Commentary by Adam Michel
For full analysis of the manual see the Washington Times’ Labor’s New Strategy: Intimidation for Dummies
See the manual in its entirety here.
In March 2011, the catering company Sodexo Inc. sued the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) for alleged “intimidation, threats, and other extortionate tactics” as part of an organizing campaign. During the suit’s discovery process, SEIU was forced to turn over its Contract Campaign Manual, which details the union’s strategies for attacking an employer’s reputation, its relationship with its customers and vendors, and even its managers personally. The Competitive Enterprise Institute obtained a copy of the manual from the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system. The following quotes are directly from the SEIU manual.
In the section “Pressuring the Employer,” the manual makes the distinction between being right and having “might.” To gain might, the SEIU manual suggests:
- Outside pressure can involve jeopardizing relationships between the employer and lenders, investors, stockholders, customers, clients, patients, tenants, politicians, or others on whom the employer depends for funds.
- Legal and regulatory pressure can threaten the employer with costly action by government agencies or the courts.
- Community action and use of the news media can damage an employer’s public image and ties with community leaders and organizations.
- Assume that pressure tactics will be necessary and start planning for them in advance.
- Distract management officials from other work they need to do?
- Embarrass them in front of their superiors, associates, families, neighbors, or friends in the community?
The section titled “Outside Pressure” details how the union can broaden contract campaigns to threaten the employer’s relationship with the greater community, business partners, government, and the media. This involves working with third-party groups that may be sympathetic to the union’s agenda but lie outside of organized labor—including environmental, human rights, and self-styled consumer advocates. These other groups can help the union exert pressure on the employer from many directions, and therefore disrupt many aspects of the business.
- An employer may depend on lenders, investors, customers, clients, tenants, patients, or government agencies to provide funds. The most effective outside pressure tactics are often those which could put that flow of funds in jeopardy.
- Individual owners and management officials typically value their time, reputations, and privacy. Tactics which distract them from their primary duties and draw public attention to their activities may help pressure them to reach a fair settlement.
The “Legal and Regulatory” section advises union members to find areas where their employer has violated the law even if the violations are not related to any contract issues. These can include regulatory violations related to safety, health, discrimination, wage, contracting, and disabled access. If the union members cannot find any violations, SEIU will provide an investigator. The goal is for the business to face:
- Extra expense to meet regulatory requirements or qualify for necessary permits or licenses.
- Costly delays in operations while those requirements are met.
- Fines or other penalties for violating legal obligations.
- Damage to the employer’s public image, which could jeopardize political or community support, which in turn could mean less business or public funding.
The section on “Political/Legislative Pressure” suggests using political action as a bargaining chip.
[Y]ou can show management officials that, if they don’t bargain fairly, union members will be more inclined to push for legislative action on other issues that would affect management. For example, management may find that angry union members and their allies are preparing to mobilize for changes in the way employers are taxed, awarded public funds, or required to provide service.
The following sections describe further pressure tactics, including finding dirt on individual officials in order to disrupt the workplace and shame managers within their community and even harassing managers at home.
Pressure On Individual Officials One way to encourage management decision makers to be more reasonable is to make life more difficult for them as individuals. This kind of strategy is most effective if you can identify the key individuals with the power to bring about a settlement. These might include top executives, negotiators, labor relations directors, stockholders, or members of the board of directors. Pressure on these individuals can take several forms.
Disruption Key management officials may find that they or their staffs are unable to do their normal work because they must spend so much time responding to the union campaign. Tactics such as mass visits or sit-ins in management offices or large numbers of phone calls protesting management practices can help make top officials long for labor peace.
Publicity in the community Many top management officials care about their image as individuals in the community and among business associates. They may not want publicity about their involvement in controversial policies or activities. If they have built a good reputation through involvement in community service or religious organizations, for example, both they and those groups may find it potentially embarrassing to be linked to racism, sexism, exploitation of immigrants, or proposals that would take money out of the community for the benefits of distant stockholders. Leafleting outside meetings where they are speaking, their homes, or events sponsored by community organizations they are tied to are some ways to make sure their friends, neighbors, and associates are aware of the controversy. [Emphasis added.]
Investigations of individual managers It may be a violation of blackmail and extortion laws to threaten management officials with release of “dirt” about them if they don’t settle a contract. But there is no law against union members who are angry at their employer deciding to uncover and publicize factual information about individual managers.
A particularly striking section calls on union members to consider breaking the law in contract campaigns when they deem it necessary. (The manual describes a lawyer’s role in this context as not to make decisions regarding when to follow the law, but only to tell union campaigners what the law is.)
Union members sometimes must act in the tradition of Dr. Marin Luther King and Mohatma Gandhi [sic] and disobey laws which are used to enforce injustice against working people.
The section “Using the Media” instructs union activists to find any other organizations in the community that already have disputes with their employer in order to take advantage of their previous research. Such organizations can include environmental groups, student organizations, consumer groups, women, minorities, poor people, senior citizens, and doctors. The manual then outlines how to publicize any information which could be harmful to the employer or to individual managers.
Using the media can put pressure on the employer and support all of the other tactics discussed in this part of the manual. For example, media coverage and advertising can help to…
- Give customers, clients, investors, and other in the community reasons to cut off economic ties with the employer. Media attention can convince the community of the justice of your cause, or can make businesses or individuals feel that they don’t want to be involved with the employer while it is getting such bad publicity.
- Encourage politicians and regulatory agencies to take actions that support your campaign or to at least stay neutral. They may be influenced by knowing that the voters are learning from the media.
- Encourage members of other [unions] and other community groups to get involved in strike support activities. They are more likely to help if they are frequently reminded through the media of your struggle.
Make individual managers nervous about the effect bad publicity may have on their careers and reputations. If they see that you have the ability to use the media successfully, they may worry that you will be able to publicize unfavorable information about their activities.
There is more in the manual that should be startling to those who believe that SEIU specifically – and unions in general – play fair. It provides an eye-opening look into union strategies and tactics that in many cases translate into open warfare on American businesses.