Thursday, September 26, 2013

Union Busting adds to corrupt bureaucracy and incites crime

Union Busting Lawyer

If it costs more to bust the union than it does to make a reasonable deal with the union then you would think it might be defeating the purpose.

Unfortunately business owners have a long history of doing this anyway if they think they can profit from it, or in some cases, perhaps, even if they don't, assuming they won't lose to much. It often seems as if it might be more important to maintain control than it is to make a profit. This is more effective if a relatively small number of people have dominant control of the economic system as I attempted to explain in my previous post, Corporate bureaucrats are robbing us blind, which covers additional ways corrupt corporations are committing fraud and passing on their expenses to consumers without benefit. In the nineteenth century they often shipped in a large number of immigrants, at a large expense, to avoid negotiating with unions. Then the government or the corporations often had to hire armed men to maintain order when the workers organized. Now they create complex distribution systems so that they can ship jobs overseas. Then they have to ship the merchandise back and they often have to deal with multiple subcontractors all to avoid giving workers good wages.

If they can use their market power to pass on these expenses to the consumers then it might seem more rational from the point of view of the employers but this would mean that the consumers wind up with expenses that provide no benefits for them. This wouldn't be possible in a competitive market where there was still a significant amount of factory direct and sincere small businesses could access supplies at reasonable prices. It also leads to much lower quality merchandise. And if there is a problem they often ship large amounts of merchandise through the system before they find out about it and fix it. This means that our current system is almost certainly sending a much larger amount of very low quality or even defective merchandise half way around the world before anyone finds out how much waste there is.

If there is any doubt about this think about how many times you bought something that was broken right out of the box that was made in a foreign country, perhaps on the other side of the world. If you have ever had to go out of your way to return something at the store that means the corporation paid to have that defective merchandise shipped half way around the world before they sold it to you and made you make an extra trip which they almost certainly didn't reimburse you for and then they throw the product away.

Do you have any idea how many defective products are shipped half way around the world only to be thrown away? Neither do I but when I see enough of them, either on the store shelves or find some after I get home it is a safe bet that there are even more that are caught by the workers at the store and that it costs a lot of money and one way or another it has to be passed onto consumers if the corporations are going to continue making their enormous profits.

This means that although many people don't realize it consumers have an interest in protecting the rights of workers. If workers are abused so badly they can't possibly make decent merchandise half way around the world the consumer also pays the price in lower quality of goods. Instead of investing in manufacturing corporations are increasingly investing more money in advertising, lobbying, and union busting efforts including the Guard towers made famous in Mitt Romney's 49% speech and the gangs that often beat up workers when they try to unionize in places like Guatemala or Bangladesh.

There may not be conclusive evidence to prove that these gangs are being paid out of the funds collecting from consumers but if they aren't then why would they be involved in busting unions?

There is also a lot of psychological research that has been done to learn how to more effectively manipulate people when busting unions and it costs the government a lot of money since it also leads to more crime for several reasons some examples of which I will describe soon; and because the police are often called in to settle disputes but the corporations don't have to pay those police and court officers that are helping to suppress unions. this amounts to an enormous government subsidy for well connected business owners and it is contributing to budget deficits and the fact that many cities are having a hard time paying for schools and roads.

One of the most important tactics that these union busters use involves efforts to convince the workers that unions are run by greedy people that want to collect their union dues. As much as some might want to deny this, there might be some truth to this sometimes; although the most effective union efforts almost certainly rely more on grass roots efforts and keep their overhead low. It would defeat the purpose if the unions created their own large union bureaucracy to stand up for their rights but allowing corporations to crush their rights in the absence of any protection would be even worse. When large business owners argue that unions aren't looking out for the best interest of the workers their alternative is that they do absolutely nothing to defend their rights and compete against each other driving their wages down and leaving them working for wages that aren't enough to survive on let alone get ahead as the "American dream" promises everyone.

Another good reason to believe that unions don't always do their best to defend their workers might be their support of the democratic party, which now seems to be doing more to defend the corporations while they only give lip support to the unions. The Democratic Party takes money from unions while simultaneously taking money from large corporations. Some of these union leaders get plenty of air time like Democratic politicians but when it comes to defending the workers they might be better at their rhetoric than their actions.

Marty Jay Levitt also cited John Sheridan, a former union organizer, as the person who taught him the ropes of union busting when he exposed the inside story of how he used to break unions. If union busters hire former organizer for their activities it is reasonable to assume they might attempt to make deals with current organizers if they think they can get away with it and use them to help appease workers without striking.

This might indicate that, in some cases, when there are problems with union bureaucracy it might actually be part of union busting bureaucracy disguised as union bureaucracy. However that doesn't mean that some legitimate union expenses won't be necessary and many of the most successful ones have been dominated by workers that do their organizing at the grass roots level. This was the case when they had some of the "sit down strikes" decades ago when workers sat down without recommendations from their "leaders;" and it appears to be the case now with many of the protests nationwide at Wal-Mart and fast food workers.

They've done an enormous amount to organize these strikes and if you look around it is also clear that they have done a lot of investigating. When it leads to results then it is clear that any bureaucracy in the union is being kept to a minimum and their is almost certainly accountability at the grass roots level.

However that doesn't mean that union busters won't attempt to make it seem as if unions are greedy, among other tricks, as indicated by some of the tactics that were exposed by Marty Jay Levitt in the following excerpts from his book. They also provide some indication that these tactics also lead to increased crime which is payed for by the tax payer and there are other sources that back this up including studies about increased crime and poverty at Wal-Mart and other locations where unions were busted bad jobs were outsourced.

Confessions of a Union Buster

by Marty Jay Levitt

Union busting is a field popularized by bullies and built on deceit. A campaign against a union is an assault on individuals and a war on the truth. As such, it is a war without honor. The only way to bust a union is to lie, distort, manipulate, threaten, and always, always attack. The law does not hamper the process. Rather, it serves to suggest maneuvers and define strategies. Each “union prevention” campaign, as the wars are called, turns on a combined strategy of disinformation and personal assaults.

When a chief executive hires a labor relations consultant to battle a union, he gives the consultant run of the company and closes his eyes. The consultant, backed by attorneys, installs himself in the corporate offices and goes to work creating a climate of terror that inevitably is blamed on the union.

Some corporate executives I encountered liked to think of their ant-union consultants as generals. But really the consultants are terrorists, the consultants’ attack are intensely personal. Terrorist do not make factories and air strips their victims; they choose instead crippled old men and school-children. Likewise, as the consultants go about the business of destroying unions, they invade people’s lives, demolish their friendships, crush their will, and shatter their families. .....

The sticky Ohio summer heat had given way to autumn’s chill. A Miner I’ll call Hal Lockett fixed his hunting rifle in its rack on the back of his dust covered Dodge pickup, gave the bald rear tire a kick, and climbed into the cab. His eyes were as cold as the coal he had been digging since dawn every morning practically since he was a baby – cold as the coal Lockett’s daddy mined and his grand-daddy before him. But Lockett’s heart was burning. Two months had gone by since a handful of well-dressed strangers had walked into the converted roadside motel that housed the offices of Cravat Coal Company, bearing poison and promises. In those two months Lockett had stopped believing. Men who had worked together like brothers for years – some were brothers, for chrissakes – had started taking blows at each other's heads and saying nasty things about each other's wives. Some had stopped talking altogether. Lockett still wasn’t sure who the strangers were. He knew they’d showed up just a few weeks after the guy from United Mine Workers had come around asking people to sign little yellow cards and saying the union would help the miners keep their jobs and make sure they could afford to see a doctor. Sure, Lockett knew all about that. That’s what his daddy told him, too. But somehow the whole thing had just gotten crazy. His foreman, usually a nice guy, had taken to badgering the men, threatening them, questioning them, and telling them didn’t they know they’d lose everything if they let the goddamned union in. The workers were so divided; some couldn’t stand next to each other in the pit without starting a fight.

Lockett kept his eyes straight ahead as he drove the winding road from the mine to a converted farmhouse at the edge of the gritty town of Cadiz, whose sole and incongruous fame rested in having been the birthplace of Clark Gable. Lockett drove the pickup practically into the side of the ramshackle building, one of the six Cravat field offices, slammed on the brakes, and shut off the motor. Inside half a dozen secretaries tapped at their mundane tasks. Lockett walked slowly to the back of the truck, lifted the rifle from its rack, and released the safety. He pushed open the door of the farmhouse and stomped inside. Then a one-man war broke out. Unintelligible curses streamed from Lockett’s mouth as his free hand grabbed paperweights, staplers, and file folders from nearby desks and hurled them across the room. He gave his weapon a quick cock and squeezed the trigger. One shot rang out. Then another. Then another. Lockett tore through the building, pumping bullets out the windows into the ceiling. A secretary screamed and dove under her desk. Then a man’s voice was heard: “What the hell? Stop him!” Lockett blasted away, sobbing and raging all the time.

By the time the Cadiz police arrived, Lockett’s face was stained with tears and mud. His eyes had lost their focus. No one was hurt, but a handful of townspeople and Cravat office workers had gathered for the spectacle. They knew the rifleman as a veteran miner out at one of Cravat’s most remote pits. He had enough trouble, with his marriage on the rocks and all. People had been talking about it for weeks. The police loaded a subdued Lockett into the car and drove him to the station. This was no good.

I first met Cravat Coal on paper. One hot August day in 1983, I sent the paralegal student who worked as my assistant to the National Labor Relations Board office in downtown Cleveland to poke through the filings. That was the method I had developed to generate work in slow times. It turned out to be a brilliant tactic, for often I discovered a union-organizing drive before company executives had any suspicions. The timeliness of my call made it impossible to ignore, and chief executives’ panic allowed me to suggest that, having caught the trouble early, we could launch our offensive while the union was still struggling to develop a strategy. That, in fact, was the case with Cravat. My student-assistant had discovered a union representation petition that had been filed just a day before by the United Mine Workers district 6, based in Wheeling, in neighboring West Virginia. The UMWA aimed to organize the 485 miners at what was then the nation’s largest independent coal-mining company.

I gave Cravat a call. The call reached Mike Puskarich, the eldest of the four Yugoslavian-American brothers who, with their sons, ran Cravat Coal and a handful of related businesses.

“Mr. Puskarich, I’m Marty Levitt, president of Human Resources Institute of Cleveland. I thought you should know that your company has become the victim of a union-organizing campaign by United Mine Workers. Were you aware of that?”

He wasn’t But it didn’t take Puskarich long to let me know where he stood: He wasn’t going to have any fuckin’ union, that was for goddamned sure. They had tried this shit before, he told me. Well, they were not going to get away with it.

That, of course, was the entrĂ©e I needed. I kept my language polished but my message tough as I pressed Puskarich. “If you’re intent on beating the union, we should get together as soon as possible,” I told him.

Puskarich wasn’t so sure. He didn’t go in for outside consultants, like to handle problems himself. He had an in-house attorney who could stifle any union shenanigans. I told Puskarich he might not bne aware of how deadly a Union Mine Workers organizing drive could be. If he lost the union election, there’s be no turning back, no recovering the days when he was boss of his own company. I recommended he talk to a labor lawyer I had worked with for several years, a brilliant attorney by the name of earl Leiken. Puskarich said he’d meet with him the next day.

The drive down to Cadiz was a trip into another decade. The town of four thousand souls stood nestled in the scarred hills of the flattened Appalachians in eastern Ohio. There was only one highway through Cadiz, and the peculiar Cravat Coal building stood off that road like a camp symbol that the town was somehow lost in space and time. The long, two-story brick structure retained the sterile and prim look it must have had as a motel. The conversion to corporate offices seemed halfhearted, for secretaries and clerks could be seen roaming the outdoor hallways carrying papers and coffee from one executive to another, like motel maids.

When I found myself before General Manager Mike Puskarich, I understood that this anti-union campaign would be like no other. Puskarich was a hulk of a man, a 250-pound beast with bushy eyebrows, massive forearms, and huge rough hands. I likened him in my mind to the late hard-line Soviet Leonid Brezhnev, then at the helm of the Communist Party. Puskarich’s long-sleeved starched white shirt and gilded cuff links looked out of place; his thick fingers were adorned with gold-and-diamond rings. Puskarich’s language was crude, his temper explosive; as I sat across from him and explained my strategy, I could see that he was not a man of subtleties. Instinctively I knew the Puskariches would be a liability in an anti-union fight built on subtle distortions and manipulations. I knew I would have to rein in the Yugloslavians’ tempers lest they give the union promoters more fuel for the organizing campaign.

As I explained my strategy, I watched Puskarich fidget. He was not used to this kind of talk. “The entire campaign,” I told him, “will be run through your foremen. I’ll be their mentor, their coach. I’ll teach them what to say and make sure they say it. But I’ll stay in the background. This will be a case of over-communication. I will make the foremen feel they have post-doctorate degrees in labor relations before this is through. They’ll fill their employees with so many nasty little facts about unions, they’ll all wish they’d never let this get started.”

Puskarich wasn’t sure. He had never thought of foremen as management. The only management was the Puskarich clan. The foremen were just a bunch of stupid miners, grunts like all the rest and not to be trusted. How could he count on them to take on the union for him? Hell, they’d probably called the union themselves. “You’ll have to do it,” he commanded.

I objected. Think about it, I said. How could I come in, an outsider, and convince the workers not to trust one another? My anti-union message would turn on portraying the union as a power-hungry interloper, and nobody was going to buy it coming from the company’s hired gun. No, the words and the warnings would have to come from people they worked with everyday down in the pits, from the people they counted on for their review and that weekly paycheck.

“Here’s how it is,” I told Puskarich, fixing a steady gaze on his angry eyes. “You’ll come to see this union drive as a blessing in disguise. Once our campaign gets rolling, supervisors will learn to be their own leaders they should have been all along. They’ll learn to make their people happy and to love what they do. The men won’t just be working for a paycheck anymore, and you’ll never face another union problem again.

Puskarich couldn’t be persuaded by such a high-road argument, I knew, but I decided to throw it in to make the Cravet attorney happy. I wanted him on my side. I warned Puskarich that I would do some unusual things throughout the campaign; some activities he might find offensive, others corny. He brushed aside the warning. His only doubt had to do with embracing his foremen as allies.

“We’ll convince the foremen that when the National Labor Relations Board holds the representation election, the workers will not be voting for or against the union, but for or against the management, including all of them,” I told the Yugoslav. “To lose the election would be a humiliation, an indictment of their management abilities. Once they see it my way, the foremen will gladly join the war on the UMWA.”

Puskarich started to growl, but his attorney silenced him: “Listen to the man. We need him.”

The boss lifted a diamond studded hand to his fleshy face, twisted his mouth, and asked my fee. It was $1,000 per day per consultant-I planned to use several-plus a $10,000 retainer. Puskarich complained, “I;ve never known anybody worth a thousand dollars a day.” Then he barked at the secretary, Dottie to make me out a check for $10,000. He offered his hand and commanded, “You’re in charge.”

During the first meeting, there were lots of logistics to map out. I insisted on holding the kick-off meeting in just two days; I didn’t want the union to gain momentum while we chewed on our pencils. Cadiz was an uncomfortable four and a half hour drive from Cleveland, so naturally I was to stay in town during the week. Puskarich put me up in the best there was, a Sheraton hotel in a neighboring town. But even better was his weekend shuttle service. Every Friday evening throughout the seventeen-week campaign, he had the company plane fly me to the Cuyahoga County airport near my home in Gates Mills in suburban Cleveland, just a half hour away by air. Every Monday morning the plane picked me up and delivered me to Cadiz, where a company car awaited my arrival.

From the moment I read the UMWA petition for Cravat, I knew we faced a bitter fight. The key to my so-called union-prevention campaigns had always been to paint the labor organization as a greedy outsider and to convince supervisors and foremen that their jobs depended on its destruction. Meanwhile I worked to recast upper management with a human face-now silly, now generous, but always human- so workers would come to believe there was no need for a union. In the UMWA I had a particularly formidable foe; not that the minors union was more honorable or more sophisticated or even more aggressive than any other. But to minors, the UMWA was more than a union. It was family. Some of the workers at Cravat were the first in three generations not to belong to the UMWA, and they were not happy about it. The only other major mining concern in Cadiz was R&F Coal Company down the road from the Cravat headquarters, another non-union outfit owned by the mammoth Shell Oil Company. In effect, the union had been locked out of the town. Yet among miners, to speak against the union was sacrilege. Federal law blesses a union-organizing drive if 30 percent of the workers sign authorization cards inviting the union in. At Cravat, 80 percent of the miners ahd signed. How was I going to get people to fight a union they had been brought up to think of as the Mother Church?

I was convinced I shouldn’t tackle Cravat on my own, so I called for help from four former colleagues at a Chicago based labor consulting firm called Modern Management Methods, or Three M. By 1983 the union-busting field was bursting, and it was easy to find eager ass kickers in need of work. Joining me at the Cravat bloodletting were Tom Crosbie, an executive vice-president at Three M and my onetime mentor; Ed Judenas, a large, imposing figure and a fifteen-year veteran of the ignoble trade; Dennis Fisher, a meticulous, soft-spoken methods man; and Kevin Smyth, an intense, portly man with a look of malevolence in his eyes. The firepower added by those union buster heavyweights was phenomenal. Yet the aggressiveness of Cravat’s union activists turned the Cravat war into one of the bloodiest of my career. By the time the defeat of the union was history six Cravat foremen had been fired; one rank-and-file miner had gone crazy; at least one miner’s marriage was in trouble because of unsavory rumors floated by the buster forces; and countless Cravat families and friendships were shattered as the entire population of southern Ohio chose sides.

The intensity and loyalty to the UMWA dictated that we use every tool available to divide the miners. Additional excerpts or buy the book

As I previously indicated in Wal-Mart high crime rate continues uninvestigaterd a 2006 statistical study indicated a correlation between higher crime and the opening of Wal-Marts. This study, alone, does not indicate the cause of the higher crime, however there are other studies to indicate that Wal-Mart also results in higher poverty, fewer manufacturing jobs and other types of jobs, and lower income. Additional studies indicate that poverty leads to higher crime.

A good look at some of these studies indicates that their are multiple causes and that some of them are clearly related to the policies of corporate America including Wal-Mart, their union busting tactics, which are almost certainly similar to some of the tactic described by Marty Levitt, and their wage suppression tactics. The blog previously cited mentions numerous examples where workers have struck out at each other and the management because of their complaints about the way they've been treated. This is very similar to the scene that Marty Levitt described in his book where a coal miner went on a shooting rampage; and the tax payer has to foot the bill when these people go to jail and the shooters at Wal-Mart are being blamed entirely on them like Levitt's example without considering the possibility that union busting tactics might have contributed to these incidents.

In addition to that the police are often called in to suppress worker complaints as well and they often arrest them instead of encouraging mediation. When the police use their authority to suppress workers rights to express legitimate complaints they're not being "impartial;" they're taking the sides of business, which often donate to political campaigns for the people who give the police their orders. If tax payer dollars are being spent for all these purposes then there is that much less available to educate children and repair rods especially when, in many cases, they had to offer Wal-Mart or other corporations tax breaks, that weren't available to smaller business that were driven out, to come to town.

On top of that, as indicated in what might be a typical example, the lawyer for the coal miner also had his bill which the owner would have to pay and that would have to be passed on to the cost of doing business which the consumer have to pay. There is also an enormous amount of psychological research into this subject to develop these tactics over the years and there are plenty of newspaper reporters writing favorable stories for business that they almost certainly have a financial incentive to write, politicians that collect campaign contributions from business and give workers lip service while making union busting easier etc.

This creates an enormous bureaucracy for the purpose of depriving people who work for a living from getting a fair wage!

This bureaucracy does nothing to benefit the consumers who ind up with higher bills and lower quality merchandise as a result. Instead this is a major effort to increase the wealth of those that control the economic system at the expense of those that contribute to it.

This bureaucracy might also be part of a cultural divide between people from different classes, where people from one class obtain education in certain trades and take jobs in the bureaucracy while the rest remain in the working class. This seems to be indicated by the tactics that Levitt use when he shops for potential customers and seeks to obtain the lawyer of that customer as his ally in recruiting the business owner. This could be a tactic that is used as part of a modern day white collar feudalistic system. In the older feudalistic systems if a feudal lord gave his workers more rights and treated them better, perhaps benefiting all if this led to more productivity, then the other feudal lords would be worried that their workers might learn from it and demand the same so they might invade the benevolent feudal lord. Now they might use more sophisticated ways of wiping out small businesses that try to treat their workers with respect, although they might try to wipe out the small business anyway to increase their market share.

On another note many union workers have not been to happy with Marty Jay Levitt for previously working to bust unions and for going back for one last job after renouncing them; however he still did a lot to expose their tactics and this should stand on it's own merits. It is much easier to know how to deal with it if more people understand the tactics. Furthermore there may be additional people that might be willing to come forward with additional information who might be skeptical if they see excessive resentment against Levitt and others who have come forward in the past. A reasonable amount of skepticism is understandable and expected but it will do no good to ignore these tactics because some might not be happy with the source.

Also there might be some that might not be too happy with my speculation about union leaders that might be appeasing the workers and encouraging them not to strike. This can be at least partially addressed by keeping all union activities in the open and rotating those that lead them and keeping decisions at the grass roots level. It will do no good to claim that it isn't happening when it is or to jump to conclusions; but if the leaders don't have the real power, because it is with the workers, then it wouldn't do corporations any good to corrupt just one person that betrays the rest. If they have to treat every one with respect to get their cooperation that would be the objective.

Photo source

The following are a couple related articles on the subject:

IBEW Fact Sheet PDF

Reading: Union Buster Tells All By Roger Kerson

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