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Allstate Agents Group OKs Link With AFL-CIO Union

August 18, 2011
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An association of Allstate Corp. agents that long has criticized the giant insurer for treating its sales force poorly has voted overwhelmingly to affiliate with a national union.
The National Association of Professional Allstate Agents said Aug. 17 that 94 percent of its 1,200 members who voted gave approval to a proposal to join the Office and Professional Employees International Union, an AFL-CIO affiliate. NAPAA Executive Director Jim Fish, a former Allstate agent, said in a news release that the group would move quickly to join OPEIU as a guild.
That status wouldn't give the group collective bargaining rights with Northbrook, Illinois-based Allstate Corp., which classifies its 12,000 agents as independent contractors. But it theoretically would give NAPAA the ability to tap the union's resources in fighting company practices it deems unfair through the courts or other venues.
“Currently, agents are subjected to unachievable quotas, the specter of reduced compensation and an ever-present threat of contract termination,” Fish said in the release. “Many companies today are circumventing IRS precepts regarding employee status and are now classifying these same people as independent contractors. This practice has to stop.”
An Allstate spokeswoman emailed: “This group's indication that it will seek a vote from its members to affiliate with the OPEIU would seem to be an internal issue for them. Their members include only a small number of Allstate's current agency owners.”
Allstate has upset many agents with its initiative to cull their ranks and establish fewer, larger agencies. It's encouraging smaller agencies to merge with or sell to larger agencies in a belief that bigger offices will provide better service to customers. It's also clamping down harder on agencies that aren't meeting sales goals, in some cases yanking their contracts to sell Allstate insurance.
Since NAPAA first said it wanted to join the union about a month ago, it's received about 100 new applications to join from Allstate agents, Fish said. That's “well above average” for that period of time, he said. Total membership has stayed at around 1,200, though, because some members are dropping off after Allstate terminates their contracts, he said.    
Filed by Steve Daniels of Crain's Chicago Business, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com.
 
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