Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

UFCW and the Art of the “Corporate Campaign”

It’s something of a labor buff’s term: “corporate campaign.” All it really means is that a union or other activist group looking to extort some benefit from a company will pretty much do or say anything to keep chipping away at a firm’s reputation. When the company can’t take the heat any longer, it gives up. If it’s labor bosses who are conducting the campaign, the typical spoils of war are new dues (and the members who pay them).

A leader in the race to the ethical bottom is the United Food and Commercial Workers brass. They are currently running campaigns against the retailer Wal-Mart, food company Smithfield, and now against Tesco, a British retailer looking to open shop in America.

The UK’s Independent newspaper reports on UFCW’s campaign, explaining:

The leading US shop workers union has sent flyers to thousands of homes in Phoenix, Arizona that suggest Tesco sells alcohol to minors. The leaflets, distributed by the local branch of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, call on residents to “protect your family” by urging the State Liquor Board to block Tesco’s alcohol licence applications. The move is part of a broader union campaign to force Tesco to talk to it …

For Tesco, this makes it a perfect destination for its Fresh and Easy neighbourhood market chain, which is expected to spark a revolution in US convenience shopping by offering high-end ready meals and fresh food. It also makes the residents unlikely union sympathisers, hence the threat of underage drinking at the heart of UFCW’s campaign.

For people who truly want to see a reformed labor movement, this kind of disingenuous campaign is disheartening. And it explains why the UFCW leaders in particular are so out of touch with the rest of the country.

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