After almost 17 years, a group attempting to organize a union at IBM is closing up shop.
Lee Conrad announced the dissolution of Alliance@IBM on Tuesday. The Endicott, N.Y.-based organization was affiliated with Communications Workers of America. It has been an outspoken critic of IBM and its treatment of its employees since it formed in 1999.
"Years of job cuts and membership losses have taken their toll. IBM executive management steamrolled over employees and their families," wrote Conrad, Alliance@IBM's national coordinator. "We tried to push back when we could, but we didn't have enough people power to change the working conditions or stop the massive job cuts or offshoring at IBM."
He estimated the membership of the Alliance@IBM never topped 400 at any point. That number has been shrinking in recent years to below 200 members at the start of 2016.
"Most are now ex-IBMers. The constant job cuts, the fear inside the workplace and offshoring have had a devastating impact on organizing," he wrote in an email. "We felt we have done all we could."
The Alliance@IBM grew from the IBM Employee Benefits Action Coalition, which had its roots in Rochester. That group formed in protest of IBM reducing employee benefits.
Former Rochester IBM employee Janet Krueger was the national spokeswoman for the coalition. It filed lawsuits, lobbied politicians in response to the pension changes and hired planes to fly protest banners during the Olmsted County Fair.
In 1999, Alliance@IBM was given the Disgruntled Employees of the Year award by Disgruntled magazine.
In recent years, Alliance@IBM has been best known for informally tallying IBM job cuts and commenting on layoffs. IBM stopped discussing layoffs and employee numbers at each campus, such as Rochester, in 2008.
The Armonk, N.Y.,-based computer giant opened in Rochester in 1956 and soon became the top employer for much of the late 1950s and early 1960s. In 1966, Mayo Clinic tied it, when each employed 3,600 workers. Mayo pulled ahead in 1967 with 3,850 employees compared to IBM's 3,800.
IBM's presence in Rochester, which topped out at more than 8,000 employees in the 1990s, has since been whittled down by layoffs and attrition to an estimated less than 3,000 today.
Insiders estimate that IBM has now slipped to the third spot on the list of top Rochester employers behind the Rochester Public Schools.