambert wrote on her blog Work Related: “The strike at Caldwell is about something more enduring than tomorrow’s paycheck. It’s about a union’s right to exist, and about a company’s obligation to bargain in good faith with its union workers. Among other things, Caldwell management wants to remove union security clauses in the collective bargaining agreement, and eliminate dues check-off. In other words, it wants the union to commit suicide.” That about sums it up.
So Boucher appealed, and the union workers reluctantly but unanimously decided to strike.
Last Thursday, Sept. 29, was a typical afternoon on the line. The most belligerent of the rent-a-cops, whom Iâ€™ll call Dom, shoved another worker today. The cops showed up and immediately pulled aside one of the strikers, keeping him in the back of a patrol car for about 30 minutes before letting him go. I talked to the cops, and told them that if anyone needed to be removed, it was Dom, not the worker. I pointed out that Dom consistently bullies the workers, while the police do nothing to protect the workers’ legal right to picket. The cop was nonresponsive.
Later in the afternoon, a woman pulled up beside one of the police cars to talk to the officer inside the car. Seeing a golden opportunity, I immediately began making fun of the officer over my megaphone. When the woman left, the officer — Lockwood by name — rode up to me and accused me of slandering his wife. I said it was in fact him I was yelling at, and I told him he should be ashamed of himself for protecting the “rights” of Ted Boucher over the rights of the workers. The workers surrounded me as Lockwood and I argued back and forth for a few minutes, until I got bored and walked away.
When it was time to go home, I did what everyone else before me had done and made a perfectly safe u-turn on the road to get back to the main highway. Within seconds, Lockwood was behind me with his lights flashing. One of my coworkers was in the car with me, and we were laughing uproariously as Lockwood approached the car to write me a ticket for “making an illegal u-turn on a curve.” He wrote up the ticket and held it in the window of my car. I took out my pad and pen and asked him for his name. “It’s right there on the ticket,” he said, but I took my time writing it down anyway. “I have an emergency call,” Lockwood protested, “take the ticket.”
So a company breaks the law, is censured, and then appeals, forcing its employees to take their fight to the street. The police support the company, taking sides against their neighbors. Thereâ€™s a serious conflict of interest at work in Ogden, and itâ€™s directly harming the workers on the picket line.