RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – The fledgling union seeking to represent IBM workers will be in Charlotte next week to coordinate a protest at Big Blue’s annual meeting.

Unlike a protest made up of avatars in the online world of Second Life last year, the Charlotte gathering will include real people carrying real signs. They plan to form a picket line at 8:30 a.m. on April 29 at the Charlotte Convention Center and will keep it manned until the IBM meeting ends. They will close their protest with a rally.

Alliance@IBM says it plans to protest offshoring of U.S.-based jobs, pay cuts, executive compensation and what the union describes as “shrinking retiree pensions.”

One flash point – the compensation packaged for IBM Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Samuel Palmisano. He received a compensation packae worth $20.9 million in 2007.

“Yes, I and other Alliance members will be attending,” said Lee Conrad, a former IBM worker and the national coordinator for Alliance@IBM Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1701.

While conceding that the evidence is anecdotal, Conrad insisted in an e-mail to The Skinny that “offshoring is continuing.”

Alliance@IBM supported the Second Life action that was led by workers in Italy after they faced the prospect of pay cuts. In the U.S., IBM recently altered compensation plans for 7,600 technical support employees who often work at home. Many say the changes have led to pay cuts. That move was made after IBM lost a suit about overtime.

IBM profits jumped more than 25 percent in its most recent quarter, and the company continues to make acquisitions while launching new products such as liquid-cooled servers. But discord continues to be reported in the ranks.

Even as IBM continues to hire thousands of workers in India, Alliance@IBM is upset that Big Blue is cutting higher-paid U.S. workers. IBM also has been moving jobs out of Europe to less-expensive markets such as India and China.

“At a time when the U.S. economy is in recession and unemployment is rising, it is unconscionable for companies like IBM to continue to move work offshore,” Conrad said in a statement. “The Alliance is urging elected officials, community leaders and citizens to call on IBM to halt this destruction of U.S. jobs.”

The union tries to track IBM layoffs but is often frustrated in that task as Big Blue snips a few workers here, another few workers there.

“The Alliance@IBM CWA strongly encourages IBM to be fully transparent in the number of jobs being sent off shore and to detail how many U.S. jobs are lost because of IBM’s shifting this work to low cost countries,” said Linda Guyer, the local’s president.

For more details, check out the Alliance@IBM Web site.