Introduction

 

   As mentioned on the Introduction/Home page, I have some comments, questions and savings opportunities to share and reveal here. This Background Information page gives exactly that. It tells you who I am, what this site is about, and why it exists. This page is much more wordier than the rest, but I felt that this information is necessary in order to provide sufficient insight.

   I've been a DTE employee and a member of Local 223-UWUA in Stores for nearly 28 years. I am now entering my 13th year as the Local 223 Stores Division Recording Secretary. I served 8 years as a Stores Division Union Steward, and about 3 years on the Stores Division Bargaining & Grievance Committee.

 

   I've also served Local 223 in several capacities such as a member of the Company-Union Supply Chain Merger Team, the Local 223 Election Committee, and the Company-Union Safety Committee as its Recording Secretary for about 4 years as well as other Local 223 Committees.

 

   During the last 13 years as the Stores Recording Secretary, I, along with my co-members of the Stores Executive Board, have struggled to maintain positive working relationships with DTE Management. We're not always successful, as there are many in DTE Management, like Management in many companies that have the propensity to always want to make sure everyone knows they are in charge, or as my wife calls it “the Haig Syndrome”.

 

  Anyone in DTE Management that's worked with us knows we deal honestly and openly with them, and we take great pride in that fact. We also take great pride in making sure we do not employ measures that might unnecessarily encumber our dealings, nor do we come to the table with unreasonable expectations. Unfortunately not all DTE Management works with us in this regard. For those in Management that have reciprocated and made the effort to work and deal fairly, I take this opportunity to thank you for that.

 

   It isn't that we haven't had our differences, we have, and we've had to make some tough decisions as a result of those differences during our administration, including some that have meant allowing the Stores Division to diminish in size because of reductions in the amount of work available for the membership to perform.

 

   Our membership at W-100, (DTE’s Central Warehouse on Livernois and Warren), has been reduced by 25% in recent years through attrition. We never challenged the reductions primarily because it's difficult to do so when there's no work left for them to perform. We have never expected DTE to post jobs under those circumstances. Our represented workforce in Investment Recovery (Salvage) has also been reduced by nearly 50% in recent years.

 

   It isn't that DTE hasn't played a role in making this work go away, they have, through consignment materials, work reduction plans, and a few process improvements. Process improvements b the way, are usually hard to come by in labor intensive areas such as Stores, even though we do have several computer based functions. Positions more readily touched by process improvements usually are in areas where the jobs are more technology based.

 

   In late November 2005 the Stores and Motor Trans Divisions were approached by Management to join their process teams to assist DTE and their consultants collect ideas from the Represented Membership. It was rumored at the time, a proposal was being pushed by the consulting firms to reduce the current 15 Service Centers down to 4 Super Service Centers with most of the remaining becoming pullouts.

 

   The Distribution Operations (D.O.) Management process team and their consultants said DTE was in need of saving 100-150 million dollars (2006 and 2010). From the information we were given, it appeared the proposed changes and collection of cost savings ideas were in response to that need. After nearly 28 years, I've seen this doom and gloom “Chicken Little” act play out many times. We keep hearing the “The Sky Is Falling, The Sky Is Falling” but when the smoke clears, it seems the hourly workers come up short while it appears to have been raining money in the executive suite. Maybe that's not the reality, but it looks that way from the bottom.

 

   Still, Stores Division officers felt the Stores members needed to bring forward cost savings ideas to provide the savings DTE and their consultants said we needed. We also felt if Stores members didn't contribute Stores ideas, someone with minimal or no Stores knowledge or experience would develop the ideas and Stores strategy. This concerned us, so we did everything we

could to assure Stores members participated in order Stores knowledge, experience and expertise would help drive the final result.

 

   For several weeks the Stores Chairman went from location to location with D.O. Management, their black belt, and on occasion their consultants to implore Stores membership to help develop and collect cost saving ideas, process improvement ideas, or anything that would benefit themselves, DTE, or even other Represented and non represented groups inside or outside our Bargaining Units. Everyone seemed to hope they could come up with enough alternate ideas to derail the original 4 Super Service Center concept and help get the savings DTE and their consultants said they were looking for.

 

   In the end, the 4 Super Service Center concept, with 8 to 10 pullouts never changed. I, and others, believed from early discussions the Super Service Center idea might go away if enough cost savings ideas were generated. In retrospect it appears that may have been an error in judgment on our part, an error in judgment shared by numerous employees. It’s curious how such an apparently large number of people mis-interpreted this bit of information the same way.

 

   It seems the ideas generated were instead used to lend support and credence to DTE and their consultant’s original idea in regard to the 4 Super Service Center concept. I seriously doubt the ideas were ever intended to be used to formulate an alternate plan.

 

   When asked about this, DTE and their consultants changed the story slightly by simply saying the 4 Super Service Center concept stayed intact because not enough cost savings ideas were placed on the table to drive the effort in the direction to save the 15 D.O. warehouses. This statement was to be changed again after the Annual Report came out.

 

   Everyone believed they were generating ideas based on trying to keep their own warehouse open. Had they been told the Super Service Center concept was a done deal, they could have generated more specific ideas in regard to the right concept. Instead DTE and their consultants had us waste time developing ideas for something that was never going to happen. Many of these ideas were put on the supposed “back burner” for later use. Were they placed on the “back burner” because the specific nature of the ideas collected leaned toward preserving traditional type warehouses, and may have limited value in the world of the Super Service Center?

 

   DTE added salt to the wound when the Mar. 8, 2006 Annual Report disclosed 2005 revenues in excess of $9 billion and approximately $23 billion in assets. The Union questioned why were all these cuts necessary while DTE was enjoying record profits and on such strong financial footing?

 

  DTE and their consultants remark was, no one said the Company was in financial trouble. Instead they were just concerned with shareholder value and wanted to improve stock earnings and provide a better return. I doubt the $100-$150 million DTE and their consultants said they were looking for would to do much to increase shareholder value.

 

   Looking back, it appears the $100-$150 million may have been a smokescreen to keep us busy before delivering the blow that jobs were going to be cut. I don’t understand all this unrelated hoopla to get us there. Consumers, shareholders and employees should go to the following web address for some interesting reading on how shareholder value sometimes can get sidetracked. http://articles.wallstraits.net/articles/1372

 

   The Stores Officers had many concerns in regard to being involved vs. not being involved with the PEP process because our participation and contributions, or lack of, could be used against us no matter what path we chose.

 

1.   We were certain if we refused to participate and DTE and their consultants implemented something controversial, they

      would blame the Union by saying they gave us an opportunity to be present, to contribute, to voice our opinions and to

      make a difference, but we refused.

2.   On the flip side of the coin, by participating, ideas generated that drew complaints would be met with similar statements

      from DTE and the consultants to “blame the Union, that's where the ideas came from”.

3.   Further, we were concerned other unpopular and/or questionable ideas that were already in the arsenal of the Consultants

      and DTE could be shifted to the idea collection process to give the appearance that these were also Union contributions to

      draw the ire of the membership.

 

The above type divide and conquer scenario, is but one of many Union Busting techniques employed by Companies and the consultants they hire. The articles at the following web addresses provide some interesting articles on union busting.

http://www.amrc.org.hk/4802.htm

http://www.ibew1613.org/library/leno.html

http://www.theemailactivist.org/union-busting.htm

http://dbacon.igc.org/Unions/02ubust0.htm

http://www.current.org/rad611.html

http://www.nysut.org/fnhp/amc/20010101-strategies.html

 

  Early this year when DTE and the Consultants wanted to process forward a Supply Chain idea that conflicted with our Bargaining Agreement, I didn't challenge the proposal. I explained to DTE Management and their consultants immediately after the meeting we were there to be a part of the process, not to negotiate, not to impede the process, not to challenge the validity of ideas presented nor to challenge DTE and their consultants intent to implement.

 

   Anything conflicting with our Collective Bargaining Agreement requiring negotiation would have to be done at the Local Union level. Later, DTE and their consultants took advantage of the fact there was no challenge, and characterized the lack of a challenge as Union approval, thus realizing our initial fears that whatever our involvement, DTE and their consultants would use it against us.

 

   For the record, we were there for the idea collection process representing our bargaining units, and as eyes and ears for the Local and to lend expert support to the respective teams as SME’s,(Subject Matter Experts), in the area of our specific jobs and related Collective Bargaining Agreement issues.

 

   Further, any idea conflicting with the Collective Bargaining Agreement had to be negotiated and approved at the Local level by the Local 223 Negotiating Committee. It cannot occur in a meeting room with consultants who have no visibly apparent attachments to DTE, lower level Divisional Officers & Management personnel, without benefit of 1 Negotiating Committee Officer from Local 223 present. As with many employee-company conflicts, it usually comes down to semantics, which means DTE in all probability will characterize all this somewhat differently .

 

   You need to consider in November 2005, the process timeline seriously compromised the ability of anyone to spend time critiquing ideas submitted for development. The ideas had to be collected, analyzed, processed and an implementation plan prepared and ready before April Fools Day 2006.

 

   During the PEP process, before the Implementation Planning phase began, the Distribution Operations Team moved to the basement of the Service Building near Security Headquarters. At about the same time, Local 223 was in the midst of an Officer Election which kept me busy and left marginal time to attend the PEP process meetings. Although I personally wasn't able to attend several of the meetings through the first 2 months of the year, most were attended by other Stores officers.

 

   I was looking forward to becoming fully engaged again as I had numerous cost saving ideas I wanted to research, complete and send forward as soon I was able to rejoin the team full time, however that thought was very short lived.

 

   On March 9, 2006 I attended a meeting in the Distribution Operations team meeting room located in the basement of the Service Building. I was escorted in by a team member but during the meeting however, I had to use the rest room. When I tried to return, my key card drew a red light on the access door. Fortunately someone was exiting from the other side and I was able to slip back in.

 

   As a D.O. (Distribution Operations) team member I perceived this to be a problem, so after the meeting I tried to explain to the D.O. team lead, I needed my key card activated in order to have access to the team meeting room. The team leader indicated the meeting room was in a highly secured area, thus not just anyone could get access and I wouldn't be able to get my key card activated.

 

   I'm not sure if I suspected that would be his answer when I asked the question, but I definitely wasn't surprised. Being a team member and not having access to the team meeting room however was a legitimate concern. I wasn't happy with what was being suggested so I left. After thinking about it for a couple of days, I became upset about it. I hate to admit that, because so often I feel Management does things to elicit such a response from us and I'm not sure what irks me most, the fact they got me again, or the fact it's now known publicly.

 

   DTE gave serious lip service to the fact they wanted Union involvement, then inexplicably set up shop in a "Highly Secured Area" with very limited access, effectively locking out many of the Union members.  As a willing participant, with a lot of Stores experience, I have a lot frustration and confusion surrounding this as well as the obvious inference I might be considered a security risk.

 

   The fact I could be considered a security risk had never entered my mind prior to that day and why should it, especially after considering in 2000-2001, I was part of the Supply Chain Merger Team with 24 hour a day, 7 day a week access to all Company properties. Then in 2003 I worked with Corporate Emergency Management to develop Emergency Response Plans for 15 Service Centers.

 

   Now I wonder how it came to be in such a short span of time, DTE would allow someone to imply I'm a security risk. I'm also not comfortable with the unspoken connotations it implies, such as unreliable, untrustworthy, maybe both, maybe worse. I also believe this may speak to the question of my integrity as well.

 

   In retrospect, it appears I was a team member in name only, and my participation with the team, and access to the team meeting room was by invitation and escort only. This isn't my perception of how you treat a team player nor does it seem to be in the spirit of DTE’s supposed partnership, nor is it conducive to the promotion of trust or any other positive relation oriented concept. This was not my first insight into the fact the Represented team members may not have been full fledged team members.

 

   On Monday December 12th the Stores Chairman, and myself were invited to the Service Building for a meeting with the D.O. co-lead, and another FM&S Supervisor. They had us view a short VHS tape with a message from a couple of VP’s. The tape was used later at each Service Center as the team made it's rounds. On the tape, 2 DTE VP’s laid out what was on the horizon involving the PEP Process as they saw it.

 

   The D.O. Co-Lead rolled out their game plan involving Service Center visits, and asked the Represented team members to play a role. We then determined when & how we would proceed with the Service Center visits. DTE and their consultants wanted all of the Stores employees to submit cost savings ideas and the best way to make that happen was to have Stores officers present at the Service Center visits to encourage participation.

 

   Overtime had been approved to help facilitate getting the meetings completed and to encourage participation. We discussed and agreed in order to minimize OT, and involve as many people as possible, the meetings should flow equally from day shift into the afternoon shift to assure any resulting OT was distributed as evenly as possible and minimize visits.

 

   After consulting our date books, we came up with a date that would accommodate all the team members, and agreed to start in the north, work our way south, beginning first with Lapeer Service Center on Wednesday December 21st at 2:00 pm.

 

   On Thursday December 15th I received a call from the D.O. co-lead canceling the meeting at Lapeer. She initiated an entire schedule change without consulting the Union members if the dates and times fit their schedules. When she sent the new schedule of Service Center visits, it also had the hours changed plus the meetings were going to be conducted in Service Center clusters instead of individually.

 

   The cluster idea made perfect sense, however the D.O. co-team leads time changes negated the balance of OT between the day and afternoon shift. The resulting schedule changes caused several problems for the Stores Chairman and myself. I wasn't able to attend but 1 of the meetings and the beginning of another because of scheduling conflicts and the Chairman had to make several modifications to his schedule in order that he attend the rest.

 

   At the onset, partnering and sharing was portrayed as part of the process, but was quickly discarded by DTE Management and their consultants. Looking back, it appears they asked for our involvement not as a courtesy, not as a partner, not as a team member, but as a necessary evil, once served, severed, and it appears they couldn't have cared less if  we were involved or not.

 

   The second time it became apparent Represented team members may not have really been team members was when a Motor Transportation team member’s involvement was challenged by 3 of the D.O. Management team members. All in all, this type of treatment by DTE makes it increasingly difficult to continue to support or be involved in this, or any effort initiated by DTE or it’s consulting representatives.

 

   I need to say thanks to the D.O. team lead for putting things into perspective and exposing the facade formerly known as “Represented Team Member”. That information cleared the way for me to take DTE Managements lead and pass my ideas through an alternate public venue. Had DTE Management process team leads not cleared up this misconception, I might still be hanging around in the basement of the Service Building waiting for someone to open the door for me.

 

   On the bright side, this type of treatment of Union members by the D.O. team leads may garner them some kudos' from upper Management, perhaps even a reward.

 

   Although DTE has not asked us outright to sever our participation on various teams, things seem to be going that appears to be angering membership, who may quit on their own as a result. I hope that doesn't happen as I believe it may be in our best interest to stay involved where ever possible.

 

   I hope the D.O. team does well with the ideas collected for the sake of the company. Considering the D.O. Management team has minimal Stores experience, it might be difficult to accurately quantify and qualify ideas and results. This also may cause some back peddling from time to time, but if the D.O. team stays the course and continually re-evaluates, re-vamps and

re-submits the D.O. ideas, suggestions and opportunities to Upper DTE Management and their consultants, some ideas will likely surface that are workable and acceptable.

 

   I believe many corporations take advantage when their workers try to play within the rules. Those at the bottom often crave honesty and fair play, because the deck is usually stacked against them. This is a problem for them worker in the corporate world as it's an exploitable weakness and one that often does in honest hard working employees. After realizing how we were manipulated early on, it reminded me that maybe this is exactly what DTE and their consultants did to us through this process.

 

   DTE’s Core Values are as fine an example of this as anything. Although they are called Values, they are actually rules imposed for represented members and lower echelon non reps to follow, and for DTE management to enforce.

 

   At a couple of Distribution Operations Partnership Team meetings earlier this year, statements by VP’s and other high ranking DTE Management members indicated the end result of the PEP’s were supposed to be process impacted, not people impacted. At a separate meeting another VP stated he expected his organization to appear much the same after the PEP Process as it does today, only run more efficiently. (Jan. 2006)

 

   Statements like these by DTE and their consultants in late 2005-early 2006, led us to further believe, as stated earlier, there would be minimal impact on employees, and the stumbling blocks, as we saw them, were meeting the set financial goals. These words, and statements like them, as well as early pleas from DTE and their consultants for our “Much Needed Assistance” helped get and keep the Union engaged in these Processes.

 

   This all changed on or about March 7th when the Company approached Local 223 and said they were going to reduce the Unions membership by 1200 over the next 2 years, and non-rep’s by 800. These numbers, or some similar, have been confirmed repeatedly in various TV, radio and newpaper reports. These numbers seem to be extremely heavily employee impacted to me.

 

   It's hard to believe the Company didn't know about this 1 ˝ years prior to the start of this process, when they signed a contract with Local 223 saying they would increase Union membership by 350 over the life of the contract. Were we mislead into thinking we were getting something, while DTE knew full well they were not going to honor their agreement, and go in the opposite direction instead? One thing's for sure, I doubt this is a recently developed idea nor is it something that just fell on the table overnight.

 

   The initial DTE "process oriented" statements of late 2005-early 2006, contrasts greatly with the "people impacted" disclosure on March 7th. I think it also clearly illustrates how misleading DTE was in their characterizations of the PEP processes. If represented employees were to mislead DTE in such a flagrant manner you can be assured they would be facing the “Most Severe Discipline Possible” with DTE citing violations of the Company's Core Values.

 

   Speaking of “Most Severe Discipline Possible”, and Core Values, they seem go hand in hand at DTE. At another (DOPT) Distribution Operations Partnership Team meeting when DTE adopted Safety as a Core Value, one of the statements by a VP at the meeting was, "accidents have to be met with the Most Severe Discipline Possible”. Notice a pattern here?

 

   The Company's stance on accidents is simple. People get hurt through their own inattention and inappropriate actions, not by accident. Accidents do not happen.

 

   It's truly unfortunate the Company has taken such a stance. It's even more unfortunate for the members who risk life and limb for DTE, it's customers, their families and DTE’s seemingly ever present stream of consultants. The standard reward when someone is injured or a limb is lost, is that DTE is standing with papers ready for violating the Company's Core Values, sometimes even before the employee is released from the hospital. How is it DTE never considers the loss of hands, arms, fingers or subsequent nerve damage punishment enough? Why is it necessary to add insult to injury literally by adding discipline as well?

 

    Whenever it appears DTE Management crosses the line, it's always a Managerial or Executive Privilege or for some other higher purpose and not an actual violation as is evidenced by their handling of the current series of events. Something about all this puts a picture of Richard Nixon in my head with him saying over and over, I'm not a crook, I'm not a crook, I'm not a crook. He lied, and I believe DTE and their consultants lied when at the onset they led us to believe this was “process impacted”, not “employee impacted”.

 

   On a larger scale, from all accounts I've heard, Local 223, like Stores has enjoyed a reasonably good working relationship with DTE over the last dozen years or so. Also like Stores, there still can be conflicts and problems with certain members of DTE Management regardless of the Unions best efforts. DTE’s sudden need to communicate primarily through the news media is a good example. Why did DTE Management decide they would communicate with the Union in a non-traditional fashion, and seemingly outside the spirit of the partnership? The Union sometimes finds out about Union related news matters at the same time as the public and after the news media.

 

   I can only guess this is a strategy tool intended to send a message to the Union that DTE and their consultants are working hand in hand to ignore, disrespect, discourage, and confuse the Union for the purpose of decimating Union membership. DTE’s actions have even farther reaching implications as it appears they are making it clear all middle class workers, represented or not, are targets.

 

   It seems, DTE, and their consultants, are trying lead the way in Michigan, the nations Union stronghold, to be the first to destroy the Union and middle class inherent in their ranks. Efforts like these by DTE and their consultants destroy morale and breeds contempt. From their posturing, it seems DTE is ready to employ every tactic in their arsenal to find a means to this end.

 

   From early in the PEP process when their D.O. black belt seemed to be absolutely certain that all that was necessary to get by any Collective Bargaining hurdle was to tear that page out of the Contract book and either re-negotiate it or simply implement whatever DTE wanted, to Tony Earley’s flippant remark at the shareholders meeting that we will be moving forward and not looking in the rear view mirror.

 

   I initially attributed the Blackbelts thought process to the fact she was a relatively new employee and was simply naive to the implications of the contract. I didn't realize at the time what was coming down the road, and DTE management appears to be in alignment with that idea. From my perspective, it appears DTE feels the contract is as worthless as toilet paper and should be used as same.

 

   The fact DTE has chosen to use the news media to communicate, in some respects is somewhat of a mystery, especially since DTE usually sets the stage to try and control the flow of information in all directions. By establishing a free speech media source as their chosen communication device, DTE Management has opened a door allowing us greater latitude in what we say, and who we say it to by vastly expanding our listening audience, thus providing a vehicle by which we can set the record straight.

 

   For the record, the 1200 member reduction of DTE’s Local 223 workforce is not 18-20% of the membership as quoted in the newspapers. DTE has approximately 4500 employees in Local 223, and a reduction of 1200 would actually be about 26.6% of DTE's Local 223 workforce.

 

   The first 5 cost savings ideas below, were originally slated to be shared through the D.O. process team. After I was seemingly locked out, I decided to use this website as an alternate vehicle for them. Ideas 06, 07 and 08 below also have cost savings potential, but because it would require too extensive research to determine dollar values, none were included. I apologize for the brevity of a couple of them, however as new information is gathered, it will be added.

 

   As the other 8 or 10 additional cost saving ideas are developed, they will be included here along with other relevant comments.  Please use the Site Map to Navigate this site.

 

                                                                                                                                                        

This page originally uploaded 05/03/06. Last revised on 07/08/06


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