Union-busting firms are teaching corporations to cynically co-opt progressive rhetoric as they crush worker organizing, Tyler Walicek reported for Truthout, as the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) documented a 53 percent increase in organizing petitions for the first three quarters of 2022.
Photo Insert: In response to the uptick in unionization efforts, corporate bosses have turned to their reliable toolkit of anti-union tactics.
Independent unions have risen at Starbucks, Amazon, Trader Joe’s, and others even as overall union density declined in 2022 to a new low of 10.1 percent. In response to the uptick in unionization efforts, corporate bosses have turned to their reliable toolkit of anti-union tactics.
The mainstays of management clampdowns — store closures, firings, intimidation, the hiring of scabs to neutralize strikes, surveillance and illegal manipulation of elections — are just as familiar as they were in the early 20th century.
Managements, following the advice of their expensive consultants, have had some success in splitting worker solidarity through the cynical application of social justice rhetoric and nebulous progressive values.
They may recite the proper ideological shibboleths, but they offer little substantive shop-floor change to match, laundering exploitative practices.
The Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) offers some rare insight into these operations. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) estimated that total spending on the union-busting industry amounts to at least $340 million a year.
Corporate interests like the Chamber of Commerce, joined by the American Bar Association (ABA), are seeking to shoot down an Obama-era proposal for a “persuader rule” under the LMRDA, which would require disclosure of funds spent on anti-union consultants.
Kim Kelly, an inveterate labor journalist and the author of “Fight Like Hell: The Untold History of American Labor,” says in an email that “anti-union bosses have been using the same old playbook for centuries, and many of those time-worn tactics haven’t changed — intimidation, retaliation, and misinformation never go out of style. But just as workers and unions have had to adapt to social, political, and technological shifts, so have our enemies in the C-suite.”
Other corporations have turned to the legal complex, like the notoriously anti-union Tesla, Google, which appears to be at the end of its tolerance for employee dissatisfaction and Apple, which has hired legal outfit Littler Mendelson and faces ULP charges for interrogation and surveillance.
Media workers have not been exempt: Jones Day has been the go-to legal firm for media outlets attempting to thwart union efforts.
Columbia Journalism Review reported on an invite-only, Jones Day-hosted anti-labor conference “where media outlets in the room included The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, Univision, and Atlantic Media.”
Universities are no different. Modern US colleges are profit-seeking enterprises, with massive endowments, investment portfolios, and real estate holdings.
A spate of organizing among low-paid graduate students and adjunct faculty was not welcome news to administrations. For one, the University of Pittsburgh spent $2 million on an anti-union law firm to deter unionization efforts.