If a union is not successful in getting a company to agree to unionize they know how to unleash methodology that is hard to refuse. This involves lodging complaints that the company has violated federal regulations and industry guidelines. To combat these accusations, the company will most likely have to go to court and hire public relations strategists. Both are costly, and divert attention from running the business.
If you are scrutinizing a company with hundreds of employees it is reasonable to assume that you will uncover labor law violations and an immigrant worker with bogus documents. This is a likelihood in any large industry; witch hunts uncover witches[i].
The company will be penalized and fined[ii], and the NCCs (noncompliance citations) will be broadcast to the public as evidence regarding how Machiavellian the company is and proof that unionization is indicated. Through the Freedom of Information Act, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union was able to acquire any damaging report that was lodged against Agri which they publicized at press conferences.
For example, on August 10, 2007, assistant director of the UFCW Strategic Resources Department, Jim Blau announced, “We find the USDA safety reports on this plant alarming… Over two-hundred and fifty non-compliance records were issued by the Food Safety and Inspection Service to Agriprocessors, between January 1, 2006 and January 24, 2007. The documents revealed numerous violations that may have increased the risk to consumers of possible food-borne illnesses. Documents also show repeated problems with plant monitoring for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or ‘mad cow’ disease… The pattern and scope of violations at Agriprocessors need to be addressed.”
The union organized class action lawsuits against the company. On October 17, 2007 a lawsuit was filed alleging that Agriprocessors had not compensated workers for the time they spend preparing for work at the beginning of the day and cleaning up at the end of it. The UFCW threatened that not only will they fight those who refuse to unionize in courts, but they will also lobby the government.
On November 13, 2008 Michael J. Wilson, International Vice President and Director of Legislative and Political Action at the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union complained to the Department of Labor, “American businesses are bilking millions of working Americans out of billions in wages every year. Conservative estimates place the sum of illegally withheld wages at $20 billion. Millions of Americans are denied overtime, forced to work off the clock, and unjustly docked pay. American workers reasonably expect that the laws governing wages passed by the United States Congress and state legislatures will be respected by their employers. They expect that they shouldn’t have to go to court to collect the paychecks they’ve earned.”
And who might these violators be? Right at the top of the UFCW list was: “Agriprocessors, Inc., one of the largest kosher meatpacking plants in the country, [that] illegally charged more than 2,000 workers for required uniforms and safety gear, and withheld final paychecks from dozens of employees.”
The Union galvanized key allies such as Iowa’s powerful Labor Commissioner, Dave Neil who had a strong union past as the former statewide United Auto Workers leader. There was no love lost between Neil and Rubashkin, and there was plenty that the former could do about it[iii]. The union was also able to reach out to congressmen eager for union support in an election year[iv].
Pursuing a policy of no holds barred, the Union even took the trouble to launch the following website for the convenience of those who sought Agri’s downfall: www.eyeonagriprocessors.com.
As the union pursues it’s strategy of financially crippling the non-unionized company with lawsuits, it also conducts a smear campaign to rile the public. Thus the mighty Union joined collaborative hands with PETA, The Forward and Magen Tzedek.
To be continued.
Chodesh tov – have a pleasant month!
[i] Regulation is so out of control in American that any businessman, at any given time, is almost certainly guilty of noncompliance with a number of federal regulations. It is beyond human ability to be familiar with the tens of thousands of OSHA, EPA, IRS and other regulations. “The unions realize this, indeed, they lobbied for many of the regulations in the first place,” notes the Wall Street Journal as quoted by Yated Ne’eman, ibid.
[iii] Interview with family on July 8, 2015
[iv] Interview with family on July 8, 2015