In the past decade, unions have become increasingly desperate to obtain new dues-paying members. An example of how desperate can be found in a 70-plus-page intimidation manual from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which only recently came to light in a pending court case.
The new union tactic is to use pressure on corporate boardrooms as a means of organizing entire companies nationwide rather than recruiting workers on a site-by-site basis; in short, to organize employers rather than employees. To create this pressure, unions attempt to push businesses to the edge of bankruptcy, with little regard for the welfare of employer and employee. They attempt to strong-arm businesses into agreeing to take away the secret ballot for employees in union-organizing elections via card check. They also try to force employers to restrict their own speech on union issues so that workers will not get both sides of the story on unionization. Among the SEIU’s demands is that employers agree to bargain only with it, to the exclusion of all other unions, regardless of what workers want.
SEIU is in federal court defending itself against charges of racketeering and extortion filed by one of its unionizing targets, the catering company Sodexo Inc. Sodexo’s court discovery recently revealed an SEIU “Contract Campaign Manual” on “Pressuring the Employer.” Union pressure is nothing new, but what SEIU recommends is not limited to organizing drives and strikes. Rather, the pressure takes the form of a so-called corporate campaign, whereby the union allies itself with outside third parties to raise intimidation to a new level.
SEIU’s manual details how “outside pressure can involve jeopardizing relationships between the employer and lenders, investors, stockholders, customers, clients, patients, tenants, politicians, or others on whom the employer depends for funds.” The union advises using legal and regulatory pressure to “threaten the employer with costly action by government agencies or the courts.”
It details the use of community groups to “damage an employer’s public image and ties with community leaders and organizations.” SEIU recommends going after company officials personally. Not mincing words, SEIU states, “It may be a violation of blackmail and extortion laws to threaten management officials with release of ‘dirt’ about them if they don’t settle a contract. But there is no law against union members who are angry at their employer deciding to uncover and publicize factual information about individual managers.”
The “dirt” includes charges such as “racism, sexism, exploitation of immigrants or proposals that would take money out of the community for the benefits of distant stockholders.” SEIU recommends “[l]eafleting outside meetings where [targeted managers] are speaking, their homes, or events sponsored by community organizations they are tied to are some ways to make sure their friends, neighbors, and associates are aware of the controversy.”
Putting this into practice, in May SEIU drove 14 busloads of protesters to the quiet suburban home of Bank of America’s deputy general counsel, Greg Baer. Fortune magazine’s Washington bureau chief, Nina Easton, Mr. Baer’s neighbor, reported on the “hordes of invaders” shouting into bullhorns and waving signs. Ms. Easton wrote that “a more apt description of this assemblage would be ‘mob.’ Intimidation was the whole point of this exercise.”
Only Mr. Baer’s teenage son was home. Terrified, he locked himself in the bathroom, pleading with Ms. Easton, “When are they going to leave?”
In some areas, the manual blatantly advises breaking the law, stating, “Union members sometimes must act in the tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King and Mohatma [sic] Gandhi and disobey laws which are used to enforce injustice against working people.”
How do SEIU and other unions plan to get away with this? With help from the Obama administration. Though their corporate campaigns are not new, they are becoming more prevalent with the help of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). In fact, this was the subject of a May 26 hearing by the House Education and the Workforce subcommittee on health, employment, labor and pensions. Chairman Phil Roe, Tennessee Republican, noting the acceleration of corporate campaigns, said that the NLRB recently has taken “steps to expand the arsenal of tactics available for a corporate campaign,” including moving to uphold union elections tainted by intimidation because the board said the intimidation was originated by “nonparties,” and removing restrictions on boycotts of neutral employers.
Organized labor is losing members at a rapid rate. In the private sector, union membership stands at less than 7 percent. In attempting to hang onto its money and power, Big Labor has produced some documents that make for interesting reading and, as we may find out at a July 22 hearing in the Sodexo case, for legal fireworks as well.
F. Vincent Vernuccio is labor-policy counsel at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and editor of Workplacechoice.org.