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Jackson Lewis presents itself as a reputable "national workplace law firm," yet under its polished veneer lies a for-profit unionbuster. In fact, Jackson Lewis is one of the oldest and largest union avoidance law firms in the nation. Jackson Lewis counsels businesses on labor relations strategies that prevent unions from entering the workplace. By operating in the shadows of corporate unionbusting campaigns, the firm remains virtually unknown to the general public. 

Jackson Lewis capitalizes on ineffective labor laws, the desperation of some employers to remain union free, and the use of scare tactics to portray unions as an enemy to businesses.1 One of the firm’s lawyers iterates the modus operandi of Jackson Lewis best: "Jackson Lewis was founded on the concept of preventive labor relations, and we want to help our clients before there’s full-blown organizing. We are a full-service law firm. We just don’t do the legal stuff-we handle the campaign." As with other unionbusting firms Jackson Lewis profits off manipulation of a weak labor law system to help its clients avoid unions, at all costs.

"Preventive" Labor Relations Practices

Jackson Lewis sells a variety of services to employers to prevent workers from ever considering a union. Here are a few examples of the firm’s activities:
  • Vulnerability Assessments: The firm provides audits as the first step for employers looking to avoid a union organizing campaign. By assessing an employer’s vulnerability through measures such as weaknesses in management-employee communication and levels of workplace satisfaction among employees.2 The assessment aims to create an "issue-free" workplace where management makes clear that their business desires to remain union-free.
  • "How To Stay Union Free" Seminars: These two-day intensive workshops are for  a "bona-fide management representative" only. Seminars with provocative titles such as "Union Avoidance War Games"3 take place throughout the country and run an employer anywhere from $595 to $1,595. Jackson Lewis promises a "frightening, valuable, and enjoyable" seminar that completely prepares "supervisors to exercise their union-free rights under the law." A 2007 exposé by a journalist who went undercover at one of these union-free workshops revealed how Jackson Lewis encourages employers to skirt the law when it comes to unions. A Jackson Lewis lawyer reasoned that it is acceptable to fire union organizers, as long as one creates a legitimate reason: "Union sympathizers aren’t entitled to any more protection than other workers."
  • Union-Free Books, Articles, and Pamphlets: Among the anti-union manuals the firm produces are suggestively titled newsletters such as "Union KNOw -a publication devoted to enhancing the union-free status of clients and friends of Jackson Lewis," and books including "Leveling the Playing Field-What New York Charter Schools’ Leaders Need to Know About Union Organizing."4

Unionbusting Behind the Scenes

Jackson Lewis’ clients include employers of varying sizes and from a range of industries who call upon the firm to assist them in unionbusting. Since federal law does not require union-avoidance firms to disclose specific activities and costs associated with the practice of unionbusting, client lists and price tags are shielded and rarely disclosed. Below are just a few examples of companies where Jackson Lewis’ involvement has surfaced:
  • EnerSys (1995-2004): During an arduous organizing campaign, EnerSys, an industrial battery maker in South Carolina, hired Jackson Lewis to prevent workers from voting in a union. As The New York Times revealed, Jackson Lewis’ participation in this aggressive anti-union campaign led EnerSys to file a malpractice lawsuit against the firm, for its legal ‘advice’ to EnerSys to break the law, which resulted in EnerSys amassing large legal bills and multi-million dollar settlements. Federal labor officials charged EnerSys with obstructing the organizing campaign, harassing and intimidating workers, and failing to bargain in good faith with workers-resulting in 120 violations of federal law. EnerSys’ total bill for Jackson Lewis’ services: $2.7 million.5
  • Borders (1995-2000): Borders is a regular client of Jackson Lewis. The firm helped Borders crush union support by firing union activists and threatening to close stores if workers voted for union representation.6 Borders even banned Michael Moore from speaking at an event at all stores because he is a known union supporter.7
  • New York Daily News (1989-1991): The publisher of the New York Daily News hired Jackson Lewis six months before union contracts expired in 1989, in preparation for a "war" with the unions.8 The workers eventually went on strike in response to the employer’s refusal to bargain contracts with the workers in good faith.9
  • Honda (1986-2007): Jackson Lewis is an ongoing representative of Honda suppliers. The firm boasts of preventing unions from taking over at a Honda plant in 1986 as one of its illustrious unionbusting accomplishments. Jackson Lewis is expected to play a pivotal role in an anti-union campaign in Alabama, where the United Auto Workers are launching an organizing drive at Alabama Honda plants in 2007.10
  • Massachusetts Hospitals Association (2006): Jackson Lewis negotiated contracts in 2006 as a representative of Massachusetts state hospitals whose employees are represented by the Service Employees International Union Local 1199. The contentious negotiations nearly resulted in 23,000 employees striking.11
  • New York City Charter Schools (2006): The firm guided a charter school in the Bronx in preventing workers from even holding a vote for union representation. Jackson Lewis also prepared booklets advising charter schools how to stay union free for distribution in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. 12

Notable Jackson Lewis Alumnus

Edwin Foulke: This seasoned unionbuster, formerly of Jackson Lewis, left the firm in 2005 to join the ranks of the Bush administration. As the Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), Foulke has a deregulatory attitude regarding OSHA’s role in protecting worker health and safety.  Some of Foulke’s recommendations include reducing federal regulations for health and safety standards in the workplace and instead relying upon voluntary compliance from businesses.13

Jackson Lewis At-a-Glance

Headquarters: White Plains, NY with 30 offices nationwide
Founded: 1958
Staff: 432 attorneys
Revenue: $84 million operating revenue14

Additional Resources

Learn more about the lucrative for-profit unionbusting firms that trample on workers’ rights all in the name of being union free.

Enter the secret world of Jackson Lewis’ unionbusting seminars. This undercover reporter penetrated the firm’s secrecy around their unionbusting tactics and discovered Jackson Lewis’ brazen attitude towards workers.  


 

1. Logan, John, "The Union Avoidance Industry in the USA," British Journal of Industrial Relations 44 (December 2006): 659.
2. Lotito, Michael J. and Richard I. Greenberg, "The Employee Freedom of Choice Act," The Corporate Counselor 22 (June 2007).
3. Logan 659.
4. Slattery, William H., Martin S. Kaufman, and Briscoe R. Smith, "Atlantic Legal Foundation – How You And Your Law Firm Partners Can Best Support Its Activities," Metropolitan Corporate Counsel 14 (November 2006): 50.
5. Logan 660.
6. Tweedle, Katrina, "’Big Brother’ tactics as bookshop staff sacked," The Scotsman 21 Sept. 1999: 7.
7. Barnett, Antony, "US union busters get busy in UK," The Observer 24 January 1999: 9.
8. "NY Daily News instigates ‘war of nerves,’" Labor Today 22 September 1989: 9.
9. Kuntz, Mary and Kenneth C. Crowe, "’Last Great Battle at the News;’ Tabloid, unions prepare for a contract showdown," Newsday 18 January 1990: 6.
10. Williams, Roy L., "UAW sets meeting for Honda workers Union to attempt to organize in state," Birmingham News 14 August 2007: 1D.
11. Rowland, Christopher, "Nurses union flexing clout in contract talks," Boston Globe 22 November 2006.
12. Slattery, 50.
13. "Crippling government from within," New York Times 27 April 2007: 26.
14. IAC (SM) Company Intelligence ® — U.S., Jackson Lewis, LLP, 21 May 2007.

 
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