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Unions Are Digging In

05 Feb

By: Ricardo Torres

Confessions of a union organizer

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Unions have been taking a more aggressive approach at organizing since Craig Becker has been selected to head the NLRB. My contacts from inside the AFL/CIO and Change to Win organizations tell me that they areinstructing their affiliates that they want to cause a “perfect storm” inside the NLRB on a national level and create a severe backlog of ULP’sand EEOC cases to frustrate companies and create a political foundationto try to push forward changes in labor organizing law.

Ricardo Torres – President & CEO

Unions are winning a strong majority of Board held elections. One of the biggest problems they have is getting that first contract. The proposed Employee Free Choice Act’s biggest benefit to the unions is thebinding arbitration, not the card check as most people believe. It is their goal to make it more difficult to fight organizing attempts. In the past few months, on a single campaign, I have witnessed 50 unfair labor practice filings, along with EEOC charges and OSHA violations which were reported and investigated.

A inside source reported that Richard Trumka told his executive committee, within days after being sworn in as President of the AFL/CIO,that U.S. businesses were going to start paying heavy for their opposition to the EFCA bill and that all gloves were off.

These tactics are not new to organizing. When I was a Union Organizing Director we created the Organizing Institute and built the curriculum for effective membership growth. We advocated such tactics across the country similar to modern corporate campaign attacks. We required that all union affiliates of the AFL/CIO needed to follow the same strategy and in effect made it more expensive to fight the union organizing attempts as an attempt for management to accept the fact thatunionization was eminent.

John Sweeney resisted this tactic by making a directive stating that this would put the politicians under too much pressure and turn many against the union, but many times organizing departments across the country took to Trumka’s way of war.

I remember organizing one company where we had 5 elections. We lost each by only by one or two votes. We decided to use Trumka’s strong arm methods against this company so I assigned two people to go one more election. We knew we had 47% of the workforce ready to sign cards from the election a year earlier so we reinforced our internal organizing committee and reached out to the 26% of the workforce that were new hires. By the time we had strong employee support (73%) and had supporters sign cards, we had all the internal information we needed to have a long and nasty war if we lost the campaign.

As soon as the petition was filed, the company came out swinging but we were ready for them. We made sure we knew of OSHA violations that were unreported to management and we started reporting them. We had a strong solid internal organizing team and we had them ready to report EEOC charges stemming from past comments said to them or others by management. We Filed ULP’s over every perceived violation even though many ULP’s filed never actually occurred. We had employees active in theplant everyday with one job – to anger the management team to force to make mistakes. We made the determination that we needed to turn up the heat even more so we contacted the local radio stations and newspapers and began doing interviews with workers to talk about what a bad corporate citizen they were.

The numbers were too close to call so we decided to withdraw our request to proceed with the election and make the company bleed under a mountain of charges, and at the same time turn up the heat inside. Therewas more tension on the plant floor and things were ready to explode. We had started to visit supervisors at night to get them to back off oursupporters at the plant, visit politicians and the churches to get their support also. We won 15 charges, got a posting and had a vote. We lost the election by 4 votes and filed objections to the elections with the intent of getting a bargaining order. During the next three years wefiled over 280 more charges and finely settled with an estimated cost to the company of over 4 million dollars in legal and lost production expenses.

I got a call from the board agent telling me the company wanted to settle everything. We agreed to card check and agreed to mediation during negations. The bottom line is that we sunk our teeth into them till they cried uncle. It was costing them more money to fight us then to agree with our demands.

Today, I help companies avoid this type of situation and take the unions head on. These are the type of tactics that clients fear the most(tactics that affect the bottom line). This is what we have been seeingduring the past 6 months, according to my sources we will be seeing this more and more as the union struggles to build and maintain membership. Permanent Solutions can help you avoid this type of strong arm union manipulation. Contact us today to find out how.

If anyone should be paying attention to this, it’s the members and any group of employees who are contemplating joining a union. I sincerely hope these workers are doing their homework before signing a union authorization card or voting on an NLRB election day.

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