Siemens Dialog
17.07.2024, 12:07 Uhr

Contradictory information from Californian SMO plant:

Light into the darkness

  • 25.06.2024
  • International

From the Californian Siemens Mobility site in Sacramento, massive accusations have been reaching the works councils and the IG Metall in Germany. Despite many efforts to this end, it is not easy to obtain a reliable picture from the distance based on contradictory information from the management and trade unions - clarification is needed.

Certainly not legally wrong, but still far from neutral:

Messages displayed on screens in the plant strongly discourage workers from unionizing.

The ongoing complaints from the US trade unions involved, however, create room for the suspicion that the management in this plant does not fully implement the regulations that are supposed to prevent such conflicts.

An International Framework Agreement from 2012 and a supplementary “Letter of Understanding” specifically for Siemens in the USA from 2016 are intended to ensure fair conditions for US employees, works councils and trade unions further than US laws, which seem rather restrictive form a German perspective. These agreements define certain basics, from the recognition of international labor
standards and neutrality towards trade unions and their attempts to organize, up to a commitment to mutual respect.

So-called “union busting”, i.e. the professional (established as a business model in the US) fight against unions trying to get employees organized, is also ruled out at Siemens under these agreements. As a reminder: In the USA, employees generally have to vote on whether they want to organize with a union. It is precisely such a vote that appears to be hindered or at least influenced in Sacramento, according to the Boilermakers and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers unions, which are jointly driving the campaign.

It has to be mentioned in this context that this vote is not legally mandatory. The management obviously is free at any time to hold discussions regarding representation of interests and co-determination without any prior conditions - this would also be in the spirit of said "Letter of Understanding".

However, the Boilermakers and the IBEW are convinced that in Sacramento Siemens Mobility is not only violating the Framework Agreement and its supplement, but also US regulations; which is why they have filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.

There is no question about Siemens' high standards of employee protection and constructive cooperation with the social partners in Germany. This makes it even harder for the affected US trade unions to accept that management in Sacramento is not very selective in its choice of means to undermine what is taken for granted in Germany.

In view of these accusations, Siemens has asked the local management for information about the situation in Sacramento. However, the result hat not led to any progress and basically focuses on the statement that the company consistently complies with the applicable laws and regulations.

Boilermakers and IBEW obviously see this differently - and provide some proof. At an online meeting with representatives of the German union IG Metall and union shop stewards, affected colleagues from Sacramento made harsh accusations about the obstruction of unionizing attempts and discrimination against those involved. They described questionable working conditions below the standards of the Siemens Group - which is certainly also not in the interests of the top management in the USA and Germany.

In summary, comprehensive and objective clarification of the situation at the plant seems essential; endless e-mail correspondence with the same statements made again and again is clearly not helpful. In this context, it would also be helpful for the US trade unions to have a genuine right of access in order to facilitate transparent  communication; even a freely accessible information booth in the company parking lot would be a huge step forward.