Monday, September 24, 2007

Hear Art Levine tell Thom Hartmann about union-busting -- and read more.

Here's a link to my talk with Thom Hartmann today on union-busting. Click on the player icon to play the interview of about 10 minutes. Then you can read an informative blog posting about the highlights of my article, and the article itself, on the AFL-CIO blog. The writer observes:

Polls show most Americans are unaware of the extent to which some employers will go to stop workers from exercising their freedom to form a union. But a chilling new article, by journalist Art Levine, exposes the dirty details of these often sinister actions.

In the October issue of In These Times, Levine gives us a blow-by-blow account of a seminar he attended in Las Vegas led by two attorneys from Jackson Lewis, one of the major law firms in the field of union-busting. Union-busting—the so-called “union avoidance” industry—is a multibillion-dollar industry involving more than 2,500 lawyers.

In “Unionbusting Confidential,” Levine exposes the techniques these lawyers teach their clients to keep unions out of their workplace. The first suggestion to employers: Act respectful of workers’ concerns to prevent union sympathies from growing. They even suggest writing out—but not adhering to—a mission statement that includes treating workers with dignity.

The lawyers then give seminar participants a litany of tricks to derail the efforts of their workers to do what the law says they have a right to do: join together to form a union and bargain for a better life. The Jackson Lewis lawyers encourage the employers to be proactive, to take a leading role in denying their workers their freedom to form a union.

Here are just a few of the comments of what the lawyers told Levine and the other seminar participants:

If a supervisor sympathizes with the workers who want to form a union, one of the lawyers jerks his tie upward against his neck to suggest a hanging.

Tell employees stories about other workers in a union going on strike and losing their jobs to replacements because “It’s lawful. What happens if this statement is a lie? They didn’t have another strike, there were no replacements? It’s still lawful: The labor board doesn’t really care if people are lying.”

Firing workers for seeking to form a union is illegal under current labor law, so Jackson-Lewis encourages employers to make sure they fire union supporters for other reasons.

Levine also shows that these actions have human consequences. They hurt families and communities. He cites the story of Bill Lawhorn, who was fired the day after he and his fellow workers narrowly lost an election to join a union and bargain for better wages and working conditions. Five years later he is still without a steady job.

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