Piling On: EFAC in Berman Anti-Union Context & Oregon

Chris Lowe

(This column began life as a comment on Carla Axtman's Boogeyman Boogie column, but couldn't get through the spam filter, so I am offering it separately as an adjunct background piece. Hat-tip, apologies and thanks to Carla. CL)

Carl Axtman has drawn attention to Oregon's U.S. Senate race being one of several in the cross-hairs of an organized big business campaign aimed simultaneously at fighting off the challenge of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would widen the means by which workers could form unions, and at defeating Democratic senatorial candidates who might provide the margins allowing EFCA to pass. This column has a narrower focus on one of the main forces behind that campaign, lobbyist Rick Berman's astroturf empire, how it works, and why Jeff Merkley may have emerged as a particular Berman target.

To start, let us note the acronyms of the Employee Free Choice Act and the Employee Freedom Action Committee: EFCA and EFAC. This is not an accident, but a standard confusion sowing operating procedure in Rick Berman's stable of pro-corporate, anti-worker, anti-health astroturf groups.

As Carla's WW link also points out, we've already seen the beginning of this national anti-union, anti-Democratic campaign in Oregon. Jeff Merkley was the very first of the candidates targeted by Berman & Co. The anti-Merkley anti-union broadcast and print ads that appeared shortly before the May primary were EFAC.

If you go to the "States" section of the EFAC website you can tell which campaigns are being targeted by the fact that they start by saying "[Name of candidate] is doing labor union bosses' dirty work" followed by other cookie-cutter smeary boilerplate. Since you have to click on states one at a time, and only six of 33 races are targeted so far, this limited cut-and-paste lack of content takes patiences to discover. The other states just have some facts about donations to candidates.

In addition to Merkley, Tom Allen of Maine, Bruce Lunsford of Kentucky and Al Franken of Minnesota, whom Carla mentions, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana also are on the Berman/EFAC hit list (so far).

But Jeff Merkley was first. At the end of May, no other candidate was doing labor union bosses' dirty work, or if one was, EFAC's site didn't tell you that. A peek into Berman & Co.'s operations may show why.

Let's start with Berman & Co. itself. Suppose you wanted to contact Rick. Here's how: Mailing address: 1090 Vermont Avenue, NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20005; Telephone: 202-463-7100; Fax: 202-463-7107; Email: [email protected]

Now let's turn to labor. We find a triangular stool. One leg is EFAC. EFAC is a 501(c)4, meaning a tax-exempt non-profit corporation allowed to conduct education and advocacy around issues and legislation. Who is EFAC's Communications Director? Tim Miller. Suppose you wanted to contact Tim. Here's how: Mailing address: 1090 Vermont Ave NW. Suite 800 Washington, DC 20005; Tel.: (202) 420-7864; Fax: (202) 463-7107.

Hey, look at that! Same address, and Tim and Rick have the same fax machine!

Next leg is the Center for Union Facts. The Center for Union Facts is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, i.e. supposedly restricted to charitable and educational activities. You may remember CUF from the primary season too. They were the ones who ran some random-seeming anti-union ads with the tag line "Thanks, Union Bosses!" Who's their Communication Director? Well, the website doesn't say.

So how would you contact them? Mailing address -- you guessed it -- is: 1090 Vermont Ave NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20005; tel.: 202-463-7106. Be careful! If you dial one digit wrong, your ear will buzz from Rick & Tim's fax machine! Remember that number.

Now, it turns out that CUF has a subsidiary website Teachers Union Facts, with an interesting URL: teachersunionexposed.com. Suppose you wanted "interviews, comments, or information," whom would you contact?

Why, Tim Miller! E-mail [email protected], or call (yes!) 202-463-7106. But don't get that last digit wrong, unless you want your ear to buzz! (Wonder if that's ever happened to Bill Sizemore?)

The third anti-labor leg is the oldest, and indeed may be the oldest of Rick Berman's large Augean stable of front groups, into which following anti-union work only begins to penetrate: The Employment Policies Institute, a policy research non-profit, tax status not stated, which these days seems much concerned with the dangers of excessive minimum wages.

Who is their Communications Director? Yup, Tim Miller. I know, I know. But if you think this game is too easy, don't blame me. Take it up with Rick and Tim. Mailing address (ho hum): 1090 Vermont Ave. NW, Suite 800, Washington, D.C. 20005; Tel: 202-463-7650 ext. 109; Fax (there it is again): 202-463-7107.

Now, to get at a couple of other interesting things, we have to take brief excursion outside of labor and anti-union matters, though not outside of scurrilously mendacious and nasty class warfare. Let's pay a visit to The Center for Consumer Freedom, another 501(3)c.

Their Communications Director? Why, that extremely busy fellow, Tim Miller, of course. No mailing address supplied this time, but his phone contact, 202-463-7112, is eerily familiar (old parodic images of multi-phone movie mogul desks pop into my mind).

So, what's so interesting about the CCF? Actually, too much to go into here entirely.

But one thing is that CCF provides insight into the whole structure of Berman's activities. It seems that in 2005, for example, "over 40% of the expenditure" of this "charitable and educational non-profit" was paid to Berman and Company, Rick's very much for profit organization, for "management services." The pattern is standard.

In other words, Rick Berman has a cozy if sleazy little, or not so little, self-dealing operation going, that manipulates not-for-profit tax statuses for their tax advantages while funneling money profitably into his pockets. It rakes in millions, making the Bill Sizemore criminal enterprise and Lon Mabon's family profits from peddling hate look like mom & pop operations.

Most if not all of these supposedly free-standing organizations operate out of the same office suite, even share office machinery, as we have seen, and share personnel, who, while formally employees of the non-profits (with Tim Miller, we're at four and counting) in reality are employees of Berman's underlying core monstrosity, merely attributed to or divided among one or more of its hydra heads.

In 2004 the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed an IRS complaint against the CCF for violating their tax exempt status over exactly these issues, along with engaging in impermissible political campaigning and other non-charitable activities. The fate of that complaint isn't clear, but the pattern continues. Whether this is a testament to Berman's skills as an attorney or low-quality Bush administration regulation is hard to say.

The Center for Consumer Freedom also brings us back to why Jeff Merkley was the first target of the Employee Freedom Action Committee, backed up by the Center for Union Facts, around the time of the primary. One of the CCF's main issues in recent years has been opposition to the regulation of payday loans. Success in getting the Oregon legislature to pass exactly such a regulatory law was of course one of Jeff Merkley's signature achievements as Speaker of the House.

Many years ago, the CCF, under a different name, also was founded with seed money from Philip Morris. Since then it has had a continuous role as a tobacco industry propagandist, so it may be that the proposed tobacco tax in the Measure 50 children's health insurance referendum played a role as well in Jeff's pride of place as a target for the Employee Freedom Action Committee and the Center for Union Facts.

EFAC, as a 501(c)4, is permitted to advocate about legislation, and has therefore constructed its highly campaign-political interventions in Senate races around the Employee Free Choice Act. Its advocacy certainly is pushing the envelope on the distinction between issue and legislation education and advocacy vs. partisan electoral activity.

This is nothing new on the anti-union front either. In 2006, CREW asked Charles Grassley and Max Baucus, then the chair and ranking member of the Senate Finance Commitee, to investigate Richard Berman and the Center for Union Facts:

Today [14 Feb 2006], CREW asked Sens. Grassley and Baucus to investigate whether CCF and CUF are engaged in charitable activities or whether they are in fact, merely front organizations for for-profit industry entities.

“Mr. Berman’s pattern of abusing the laws that govern charitable organizations requires a thorough investigation by the Senate Finance Committee,” CREW executive director Melanie Sloan said today. “Richard Berman is giving Jack Abramoff and former Christian activist Ralph Reed a run for their money as to who can reap the greatest profits by exploiting laws intended to promote charitable works.”

Whether this pattern provides any opportunity for pushback on the multi-state senatorial campaign Carla points out, I don't know.

According to CREW, Berman's current anti-union, anti-card-check work is complemented by another organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which apparently uses much of the same specious, over-the-top rhetoric of intimidation.

One other question about the EFAC - CUF nexus for Oregon is whether Berman & Co. will put any resources behind Bill Sizemore's anti-teachers-union initiative through the Teachers Union Facts branch of CUF. There is some precedent. In 2006 CUF ran some of its generic anti-union ads in support of Howie Rich's effort at an Oregon TABOR clone and Berman shared a platform with Don McIntyre at a Rich sponsored-conference.

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    Really excellent piece, Chris. Thank you for doing it.

    I love how you tie all these pieces together. It makes perfect sense.

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    Thanks for the kind words, Carla. It really is just a long comment. You've drawn out the main & important story line about attacks on the Employee Free Choice Act as a systematic means to go after Democratic Senate candidates across the country. Payday loans as a reason to target Jeff Merkley had me poking around in the bigger Berman swamp at the end of May & early June, but I never worked out how to paint a coherent picture of the proliferated muck ponds. To shift metaphors, it was only after you'd brought out the big story that I could see how to use these particular threads in Rick's web illustratively, and, I hope, support the bigger story.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    Some really good work Chris. Regardless one's views on EFCA, the tactics of these intertwined organizations need the light of day.

    Now, perhaps you could look into the various intertwining of positions/pay/benefits for Teamsters' leadership from various locals, regions and the national level? Think Great Lakes Pension Fund.

  • JAD (unverified)
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    I can't post my real identity or state facts as they should be because Blue Oregon's spam filter stops me. My site does not censor like this site does.

    Unions have a history of destroying business. There are no exceptions.

    I had to laugh at a recent AFL/CIO email I got whining about Wal-Mart informing their employees of Obama's pro-union agenda and suggesting they vote for McCain.

    They left out the fact of the mega millions they are spending on Obama and telling all union members to vote for Obama.

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    Well Kurt, since the Teamsters aren't a p.r. outfit who work extensively in public by trying to make it look like there are a lot more people behind them with multiplying websites, press releases, op-eds, a house "news" wire-service than there really are, that would be a leetle harder. Actually I haven't even touched the more equivalent relations here, which would be the corporate funders who hide behind illegitimate Berman's 501(3)c and 501(4)c curtain. If I were to follow your suggestion, however, I'd have a lot more real regulatory and prosecutorial work put on the public record by federal officials to draw on than exists for Berman's empire, which has been given a pass, so far.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    Chris I applauded your initial post for the great work it was. I merely offer up that there is no one "good" side in the ongoing rancorous debate. If we can both agree that abuses at either end of this discussion need to be exposed for the good of employees and companies in the shrinking marketplace all the better. If not, others will have to filter your future works on this subject accordingly.

  • Edward (unverified)
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    Kurt,

    The notion that unions are somehow breaking the law or taking advantage of workers is largely communicated by corporations and in our popular culture beginning in the 50's when large companies (including media companies) started spending money "educating" the public about how bad unions are. The fact is that very few unions, especially today, do anything other than fight for better wages and working conditions for their members. The only area of our law which can be openly flaunted and ignored is labor law. This is the reason why the Employee Free Choice Act is so important - our laws today don't protect the basic human right of a worker to decide to join a collective organization to represent his interests. Please don't equate the handful of abuses in the union movement with the systematic, illegal warfare that corporation like Wal-Mart employ every day to keep their employees from exercising what the Untied States decided in the 1930s was official U.S. policy - the ability to join a union to collectively bargain for wages and conditions of employment.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    Chris, it appears we are unable to agree to disagree on this one. Too bad. I can agree that a few unions and a few companies are flaunting the law. To equate Wal-Mart's efforts against unions (which is their right under both Wagner and Taft-Hartley) illegal is disengenuous. Personally I don't support wal-Mart and wish they were more like Costco in their approach to employees, but what they do is not illegal.

    Perhaps others buy that ploy, but many more do not. A fully reformed and effective NLRB would be a good start. If we can agree that a majority of companies, like a majority of unions make solid attempts to follow these laws then good. We can then explore together the documented abuses of Berman & Company as well as the alleged illegal efforts of several pro-union groups against Cintas, Smithfield Farms and Wackenhut.

    Of course if unwilling to address the outrageous behavior at both ends of the spectrum, then the discussion is pointless.

  • Jaco (unverified)
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    Chris - Do you acknowledge one can wholeheartedly support the Employee Free Choice Act on the basis of true social justice (and quite possibly have personally called every legislator they can to advocate for EFCA), want to see prosecution of Wal-Mart punished for intimidating their workers as we heard yesterday, and yet can with moral comfort can stay focused on pointing out Merkley's record of elitist hypocrisy which shows he can't be counted on truly defending the interests of working and low-income people when it counts?

    What financial crises were behind some people using those usurious payday loans for that Merkley actually kept off the table because of the political risks. Think hard, there is information out there even a budding investigative report with just a little too much ink in his pen can easily surface. An interesting question when one contrasts them with the recent pandering Republican-style ads the DSCC is running for Merkley about tax cuts for the "middle-class". To rich Republicans, and privileged Princeton grad and friend of mainstream corporate America (that embraces the SEIU's brand of management-friendly, company-union model) Merkley, that conveniently just happens to include their real base, those families with middle management jobs and equity investments that return them earned and unearned income WELL north of $100K.

    Just want to be certain here that you don't mean to imply that you don't believe some of us actually can distinguish between issues, whoring politicians on both sides, and their pimped out flaks.

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    Chris, I agree this is great work, and recommend that you consider upgrading more of your comments to posts. Seriously.

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    If they'd only gone for the plural, that one site could have been:

    teachersunions</s>exposed.com

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    Darrel, I don't have much time for the lies and distortions, but these folks are good with language & I'm not surprised they caught that one.

    Kurt, I think you took a second reply to you from Edward as being from me by mistake. I am not by any means uncritical of unions in the U.S., not least because I've studied labor and working class history extensively, and think many would benefit from a greater degree of internal democracy, and that the union movement would probably be more vigorous and in better shape if that were the case. Some of what Jaco alludes to has some relationship to that.

    But I can't really agree with an "equal problems on both sides" kind of perspective. This is in three senses. One is that the problems, on the whole, are asymmetrical because the nature and purposes of the organizations are fundamentally different. For instance there are forms of union corruption in some unions that may or may not be technically legal, that are worse for the proper functioning of unions to their basic purpose (giving workers a voice and bargaining power in the workplace) than what I would regard as counterpart forms of corruption from the point of view of societal functioning (e.g. excessive executive compensation) are for the functioning of corporations as currently established.

    There is a whole debate to be had about the proper nature and purpose of corporations and their relationship to societal democracy about which I expect you and I would disagree. But even if we were to posit that at some level beyond the functional there is some correspondence between the issues of union democracy and accountability and corporate internal and external social accountability (never mind democracy) --something with which you perhaps would not agree to being with -- the possibility of practical movement on that debate depends IMO on prior reform and reinvigoration of internal union democracy and accountability, without which many unionized workers will be disengaged if not actively alienated.

    Secondly, there are problems with the industrial relations system that either apply to unions or to management distinctively, and others that apply to both but manifest themselves differently on either side.

    But thirdly, within the current context and reaching back to about 1970, there has been a strong movement in U.S. business to the effect that "companies have a right to be non-union," which simply is not true. The right to organize in and as unions is a fundamental human right of workers recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a great deal of other human rights law, and to a significant though imperfect extent in U.S. law. (Some major aspects of current union difficulties IMO derive from the fact that for a long time the AFL-CIO colluded with industry groups to keep the U.S. from ratifying some important provisions of international labor law relating to the ILO, in part because they would have required reform of undemocratic internal structures in a number of important unions.)

    There is no corresponding corporate "right" to be "union-free." The Norris-LaGuardia Act of 1932, which outlawed "yellow dog" contracts making repudiation of union membership or efforts to organize a condition of employment is the fundamental expression in U.S. law of the universal human right.

    However, the powerful ideology that there is or ought to be such a spurious corporate "right" has had a great deal of influence on corporate behavior in the last 40-odd years, which means that within the imperfections of the Wagner Act as modified by Taft-Hartley (& smaller subsequent laws), the abuses on the employer side are significantly more prevalent than on the union side. There is a pattern of deliberate and strategic violation of industrial relations laws actively promoted by law firms, consultancies and other groups that specialize in "union avoidance," which in addition to teaching abusive techniques to hinder union organizing, also teach businesses to treat the unduly limited penalties for violating workers' right to organize as simply "costs of doing business." And especially since the election of Ronald Reagan, the NLRB and even more the Department of Labor has been a captive regulatory body that does not adequately protect worker rights to organize.

    So I don't agree that "most corporations make solid attempts to follow the laws" when faced with organizing drives -- though they may be solid in respect to other basic laws regarding wages and hours, workplace safety and so on (some are not, of course).

    In this context, regarding Wal-Mart, I think that some things they do are legal, that some things they do are borderline, and that some things they do are illegal but "get-away-withable" in the current system. I also think that some of the things that are legal under U.S. law (such as coercive and intimidating captive audience meetings which workers are obliged to attend) violate the human right to organize, i.e. U.S. law is inadequate and allows U.S. workers' human rights to be violated.

    I am not clear if you view Wal-Mart as inside your posited category of most U.S. businesses that "make solid attempts to follow these laws." Do you think they do, or not?

    So while I will agree with you at the most abstract level of generality the "there are problems on both sides," below that level I think the problems need to be analyzed distinctively due to both differences of kind, and differences of degree, about which on given issues there is not equality.

    As to the specific cases you cite, I am not well familiar with them. What I know about Cintas wouldn't support your apparent view, but I wouldn't claim to have well rounded sourcing on. As for Wackenhut, I'm aware of them mainly as something like latter-day Pinkertons & don't have a clue about what you mean (references welcome). I don't know about Smithfield Farms.

    Again returning to the most general level, I completely agree that any and all outrageous behavior by any party, at both ends of the spectrum, and also in the middle (I believe that there is such a thing as centrist outrages) should be addressed, in thought, criticism and action.

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    Jaco,

    Do I think that much mainstream Democratic politics can be legitimately criticized from the left? Sure.

    Am I mightily disappointed with Andy Stern on numbers of issues related both to organizing and to larger social issues, particularly health care and heath insurance? You bet.

    Do I think my own best attempts to figure out how to navigate my own relationships to individuals and organizations who are dealing with circumstances not of their own choosing or creation, in many instances (to paraphrase Marx's famous beginning of The 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon) are indubitably right and above question or criticism? Nope. Do I admit I might be wrong, and have been in the past, Yes, certainly.

    Yet, with all of that, I just don't agree with all of your characterizations of things. Personally I think Merkley's base, like the DP's, is mixed, and as a result creates policies and actions that are likewise mixed or contradictory or insufficient for some aims I support, or would like to be able to if we could even get them into the debates seriously. To me reducing those results down to character flaws ("hypocrisy," "whoring" etc.) rather misses the point, which you get to better when you raise the issue of bases.

    When last there was serious attempt to create an independent, labor-based party with substantial resources and an organizing outlook and strategy, I took part in that effort. Since I'm a petty bourgeois intellectual whose family has been either petty bourgeois or skilled artisan since the ancestors who left the farm, maybe it would have been better if I'd stayed away, I don't know -- but I tried my best to build it, for better or worse. That didn't work out too well, unfortunately, and there's no similar effort in sight.

    So now, faced with a choice of Jeff Merkley with all his contradictions, who will support EFCA and maybe in some other ways act to improve the situation for more effective worker organizing, or Gordon Smith, who will not, I will support Merkley. From your point of view, I may well be part of the mixed-base problem, couldn't say. Supporting Merkley doesn't mean I think he's perfect. Railing from the sidelines wouldn't be perfect either.

    At the same time, I will continue working on other kinds of politics in other settings, related to issue-focused social.

    That's the best I can come up with for myself. Good luck in finding what suits you, and if it actually looks better or more effective in substance, I hope you can find ways to communicate it to expand the base, and not simply reject people who haven't or haven't yet seen it. Because I also think that if a broader deeper progressive movement ever forms, it will have to include people who at present fit that description only imperfectly, and maybe some who fit it not at all right now.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    Chris, I apologize for mis-reading another poster for you. I also apprecate your candor in your reply. I think that a reasonable discussion can be had by folks with opposing views when they are posted in your manner. Some points:

    Norris-Laguardia did outlaw yellow-dog contracts in 1932. Whereby companies could no longer mandate that employees agree to not support a union. That is, however a far cry from the leap to companies not having a right to be union free. In fact, Wagner and then Taft-Hartley codified what a company could legally do in their efforts to be union free.

    Accusations of company tactics (especially hiring consultants) in efforts to remain union free are overblown in my opinion of being a student of Labor Relations for some 30 years now. Again, I grant that some issues exist on both sides. Companies having mandatory meetings on company time in order to present their "side" or viewpoint are abuot the only effective manner to campaign under the terms of regulations as they exist. Threats are not legal, but stating what the regulations state in juxtaposition to paid union organizers promises is important.

    You make an interesting statement that employees have a basic human right to organize, and then condemn mandatory employer meetings as abridging that right. Again, under the regulatory terms and conditions of current labor law, what alternative method would you suggest allowing companies campaigning against attempts at forming a union? The meetings are mandatory and on paid time, so I fail to see how this basic human right you state employees have is abridged.

    Wal-Mart is an interesting case study in Empoyee Relations Law. In my opinion, they spend hundreds of thousands in maintaining their chosen culture andfighting unions that could be better spent on wages, benefits, training, etc that would over the long haul have a more positive effect on pushes for unionization than the outright battles they currently engage in. Wal-Mart play it all of the way to the edge and sometimes over that edge as they did last week with their company wide mandatory meetings (again in my opinion).

    As to the specific cases cited:

    CINTAS is a national institutional uniform company supplying large and small companies currently locked in some bitter and acrimoneous campaigns. The AFL-CIO and others have instituted "corporate campigns against CINTAS and brought various other institutions like banks, churches and other third parties in and involved them in what many consider illegal secondary boycott issues.

    Wackenhut is far from a Pinkerton, although I applaud yourhistoricl reference to the infamous man and company that were vicious company thugs for Ford, Pullman and others in the 30's. This again is a company that is international and has grown by buying market share in the industrial security industry. Various union groups have mounted a similar boycott campaign against them.

    Smithfield Farms is a meat processor targetted by UFCW union and others for union representation. The votes keep going against forming a union and the various unions keep trying various other tactics to force Smithfield to recognize the union. There are some who believe that all three companies are being illegally targetted for their stands.

    Chris I appreciate your style and candor and would consider supporting a version of reform that included company rights in organizing efforts, decertification reform along the lines of certification 50% plus 1 and reformation of the NLRB from its current paper tiger status.

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    Kurt, I don't have time to reply substantively just now, will try later, but I did want to thank you and say I am glad that you regard my response as candid & allowing further discussion. That is what I was aiming for, especially since I have seen enough of your comments on various matters to believe that on the whole you seek genuine exchange of ideas, and not just ideological point-scoring. Discussions are both more interesting and more illuminating on that basis, IMO. I appreciate your approach, and return the compliment about your candor likewise.

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    Kurt,

    I don't know if you will look back at this at this late date, but here's a bit more substantive response:

    Thanks for the info on the specific cases you cite. As I said, the picture on Cintas is different from what I've heard from union sources, not surprisingly, & I will look into the situation with your construal of the situation in mind. Smithfield Farms is entirely new to me & I will look into that as well. Wackenhut is complicated by various concerns I have about the private security "industry" and it's possible I have not been entirely fair to them on their labor relations. (They provide the security for Pioneer Courthouse Square btw).

    The Pinkertons actually go back to the late 19th century; they were the main armed forces on Frick's / U.S. Steel's side of the Homestead massacre in the 1890s.

    You wrote:

    Norris-Laguardia did outlaw yellow-dog contracts in 1932. Whereby companies could no longer mandate that employees agree to not support a union. That is, however a far cry from the leap to companies not having a right to be union free. In fact, Wagner and then Taft-Hartley codified what a company could legally do in their efforts to be union free.

    As a matter of logic, if workers have a right to organize unions that actually is a right, employers cannot have a right to be "union free." What is the case in U.S. law is that employers have a right to advocate to their employees against organizing unions. I.e. this is part of their freedom of speech rights. But if their advocacy fails, the workers' right to organize trumps the employer's preference or desire to be "union free." These are not equally balanced and contradictory rights.

    That's why Norris-La Guardia and Section 7 of the NLRA were so revolutionary in U.S. industrial relations.

    There is of course no obligation to form a union, and we haven't got into the whole closed-shop, open-shop, agency-shop and free-rider debates regarding individuals who don't wish to join a union that has collective bargaining representation rights with a given employer. The lack of obligation is what makes employer anti-union advocacy per se not a violation of the right to organize.

    Companies having mandatory meetings on company time in order to present their "side" or viewpoint are abuot the only effective manner to campaign under the terms of regulations as they exist. Threats are not legal, but stating what the regulations state in juxtaposition to paid union organizers promises is important.

    Research shows that a large proportion of such meetings are characterized by implied threats of job loss or plant closing and in some cases by open violations of the law.

    You make an interesting statement that employees have a basic human right to organize, and then condemn mandatory employer meetings as abridging that right. Again, under the regulatory terms and conditions of current labor law, what alternative method would you suggest allowing companies campaigning against attempts at forming a union? The meetings are mandatory and on paid time, so I fail to see how this basic human right you state employees have is abridged.

    Well, for one thing, companies could make the meetings voluntary, just as choosing to listen to a union organizer or not is voluntary. It is the "captive audience" feature of the meetings, combined with the ways they are used to intimidate workers, that is objectionable.

    There actually is an interesting point about democracy here. Employers have a democratic free-speech right to communicate their views and preferences. But workplaces aren't democracies, so they also have an undemocratic employer power to insist on meeting attendance. As our first amendment rights to free speech are suspended at work, at least if we are at-will employees, so too our first amendment rights not to listen to persons or views we find objectionable.

    The idea that employers have no other means to communicate their views than mandatory captive audience meetings is a bit silly. When Yale University went through a series of labor struggles in the 1980s (very much driven by outside consultants to the administration), there were all kinds of anti-union communication going on. Employers control the physical spaces of employment, have memos, e-mail, and the power to devote managerial time to the effort; anti-union workers can organize to communicate to their fellow workers. These might be "less effective" than the mandatory meetings. But that's just the point. The "effectiveness" in many cases depends on an illegitimate coercive character of the meetings.

    Another alternative to passing a corollary to Norris-La Guardia, saying that employers can't make anti-union meetings obligatory, which is more or less what I suggested above, would be to say that every time an employer calls a mandatory anti-union meeting, it must provide an equivalent time mandatory meeting at which pro-union workers could present their arguments.

    <h2>If EFCA passes, I expect that there will be counter-reform efforts that might take forms like those you suggest (parallel to Taft-Hartley vis a vis Wagner Act). If EFCA fails, I'm skeptical that most employers would go along with your last paragraph, since they benefit from the weaknesses of the current system. Either way, perhaps we'll talk more about it then.</h2>

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