IBM union calls it quits

After trying since 1999 to turn IBM into a union shop, the Alliance@IBM, a Communications Workers of America local, is "suspending" its organizing efforts.

"Years of job cuts and membership losses have taken their toll," said the Alliance in a statement Tuesday.

The Alliance, which had 400 dues-paying members at its peak, now has about 200. But this figure doesn't tell the real story about the Alliance's accomplishments.

The Alliance became a key source of public information for employees and the news media about job cuts, benefit changes and restructuring actions by the tech giant.

During a job layoff, the number of website visitors could reach 140,000 or more, according to Lee Conrad, the Alliance's national coordinator, in an interview.

Employees shared with the Alliance documents and knowledge about the firm's restructuring activities.

But IBM's ongoing restructuring and layoffs, described by the firm as a "rebalancing" of its workforce, made it increasingly difficult for the union to organize, said Conrad.

In the mid-1980s, IBM employed some 230,000 in the U.S. The Alliance estimates that number of U.S. workers is about 71,000. IBM stopped disclosing its U.S.-specific headcount about five years ago. IBM is believed to have more employees in India than in the U.S.

"It was always an uphill battle," said Conrad, of the organizing effort, but the Alliance served a role "as an advocate" for the workers.

Conrad is retiring and says he will continue to provide a place for IBM employees to share information.

The Facebook page will remain active, and there are plans to build a new website. The existing website will remain up but will not be updated.


Patrick Thibodeau

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