Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Dealing with Union Intimidation, Kansas Style

Unions in the construction and contracting sectors (especially the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners) are well-known for attempting to intimidate businesses that hire non-unionized contractors. Even though the National Labor Relations Act forbids secondary pickets (protesting against third-party businesses that deal with a non-union company), Carpenters locals and councils are permitted (under a 2010 NLRB decision joined by ex-SEIU and AFL-CIO lawyer Craig Becker) to display a stationary banner stating “Shame On” the third-party business.

There’s a reason that over 80 percent of Americans favor the Employee Rights Act (ERA) provision to protect employee privacy from union organizers: Unions pressure and intimidate opponents as a matter of course. Most say little, but Carpenters Local 201 in Wichita, Kansas probably did not expect one business to fight back cleverly:

Subaru of Wichita Unbeatable Prices

The Carpenters’ sign is on the left, and the dealership’s is on the right. We’ve noted Carpenters Local 201’s campaign before: KWCH-TV tried to figure out what the particulars of the “Labor Dispute” were, and the union clammed up.

In a way, Carpenters 201’s decline parallels the decline of organized labor in the private sector nationally. In 2000, Local 201 reported 385 members. Last year, that number had more than halved, with the union declaring 148 members. And rather than reforming its practices to stay competitive in a changing world, nationally the Carpenters chose to go radical (quitting the AFL-CIO to join the more militant SEIU-led Change to Win alliance in 2005 only to leave in 2009) and double down on intimidation tactics.

It hasn’t worked. It is now past time for the labor movement to realize that only by introducing real accountability into labor organizations and establishing the democratic secret ballot as the decision-making vehicle that unions have any chance of saving themselves. Union households know this, which is why nearly 80 percent support the ERA’s provisions. It’s time for union leadership to come to the realization themselves.

Categories: Anti-Corporate CampaignsCenter for Union FactsEmployee Rights Act