The Ugly Face of Union-Busting
This is a cross post from the Firedoglake blog.
Jen Jason started out in the union movement with an internship at the AFL-CIO Organizing Institute and later put the skills she learned to work for UNITE HERE, a union that represents primarily textile and hotel workers. But in the middle of a union organizing campaign, Jason left to become an anti-union management consultant, working for Cintas, whose workers she ostensibly was organizing. Seems she could make a lot more money—her firm made $225,000 the first year she set it up. And she certainly makes a lot more than the laundry workers at Cintas, who are paid between $7 and $9 an hour.
John Logan, a professor in the Industrial
Relations Department at the London School of Economics and Political
Science, has analyzed this booming U.S. business and found that
American Rights at Work, a workers’ advocacy group, describes union-busters this way:
One of the largest such firms, Labor Relations Institute (LRI), offers a “Guaranteed Winner Package.” If the corporation doesn’t “win”—that is, smash workers’ efforts to form a union—it doesn’t pay. An LRI promo states:
Some 82 percent of employers hire high-priced union-busting consultants, according to American Rights at Work. Further, when employers are faced with organizing campaigns:
Chirag Mehta and Nik Theodore at the Center for Urban Economic Development, share an example that illustrates how quickly support for unionization can erode when a management consultant is involved:
But even if employees beat the odds and join to form a union, it doesn’t mean they’ll get one. Just ask Christopher Bloncourt, a telecommunications technician for Verizon Business. Bloncourt and his co-workers, who troubleshoot phone circuits for corporate clients such as Bank of America, IBM and Microsoft Corp. in the New York metropolitan area, sought to form a union in 2006. Bloncourt became an outspoken leader in support of the union. Soon, he says, it seems he was singled out and his manager was scrutinizing his every move. Worse: A senior manager flew in from Pennsylvania to meet one-on-one with him. Bloncourt says his stomach was constantly turning under the pressure because:
Bloncourt says the company not only sought to send him a message—management meant to warn all workers. The company held several mandatory anti-union meetings trying to scare the workers, while telling them the union just wanted their money and predicting the union would force them out of strike. Break rooms were littered with anti-union literature.
Despite the pressure, the workers signed majority verification cards authorizing the union as their bargaining agent. But Verizon refuses to recognize the workers’ choice to form a union. The vote at Verizon happened less than a week after the Employee Free Choice Act passed the House on March 1, which, if law, would level the playing field for employees seeking to form unions.
On hand to oversee the card count at Verizon were three co-sponsors of the Employee Free Choice Act—Sen. John Kerry and Reps. Stephen Lynch and John Tierney, all Democrats from Massachusetts, and Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Tim Murray. Even though this high-power panel verified that 57 percent of the eligible workers signed cards saying they want a union, current labor law means Verizon can ignore workers’ wishes. And that’s exactly what the company is doing.
The Employee Free Choice Act would require that employees recognize a union after a majority of workers signed cards indicating their desire to form a union. In addition, workers would still be able to choose to form a union through the longer National Labor Relations Board election process.
Verizon already had reneged on an earlier agreement to voluntarily recognize the freedom of employees to union representation when a majority of workers indicated their support. When the company took over MCI in 2005, it inherited a unionized workforce and it’s determined to stomp out any further unionization. And under current labor law, the company can do it all legally.
As Logan points out:
After all, under current labor law, the only thing corporations have to lose is their employees.
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