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Unionbusting

By law, employers aren’t supposed to intimidate, coerce, or fire employees for exercising their democratic rights to form unions. Yet when faced with organizing drives, 25 percent of employers fire at least one pro-union worker.

Anti-union employers rarely go it alone – many seek the help of outside unionbusting consultants to stop workers from organizing a union, or to destroy one that’s already in place. Under the current labor law system, employers often use a combination of legal and illegal methods to silence employees who attempt to form unions and bargain for better wages and working conditions.

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  1. Lowering the Bar or Setting the Standard?

    Deutsche Telekom’s U.S. Labor Practices

    The failure of U.S. labor law to protect America’s workers from pervasive unionbusting is well-documented. Yet little attention has been paid to the practice of foreign companies operating in cooperation with their employees in their home countries, where labor laws are stronger, while failing to respect the rights of their workers in the United States. The same company, under two different systems of law, results in two very different situations for workers.

    In a new report, the American Rights at Work Education Fund exposes a systematic campaign to prevent employees from forming a union by T-Mobile USA and its parent company, German telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom (DT). The report, "Lowering the Bar or Setting the Standard? Deutsche Telekom’s U.S. Labor Practices," presents overwhelming evidence that DT is guilty of operating by a double standard: The company respects workers’ rights in Germany, where it cooperates closely with unions, but mistreats workers in the United States  and interferes with their right to organize.

    » Press release
    » Download report (English, German)

  2. No Holds Barred: The Intensification of Employer Opposition to Organizing

    New findings from Dr. Kate Bronfenbrenner provide a comprehensive, independent analysis of employer behavior in union representation elections supervised by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Her research identifies the range and incidence of legal and illegal coercive tactics used by employers NLRB elections and the ineffectiveness of current labor law to protect and enforce workers’ rights during the process.

    Dr. Bronfenbrenner’s report also compares employer behavior in this study’s period to previous studies that she and her research teams have conducted over the last 20 years.

    » Fact Sheet
    » Full Report (PDF: 366kb)
    » Read the related press release   

  3. The Chilling Effect: Fire One Worker, Send a Powerful Message to the Rest

    For every worker fired, 395 get the message: they could be next. It is well-established that employers illegally fire workers for their support of a union in the United States. But what people may not realize is that for every worker fired, 395 coworkers receive the message: get involved with the union and you’ll get a pink slip.

    Looking at how many workers, on average, in a workplace observe someone being fired for supporting a union reveals the real impact. The firing goes far beyond a lost job, vanished income, and workplace injustice for the individual worker—it can chill support for a union by instilling fear among coworkers that they too could lose their livelihood and economic well-being.

  4. NLRB’s ‘Fired Workers’ Only Tip of the Iceberg

    Employer-Dominated Labor Law System Conceals Reality of Workers Fired for Union Activity

    Every day men and women join unions in this country to improve their jobs and economic livelihood. Unfortunately, clever employers often interfere with their workers’ support for a union. As a result, anti-union employers fire pro-union workers in 34% of organizing campaigns.*

    Adding insult to injury, fired workers discover incredible obstacles in attempts to reclaim their jobs due to a weak labor law system that favors employers. The workers who end up with an official ruling in their favor from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) represent only the tip of the iceberg of the thousands of workers fired each year for supporting a union. Rather than navigate a long and difficult process, too many fired workers end their pursuit of justice, however minimal, from the NLRB.

  5. Out of Control: Employer Misconduct During Union Organizing Far Too Common

    National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) elections are meant to provide workers with the opportunity to choose whether or not they want to join a union. Yet research confirms that too many employers are taking advantage of U.S. labor laws intended to protect workers’ rights to form unions. Aggressive misconduct from management widely prevents workers from exercising their choice. These findings indicate a serious need for reform of the NLRB-supervised union election process which typically skews in the favor of employers.

  6. Checking Out: The Rise of Wal-Mart and the Fall of Middle Class Retailing Jobs

    Erin Johansson examines the labor standards at Wal-Mart, including the poor compensation, difficult working conditions, and most importantly, the company’s ability to remain union-free, which is primarily the result of a companywide strategy to prevent and quash union efforts.  Checking Out illustrates the devastating toll on workers and their communities as wages and benefits are slashed and once secure jobs are lost; the retail giant threatens to wipe out middle-class jobs and the American dream as we know it.

    » Download the report

  7. Fed Up with FedEx

    Fed Up with FedEx When is a FedEx worker not a FedEx employee? When it benefits the FedEx Corporation.  In a new report, Fed Up with FedEx: How FedEx Ground Tramples Workers’ Rights at Civil Rights, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and American Rights at Work document the widespread use of employee misclassification at FedEx Ground, which denies workers’ fundamental civil rights and workplace protections.

    » Learn more
    » Read the executive summary
    » Download the report (PDF)

  8. Verizon’s Broken Promises

    For decades, the telecommunications industry has provided technicians, customer service agents, operators, and others with job security, opportunities to advance and gain new skills, and sustainable wages and benefits. Yet since Verizon was formed in 2000, it has shirked its responsibilities as a public utility, pursuing a race-to-the-bottom, low-road business model that is detrimental to both employees and customers.

    Our new report, Broken Promises, reveals how Verizon uses this model to interfere with its employees’ rights to form unions, putting good jobs and quality service at risk.

    » Download the report (PDF)
    » Read the press release

  9. Why Stronger Penalties are Needed

    Management routinely coerces employees not to choose union representation.  Freedom of association—the right of employees to join a union and bargain collectively—is theoretically guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the U.S. Constitution, and several international human rights agreements.  However, as Human Rights Watch concluded in a 2000 report on U.S. compliance with international human rights standards, employees’ freedom of association in the United States is routinely violated through employer coercion.1 

    More effective remedies against employer coercion—like injunctive relief and monetary penaltiesin the Employee Free Choice Act will help restore workers’ freedom to form unions.

  10. Dean Singleton: Media Consolidator, Unionbuster

    When Dean Singleton buys out a paper, he guts it: huge staff layoffs, lowered wages for remaining staff, and community beats eliminated.  Then he buys more papers in the community and consolidates:  combining staff positions so that one staff writes for 5-10 newspapers.  Singleton also has a sophisticated strategy and record of breaking up unions at the newspapers under his ownership, and doing all he can to prevent his workers from having any control over their work and lives under MediaNews. Dean Singleton’s media consolidation destroys a free and independent press and denies workers their rights.

  11. Unionbusting at “The Office”

    michaeloffice_sq100.jpgAnyone who’s a fan of the hit TV show "The Office" knows Dunder-Mifflin employees need a union – or something – to deal with their bumbling boss Michael.  On a recent episode, the warehouse workers finally expressed the need for a union to improve their workplace. But when the corporate boss Jan found out about it, she illegally threatened employees that the Dunder-Mifflin plant would close and that they would lose their jobs if they formed a union

  12. Jackson Lewis

    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. 

  13. Fact Over Fiction: Opposition to Card Check Doesn’t Add Up

    Findings from this new survey of workers’ opinions on union and employer coercion during card check campaigns and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) elections reveal that claims of union pressure in card check campaigns are grossly exaggerated.

    Authored by Adrienne Eaton, Ph.D. of Rutgers University, and Jill Kriesky, Ph.D. of Wheeling Jesuit University – March 2006

    » Download the issue brief (PDF: 4 pages, 66 KB)

  14. Critiquing Wal-Mart’s Unsustainable Business Model

    Exposing the harmful impact of Wal-Mart’s low-cost, low-price business model is the subject of the recently released report "Wal-Mart’s Sustainability Initiative: A Civil Society Critique."  Twenty-three organizations, including American Rights at Work, reveal how the big box retailer’s business model undermines the environment, communities, and workers.

    » View a press release
    » Check out our contribution to the report (PDF)
    » Download the whole report (PDF)

  15. Unionbusters 101

    Facts and Frequently Asked Questions about Unionbusting

  16. Undermining the Right to Organize: Employer Behavior During Union Representation Campaigns

    Findings from this new report reveal that a majority of employers aggressively use both legal and illegal anti-union tactics during union representation elections, which impedes workers’ ability to form unions.

    » Download the report (PDF: 35 pages, 688 KB)
    » View a one-page fact sheet
    » Download a half-page flyer (PDF: 503 KB)

  17. Wal-Mart: Rolling Back Workers’ Wages, Rights, and the American Dream

    webcover3.jpg This report offers a comprehensive examination of the company’s abysmal labor standards, including an investigation into Wal-Mart’s unapologetic, systematic manner of aggressively interfering with its employees’ democratic right to form unions as a method to address their mistreatment.  The study also demonstrates how Wal-Martization is eroding middle-class standards for workers in the grocery industry.

    » Download the report
    » More about Wal-Mart

  18. No Bargain: Comcast and the Future of Workers’ Rights in Telecommunication

    arawbargaincoverthumb.jpgThis report chronicles Comcast’s efforts to prevent and undermine workers from organizing new unions or successfully negotiating a contract on the terms and conditions of their employment.

    » Download the report (PDF: 32 pages, 709 KB)

     

  1. Gordon Lafer

    “The presence of secret ballots can’t overcome the corrupt nature of NLRB elections.”

  2. Teresa Joyce

    "The most frightening aspect,…was to watch as one by one the outspoken ‘troublemakers’ were led out the door for poor performance, bad attitudes, and various other charges."

  3. Gordon Lafer

    "Anti-union employers are making a mockery of the principles governing American elections.  Weak labor laws allow anti-union employers to manipulate the outcome of union elections in a manner that is inherently unfair and undemocratic."

  1. Video: A Workplace That’s Seriously Out of Whack

    Let’s face it. Something’s wrong when CEOs rake in hundreds of times what their employees earn, and workers get the boot just for talking about unions.  It could almost be a bad joke if it weren’t such a serious problem.

    That’s why we teamed up with the award-winning producers at Brave New Films to make this video about a workplace where employees work without benefits, pay is based on favoritism, and the CEO is the only one with a contract.

    After you watch, we hope you take a minute to sign our petition for the Employee Free Choice Act.  

  2. Video: Employee Free Choice Act

    This video shows what the Employee Free Choice Act is all about.  Originally produced for SEIU at their international convention last month, this 8-minute movie explains what the Employee Free Choice Act is, why we need it, and who it’d help.  If you’ve got eight minutes, sit back, press play, and pass on this video to friends and family.

  3. Watch Garth Brooks in Friends with Low Wages

    According to Garth Brooks, "it’s great to work for Wal-Mart."  But what would happen if Garth found out what it’s really like to work for the retail giant?  What would he have to say about Wal-Mart’s ruthless campaign against workers’ rights?

  1. New York Times: How Do You Drive Out a Union?

    The ongoing discovery phase of a malpractice case against workplace law giant Jackson Lewis offers an extraordinary inside look at a well-financed and all-too-common attack against workers who attempt to form unions. The New York Times published a feature story on the lawsuit in December 2004.

  1. The NLRB: Policing Repeat Offenders with a Water Pistol

    As a mother I’ve learned that regardless of his repeated assurances, my toddler will only stop harassing his little brother when there are real consequences to his misbehavior (i.e., no more train video). Yet when the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) charged Consolidated Biscuit with illegally harassing its union supporters–despite the company’s pledge to stop in two previous settlements—the agency didn’t provide any real consequences.

    Rather than pursuing an injunction and contempt-of-court charges against the company to prevent further violations, they decided to negotiate yet another settlement. This milquetoast response to a habitual unionbuster illustrates why we need the Employee Free Choice Act, which would increase penalties for unlawful employers, and require the use of injunctions to curb employers’ bad behavior when there’s reasonable cause to believe that someone’s rights have been violated.

  2. The Weakest Federal Employment Law

    If I were a scurrilous lawyer advising a new employer on federal employment laws, I would tell them not to worry about violating the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). When an employer violates any of the three major federal employment laws covering minimum wage, discrimination, or safety, they must at least pay fines or damages. Yet there are no penalties assessed on employers who commit unfair labor practices under the NLRA. Check out this new chart released by American Rights at Work, which illustrates just how poorly the costs of violating labor law compare with the costs of violating other employment laws:

    Federal Employment Laws

     

  3. Workers Left Out of NLRB Settlement Process

    A friendly reminder to staff of the National Labor Relations Board: your agency exists to protect the interests of workers—not the employers who break the law. I’m compelled to bring this up because of the recent actions taken by a regional NLRB office to settle a complaint against an employer without any input from the nurses who brought the charges.

    In May of this year, nurses at Legacy Hospital in Portland, OR, filed unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB, alleging their employer illegally barred nurses from discussing the union in all areas of the worksite, and called in security to escort nurses off the property for engaging in union activity. On September 30, the NLRB issued a complaint charging the company with illegally suppressing union activity, and scheduled a hearing for October.*

    Yet without consulting with the nurses, the NLRB canceled the hearing and settled the charges with the hospital, which simply agreed to post a notice describing the nurses’ rights under the law. None of the nurses’ concerns were addressed.

  4. Anti-Union Firings Left Unanswered by the NLRB

    When a worker is fired for union activity, the impact of that firing extends not only to the individual worker, but to her coworkers that receive the anti-union message from the employer.  According to new research by American Rights at Work, for every worker  fired, 395 coworkers receive the message: support the union and get the pink slip. Employers are very effectively chilling union activity with few consequences.

    The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) only gets a small percentage of fired workers back on the job—leaving the employer’s anti-union message to go unanswered.  Between 1999 and 2007, only 11 percent of the 86,000 workers that filed charges alleging they were illegally fired for union activity received an NLRB offer of reinstatement. Thirty-five percent accepted some form of settlement, rather than waiting for the lengthy NLRB process to get their jobs back.

  5. Union Organizers Assaulted, NLRB Doesn’t Bother Pursuing the Case

    If you’re attacked while peacefully protesting, you’d expect to have someone to turn to for justice. If you’re attacked while picketing outside a workplace, it’s natural to turn to the National Labor Relations Board—the agency charged with protecting workers’ freedom of association. Yet when five union organizers in Los Angeles filed charges with the NLRB alleging they were brutally attacked by employees with 2x4s sent by Herix and Golden Gate Steel, building contractors they were picketing, the NLRB Regional Director actually dismissed the charges.

    According to the lawyer representing the union organizers, Ellyn Moscowitz, the NLRB just informed her they decided not to pursue the case since it wasn’t clear who started the violence. Moscowitz noted, however, that the only witness claiming the organizers started the violence is the owner of the contracting companies that were picketed for alleged safety violations.

    Undaunted by the NLRB’s decision, the organizers are continuing to pursue justice. They recently filed a civil suit with the Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging the companies unlawfully assaulted them because of their protected involvement in a labor dispute. Luckily, these organizers can seek protections from a state law when the federal government has left them out in the cold.

    If the NLRB has a good defense for dismissing this case without even pursuing a complaint and administrative law judge trial, I’d be happy to hear it.

  6. Out of Control: Employer Misconduct During Organizing

    It’s hard to imagine that our American democracy would survive if in nearly half of political elections held, there were allegations of illegal coercion and intimidation, and if four in 10 elections never took place because of such intimidation. Yet this is the situation facing workers attempting to form unions through National Labor Relations Board elections, according to new statistics released by American Rights at Work.

  7. Debt Consolidators, Unite!

    Eye on the NLRB logo We hear of janitors, nurses, and auto workers collectively fighting to improve their working conditions, but the financial sector isn’t known as a hotbed of organizing activity. Yet a recent case of debt consolidator solidarity should inspire others in this rapidly changing industry. Last week, the National Labor Relations Board charged Debt Settlement USA with illegally firing four debt consultants when they stood up to fight a proposed wage cut, and for illegally barring employees from discussing pay issues with each other.

  8. Workers: 11, Goya: 0, Yet Goya Is Still Winning

    Last week, the National Labor Relations Board issued a decision against Goya Foods in Miami, ordering the company to cease making unilateral changes to its employees’ benefit plans without bargaining with its workers’ union over the changes.  According to Bruce Raynor, President of UNITE HERE, which represents these workers, this decision was the eleventh won by the workers against Goya Foods. 

    Yet in a recent speech before the American Sociological Association, Raynor noted that these legal victories mean little as the company still refused to sit down and bargain with the union.

    As I recently pointed out, the Goya workers voted for union representation in 1998, yet 10 years of decisions by the circuit courts and the NLRB couldn’t bring Goya to the bargaining table. Clearly we need an overhaul of our labor law to ensure that workers who vote for a union actually secure a contract with their employers. The Employee Free Choice Act holds that promise for workers.

  9. Blue Man’s Unionbusting Betrays its Artistic Message

    Sixteen years ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Blue Man Group’s original show in New York City.  I reveled in the drumming, marshmallow tossing, and sense of community the artists encouraged in the midst of the information overload of our time.  One longtime Blue Man summed up the show’s message in an interview with the Victoria Times Colonist in 2007:

    We live in this technology age which connects us so amazingly… and yet, it’s sort of made us more alone than we’ve ever been.

    But Blue Man’s artistic vision for more personal connection is belied by its recent actions repressing its employees’ efforts to come together for a stronger voice at work. 

    According to a recent decision by the National Labor Relations Board, the Blue Man Group’s company illegally barred its Las Vegas employees from freely discussing their working conditions, discriminated against a union supporter, and refused to recognize and bargain with the employees’ union—more than two years after they voted for representation.  These are typical violations of the law by anti-union American employers…but for Blue Man?  Looks like it’s just The Man now—more concerned with making money than respecting its employees’ rights.

  10. A Gift to Wal-Mart from the NLRB

    The National Labor Relations Board just found Wal-Mart guilty of illegally firing a union supporter, bribing employees, and discriminatorily refusing to protect union supporters from the harassment of their anti-union coworker, all in an effort to prevent workers from forming a union at its Kingman, AZ, store.

    How is this decision a gift to Wal-Mart?  Because it was issued eight years after the organizing effort began—eight years after it could have had any impact on the union effort.  Thus Wal-Mart breaks the law, successfully squashes the union effort, benefits from the slow case-handling procedures at the NLRB, and merely has to pony up a little backpay and interest to the employee it fired.  It’s no wonder this country’s largest private employer has managed to stay entirely union-free.

  11. Remedy a Drop in the Cup of Starbucks’ Fortune

    A Starbucks employee in Grand Rapids, Mich., is claiming he was fired last week for trying to form a union.  This allegation follows on the heels of a recent National Labor Relations Board settlement that ordered the company to reinstate two New York City workers it illegally fired for organizing, and to stop spying on employees, withholding raises, prohibiting workers from wearing union buttons, and other illegal tactics used to thwart their union effort.

    Why, after this settlement, would Starbucks potentially break the law again?  Could it be that the company only had to pay paltry sum of $1,925 to the two fired New York City workers—with no penalties and no impact on the company’s bottom line?

  12. When Voting for a Union Is Only the Start of the Struggle

    Here’s a tale told far too often: workers have come together to vote for a union, but don’t have a contract in their workplace.  Why?  Their employer unlawfully refuses to bargain with them and the National Labor Relations Board fails to enforce our weak labor law. 

    Ten years after Goya Foods employees in Miami voted for a union, a circuit court judge ordered the company to finally negotiate a contract.  This is yet another example of why Congress must amend labor law to grant workers the right to first contract arbitration, ensuring that their vote for a union actually leads to a union contract.

  13. Board Silent as Employer Violence Against Workers Continues

    North Carolina meatpackers have endured grisly working conditions, unfair pay, and a decade of attacks on their right to organize.  So why has the NLRB failed to rule on their case for four years?   

  14. Employers Threaten, Coerce, and Bribe Employees to Bust Their Unions

    When employees collectively decide that they no longer wish to be represented by a union, they have the ability under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to vote to revoke union representation at their workplace.  This process, known as a decertification, is expressly intended for workers to initiate, not employers.  While it is illegal for employers to orchestrate a decertification election to rid employees of their union, they can use their position of power to break the law with little fear of the consequences. 

About Our Organization

American Rights at Work is a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to promoting the freedom of workers to organize unions and bargain collectively with employers.

 

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Unionbusting at "The Office"

michaeloffice.jpg

» Learn about our broken labor laws with an example from TV’s "The Office."