A wave of union victories suggests that union-breaking advisers may have lost their influence | American unions

tCounselors and lawyers against unions in the country – who have made millions of dollars fighting trade union initiatives – have just gone through some of their worst weeks when unions have won at Amazon, Starbucks, REI, the New York Times, MIT and others. places.

These consultants and lawyers – often referred to as “union destroyers” – have done so poorly that John Logan, a professor who has studied “union avoidance” efforts for two decades, says their anti-union kryptonite seems to be sudden. lost much of his strength. “For decades, consultants have seemed almost invincible. Many companies have boasted a victory rate of over 95%, “said Logan, a professor in San Francisco. But on Staten Island, the Amazon Union “turned the tables of the company’s anti-union advisers” and showed that they may have been “a liability rather than an asset.”

Logan said anti-union counselors are often less effective because workers and their attitudes have changed: workers, especially younger workers, are bolder to speak openly, use social media to outwit counselors, and accept very effective strategies, such as organizing and interrupting so-called captive meetings with the public, where consultants discuss the alleged evils of the unions. Logan said workers were often much more afraid of facing union counselors, and one reason workers were less afraid was that the low unemployment rate made it easier for workers to find another job if they were fired for support. of the union.

“They survived the pandemic and are no longer so cowardly,” Logan said. “The pandemic was such a frightening experience that workers re-calibrated their sense of risk about what they were willing to do in their lives. They are better prepared to join a union campaign. They believe they have been repeatedly disrespected while their employers have earned billions of dollars.

Logan was impressed by the fact that workers interrupted several of Amazon’s meetings in captivity. “The fact that they had the courage to do that shows that something has changed fundamentally,” he said. “The mechanism of the meeting of the captive audience is much less successful if someone gets up and disputes what he says. Everything is falling apart. ”

Angelica Maldonado, a 27-year-old packer at Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse, was one of the workers who interrupted the audience meeting in captivity. She and other workers have challenged Amazon’s claim that workers could receive pay cuts if they unite. She also tried to refute one of Amazon’s main arguments. “They spread all this propaganda that we are a third country,” Maldonado said. “Once we gain the trust of the workers, they will see that we are not a third party union. Rather, she explained, we are Amazon workers like them who created the union.

Some workers’ organizers on Staten Island pulled out anti-union counselors who were walking around the warehouse, urging workers to vote against the union. The workers tried to find out their names, and when they did, they tweeted the consultant’s name and photo and urged the workers not to talk to them. They further undermine the effectiveness of consultants, emphasizing that some of them earn $ 3,200 a day.

Maldonado said: “We did some calculations and showed that instead of paying all this money to these union robbers, Amazon could give a raise to everyone in the building.

Wilma Liebman, chair of the National Labor Council during President Obama’s first term, said anti-union counselors have become less effective because they do not keep up with the changing workforce. “It is difficult to imagine how any of these bandit robbers succeed. “Almost all of them are old white boys,” she said. “They are trying to demonstrate control with some intimidating factor. Whether these workers are white, African American, or something else, this is still a cultural clash. It’s hard to imagine that the message of these consultants resonates. “

Liebman added: “One of the ways consultants look as effective as ever is to persuade employers to buy their services. Some union lawyers charge more than $ 1,200 an hour.

A longtime labor lawyer in Washington, who insisted on anonymity, said the recent series of union victories did not mean anti-union lawyers and consultants had become less effective. “More has been done than it should be,” he said. “I think it’s very situational.” He noted that syndication initiatives were recently lost at the Hershey factory in Virginia and at HelloFresh food packaging facilities. (In these places, workers did not oppose union counselors nearly as much as Amazon or Starbucks.)

Protesters in New York, supporting Amazon and Starbucks workers, called on companies to work to break up the unions. Photo: Yuki Iwamura / AFP / Getty Images

The lawyer admitted that young workers “challenge the government” more than their parents’ generation. “I think workers are more skeptical of what people are saying. They may be more inclined to challenge than in the past. “

A second lawyer, a partner in one of the leading national anti-union law firms, also insisted on anonymity, saying workers’ intelligent use of social media had undermined efforts to avoid unions. “The Internet and social media have made employees much more understandable,” he said. “They manage to communicate better with each other and see different sources of information. I think social media has changed – and maybe leveled – the playing field. “

Rebecca Givan, a professor of labor research at Rutgers, said: “Young workers are more excited to talk and oppose them, such as speaking in a captivating meeting with the audience, challenging the alleged facts in a presentation. These are really new things. “

The young workers are too young to remember how Ronald Reagan broke up the air traffic controllers’ union. Many were encouraged by Bernie Sanders and the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements. Many young workers feel angry and pressured by high student debts and rising rents.

Givan said social media has helped workers get vaccinated against union counselors: “When workers can quickly share anti-union talk and see that they use the same arguments in different companies and jobs, that everything is a cookie cutter. everything from the same book shows how tired their tactics and rhetoric are. “

Richard Bensinger, an organizer at Workers United who helped lead the Starbucks union campaign, said the new technology has helped overcome advisers who avoid unions. “I don’t think we could do this without Zoom and virtual meetings and partners talking to partners,” he said. (Partners is the term Starbucks uses to describe its employees.) So far, workers have voted in favor of unionization in 18 of 19 Starbucks, where votes have been counted and workers in more than 200 Starbucks have petitioned for election. for syndication.

“As for inoculation, we get Samantha from the New York Roastery, who has just voted in favor of unionization, talking to people at Starbucks in Austin, Texas, telling them what to expect from anti-union people,” Bensinger said. .

Some Amazon and Starbucks workers used TikTok to issue their pro-union message, and WhatsApp and Telegram used it to spread the word and answer workers’ questions.

Bensinger said anti-union counselors and lawyers are still very effective, but often fail. He noted that in a Buffalo Starbucks, 100% of workers signed pro-union cards, but the union only won 15 out of 9. He said solidarity and activism among young workers was key to the victory of lawyers and counselors against unions.

“Young workers will take so much,” he said. A Montana worker told me, “I only make $ 11 an hour and make a fortune for Howard Schultz.” Unions are their great hope today. “

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