Allstate Group Says Union Vote Coming

By Mark E. Ruquet

NU Online News Service, Aug. 8, 3:20 p.m. EST?A direct agents’ group said it has collected enough petition signatures to move ahead with holding a vote on forming a collective bargaining unit for Allstate agents.

In a statement released by John Bryant, head of United Exclusive Allstate Agents, he said the UEAA and the Officer and Professional Employees International Union, part of the AFL-CIO, have filed their petition with the National Labor Relations Board for a vote on forming a collective bargaining unit.

Mr. Bryant, who is also a member of the board of directors of the National Association of Allstate Agents, based in Canton, Mich., said in an interview with the National Underwriter that the organization has collected the 4,000 signatures required to go forward with such a vote. He said they are “hopeful” the NLRB will hold hearings on the issue within the next three weeks.

He said the formation of a Union was in response to what he said is abuse of the agents by the Northbrook, Ill. insurer.

“We need some protection from this abuse of power,” Mr. Bryant said. “This is our only alternative.”

Allstate has no plans to recognize the UEAA, said Emily Daly, a company spokeswoman, and the attempts by the organization to form a collective bargaining unit are “misguided” and aimed at “disrupting the relationship between the company and its agents.”

She said Allstate agents are independent contractors, not employees of the company, and therefore do not fall under the jurisdiction of the NLRB. She added that the company has won “litigation on this issue time and time again.”

“We are continuing to build a professional relationship with the [contractor] agencies,” said Ms. Daly. “We are committed to building a better and broader agency force.”

Allstate has not decided what course of action it would take if the NLBR goes ahead with hearings, she said.

The relationship between the company and some of its agents began to sour in 1999, when the company changed the status of 6,000 of its direct agent workforce to independent contractors.

Since then, agents and the company have been engaged in several legal battles over work requirements and age discrimination issues. Most recently, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed suit against the company over allegations of age discriminations after talks between the company and the federal agency broke down.