OPINION: What corporate America is doing to keep the number of unions down

Economic Policy Institute

One of the primary causes of economic inequality in our nation is the shrinking share of U.S. workers who are union members. Consequently, workers throughout our country find themselves working harder, faster, yet still sliding slowly backwards.

Ensuring that workers have access to a union is one of the most effective ways to strengthen our nation’s collapsing middle class. But instead of paying workers what they deserve, big name companies are spending huge sums of money on high-priced consultants to bust unions.

A $340 million industry of “union avoidance” consultants helps employers exploit the weaknesses of federal Labor law to deny workers the right to collective bargaining. Over the past five years, employers using union avoidance consultants, including
FedEx, Bed Bath & Beyond, LabCorp and others, have spent hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars from 2014-2018 to thwart union organizing:

  • LabCorp – $4.3 million.
  • FedEx –$837,000.
  • Bed Bath & Beyond – $567,000.

These union-busting consultants are giving companies throughout the country advice on disgusting anti-union tactics that are legal under current law:

  • Forcing employees to attend daily antiunion meetings where pro-union workers have no right to present alternative views and can be fired on the spot if they ask a question.
  • Plastering the workplace with anti-union posters, banners, and looping video ads—and denying pro-union employees access to any of these media.
  • Instructing managers to tell employees that there’s a good chance they will lose their jobs if they vote to unionize.
  • Having supervisors hold multiple one-on-one talks with each of their employees, stressing why it would be bad for them to vote in a union.
  • Having managers tell employees that pro-union workers are “the enemy within.”
  • Telling supervisors to grill subordinates about their views on unionization, effectively destroying the principle of a secret ballot.

We must fight back against corporations that invest in union busting over investing in pay for their employees.

(Celine McNicholas is director of government affairs at the Economic Policy Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank created in 1986 to include the needs of low- and middle-income workers in economic policy discussions. EPI conducts research and analysis on the economic status of working America, proposes public policies that protect and improve the economic conditions of low- and middle-income workers and assesses policies with respect to how they affect those workers. You can help support EPI’s work at https://secure.actblue.com/contribute/page/epi.)

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