Wednesday, June 6, 2012

My Letter of Resignation To Goodwill Industries of The Columbia Willamette

***This post seems to have generated a lot of comments and interest so it's being re-posted after originally appearing last year***

I haven't posted on here for a while now. There has been a reason for that. I have been trying to unionize my workplace, Goodwill Industries of the Columbia Willamette which is located in Portland Oregon and the surrounding areas. It will actually be my former workplace as of this morning. My decision to resign has been a long time coming. I had been one of the employees from the beginning to try to get GICW employees to join a union since last fall. That fall I approached another employee about it, Doug M., and the next day we had an anti-union meeting with two of the higher ups in the company. Obviously you just can't trust some people. You'll read about the higher ups later.

Let me explain exactly what it was that I did there. I worked for Goodwill Industries of the Columbia Willamette's E-Commerce Department. Stores receive donations from the public and the better quality items would be sent to us in order to post it onto an online auction site. We would receive items, put them onto carts, have the items photographed, list the items onto our auction site and eventually ship them out to customers. I specifically worked in the jewelry area where we were a microcosm of the aforementioned line of production. We deal with the highest dollar items of the e-commerce department and generally have to have a really great knowledge base of what we are dealing with. For this type of labor, my pay started out at $9.00 an hour in September 2009, just .60 cents above the Oregon minimum wage at the time, and ended as of today at $10.50 an hour. Our company makes over a $100 million in revenue a year and most workers start out at $8.50 an hour which is considered by Goodwill to be "competitive wages." That ridiculous viewpoint is one of the many reasons for my disdain with Goodwill. That said, let's get back to the story.

Now, for a while after last winter I lost steam in regards to the union and thought that I could get a raise or have some ideas implemented that could help the company and myself. I wanted to utilize that corporate buzzword; The Open Door Policy. My ideas included GICW installing solar panels on top of our warehouse and limiting visitors from across the nation who come to see the number one revenue generating Goodwill in the world. It's the information age, why not save some gas and do a web seminar? I also pushed for a raise for myself because I was part of a small group that generated the most revenue in our department per person and we even had higher production goals than anyone else. All of these ideas, after at least a two week waiting period of zero communication, were rejected. I became really depressed and unhappy with my job, more so than usual. It got to the point that about a month ago I was ready to just walk out. Then it hit me! Why not try one last push to get my workplace unionized one last time? If I succeeded it could mean more pay for me. If I didn't, then I was leaving anyways. But most importantly, since I was already about to quit, I had become that most dangerous of foes; a man with nothing to lose.

From that realization I contacted the union and began planning to campaign at work. I had done my homework and know what my rights are. I began distributing union literature after work in the parking lot and during my unpaid lunch breaks. I had fliers posted on peoples cars parked along the road outside. As my tactics became more aggressive, Goodwill began sending Cathy Hannam (GICW District Manager) and Bob Barsocchini (General Counsel/ HR Pictured Below) to conduct anti-union meetings and tell flat out lies about what would happen should we vote to unionize. They talked about how a union would just take our money and not work to improve our jobs. They even made up a lie about not being about to park on the street any longer. I believe they did this because the street is public property and fliers can be passed out there. We were told we had to use the customer parking lot from then on, which is Goodwill property and subject to no solicitation or trespassing. To this day, surrounding businesses continue to park on the street with no repercussions for them. We, however, were threatened with having our cars towed should we continue to park there.


(Bob "The Union Buster" Barsocchini)



The consensus seemed to be against the union in regard to my coworkers with the most idiotic of us (specifically Timothy/Tadgh) being the most vocal against it during our anti-union meetings. I gave out invitations to a meeting with union organizers and when I saw how few people showed up I realized that I was fighting an uphill battle against four enemies; anti-union propaganda pushed by Goodwill, fear of job lose, ignorance of legally protected worker rights and ignorance what unions can actually do for workers.

Yesterday, I decided to wear a black hat with white letters that read "Unionize." We allow hats at work and I am perfectly within my rights according to United States Title Code 29 Chapter 7 (National Labor Relations Act). I was brought into the office around 9:40am today by Operations Manager Todd Silbernagle and told I had violated company policy by having a hat that was "political in nature or promoted a business." Many employees wear hats that have sports teams which are businesses and they are not told to remove their hats. Not only was my right to wear pro union insignia at work violated but I was singled out and discriminated against because of my stance. I will be filing complaints with the National Labor Relations Board but I will not be working for Goodwill when I do. Today I am sending the following resignation letter via company wide email and also handing out hard copies in the workplace. I think it conveys my sentiment quite well. Enjoy:

Dear E-Commerce Division of Goodwill Industries of the Columbia Willamette,

I've decided to tender my resignation effective immediately as I can no longer stand idly by while my labor is exploited by imbeciles and sycophants. There are several things I'd like to address on my way out, hence this letter. First off, I'd like to talk about how Goodwill is a corporation just like any other and not a charity. They bash unions while their executives and board of directors is comprised of banking elite, oil barons, state congress people and the like. All of them very wealthy and members of the economic top 1%. They support the rich getting richer and the poor / middle class being kept poor. This is how they maintain their finances and power.

Much like the top 1% running a non-profit, the Goodwill philosophy itself is a joke. They make tons of revenue while providing very little in the ways of giving workers a living wage. The "genius CEO" is helming the number one Goodwill in the world and all he had to do to do so was add some lighting to our stores and jack up the prices so much that middle class people aren't afraid to slum it up at Goodwill. What about the people out there who can only afford $1 or $2 for a shirt? Screw those people, right Goodwill? It isn't hard to see where the GICW loyalties and ideals lie. Hint: Not with helping people but earning the almighty dollar through outrageous salaries and benefits for the top people.

Why does Michael Miller make five times what the average CEO of a nonprofit making about $100 million in revenue makes? The top 1% profiting off of the bottom 90% has never been more prevalent than at Goodwill. The pay here is crap no matter what Bob Barsocchini personally feels. A full time job is supposed to keep people from being poor not making sure that they stay poor. $8.50 an hour for a warehouse job(that's what the dockworkers on the warehouse side start at) is insulting. Paying someone the lowest amount that can be legally paid to a person is not acceptable or "competitive" wages when all of the companies inventory is donated by the public. There's no reason why these robber barons or their minions should be allowed to get away with this bullshit.

Speaking of minions, how about the moronic gestures that Miller's underlings seem so well adapted at performing. I'm speaking of the walking fake smile known as Cathy Hannam, the shyster lawyer Bob "the union buster" Barsocchini and the bearded chode who parks in the loading bay, Peter Collins. Remember their fabulously successful "Kaizen" that we had. The one where Cathy went around to everyone to get their input and then either completely ignored it or did the exact opposite of what the employees suggested? It was a great example of their failed "open door policy." That policy really means that you can pitch ideas and in a couple of weeks they will tell you why they're not going to implement them. You know that almost everyone has complained about this shitty overhead music, yet we still have to endure it. Does anyone really think that this company has your interests at heart? Why do you think we have a department called "Human Resources?" It's because that's all we are to corporations. When we are no longer as profitable as bringing in somebody new or we step on the wrong toes we will be thrown away.

I don't understand why you people put up with it. We’re underpaid yet everyone seems too stupid or afraid to stand up to these idiots. Why is it that we seem to cherish democracy except when it comes to the workplace? Then we choose a dictatorship. Why should three of the most incompetent people boss around the workers who know more about the department than they do. Raya Ferns, Kopa Fernandez and Todd Silbernagle exemplify the backwards nature of GICW. I can't say that they are doing a bad job because I don't really know what any of them do around here other than shuffling employees around unnecessarily and conducting tours on occasion where they pretend to know how this department operates. Ask yourself when was the last time that Kopa did photography for more than 20 minutes (competently). Or if Todd has ever done any unloading/receiving. Or if Raya could hit the listing goal of 60 in a day. They can't manage the department because they could care less about what our jobs are or if we're doing them right as long as they are in control and we make their arbitrary goals that are handed down from on high. The truly mind blowing thing is that not only do they sit around and do less work than the rest of us but they get paid much better than we do! Todd, I'm sure, is pulling in over $50,000 a year and he had a position created just for him after he had spent years suckling the teat of Hollywood Video until they finally went out of business. If that's your plan here, Todd, you're going to excel because the top brass have been doing that for decades at this company.

To the workers who produce the revenue for the company I say this: There are some of you here, and you know who you are, that are too good for this place. You're better than Goodwill and you should be doing something that makes you happy. Your skills and aptitude are far too superior to be wasting your time working under idiots and I sincerely hope that you all find a better place to go in the future. As for everyone else, you should unite in order to take some of the ridiculous amounts of revenue that GICW makes and use it to support yourselves and your families. You should unionize to support a democratic workplace. Or not. Or do nothing and enjoy continuing to earn your low paychecks while others profit off of your labor. If inaction is your decision then you've earned your poverty with your ignorance and your cowardice.



Should anyone wish to speak with anybody at Goodwill Industries of the Columbia Willamette regarding this matter their address is 1943 SE Sixth Avenue, Portland, Oregon 97214. Phone: (503) 238-6100. Here are some direct company emails of some of the higher ups should you wish to email them: tsilbernagel@gicw.org (E commerce operations manager), mmiller@gicw.org (CEO), pcollins@gicw.org (Operations manager), channam@gicw.org (district manager) and bbarsocchini@gicw.org (union buster).