TV'S JAY LENO
HELPS BUST UNION BUSTERS
By Jane Williams
PAI Staff Writer
LAS VEGAS (PAI) -- Unionists have a good reason to watch "The Tonight Show". Its host, comedian Jay Leno, just busted the number-one union busting law firm, Jackson, Lewis, out of a lucrative deal.
Leno was scheduled to appear at the Society of Human Resource Management's annual convention in Las Vegas on June 25-28 - that is until union research Rick Rehberg found out about it. Rehberg, a corporate researcher for the Food & Allied Service Trades, an AFL-CIO department, kept coming across Jackson, Lewis in the 25 or so union campaigns he's worked on.
That's not surprising since the notorious law firm has defeated organizing drives in over 30 states. And they've done it mean and dirty. For example, the New York Daily News reported the law firm was responsible for setting up armed guards at factory gates in at least three states to stop union organizing campaigns. And Jackson, Lewis routinely advises companies to set up forced overtime when union meetings are scheduled, watch workers during break time to detect potential organizing drives, and prohibit workers' communication to thwart the distribution of union material.
Companies pay big money to Jackson, Lewis and other union busters for exactly that kind of information. In fact, union busting is a billion dollar industry. Jackson, Lewis charges $1,200 to $1,600 a person for running seminars titled, "How to Stay Union Free in Today's Era of Corporate Campaigns" and "Best Employer Practices to Stay Union Free in the Millennium". But thanks to Leno, Jackson, Lewis, won't be garnering a hefty check at this year's SHRM conference.
It began when Rehberg saw the seminar, "How to Stay Union Free" on SHRM's convention website, along with its agenda that included Leno as a speaker. While the Jackson, Lewis seminar didn't surprise Rehberg, Leno's participation in the conference did. "I just thought there is no way Leno knows this is going on," said Rehberg, who quickly developed a plan to contact him. With a few well-placed phone calls, which included the United Food and Commercial Workers contacting AFTRA, Leno was on board. And Rehberg said, "He went above and beyond what we were asking him to do."
The unions wanted Leno to announce his support for the right to organize before or after his performance at the conference. Instead Leno, who discovered not one, but two anti-union seminars given by Jackson, Lewis, informed SHRM that he would cancel his appearance if it held either of those seminars. SHRM immediately conceded and canceled the seminars. Reneberg notes it was quite a coup considering SHRM's Chair of the Board, Michael J. Lotito, is a partner at Jackson, Lewis.
In a terse statement SHRM said it "shared Jay Leno's disappointment at being placed in this situation by third parties." But Leno's union, AFTRA, quickly corrected SHRM's spin. "He is, in fact, a standup guy on union issues consistently" said Paul Worthman, director of organizing at AFTRA. Rehberg was delighted with the result, but thinks there's a bigger lesson to be learned.
He applauds the AFL-CIO's union buster website where organizers can share information about specific union busters' tactics, but thinks unions should aggressively go after them. "Do those employers who would like to think of themselves as 'progressive' really want to hire a union buster who uses shotgun slinging guards to stop the union?" Rehberg asks. The overwhelming anti-union tactics used by most employers suggest, yes, they would. But Rehberg points out union busters use sophisticated tactics to ingratiate themselves with clients. For example, union busters keep a close eye on National Labor Relations Board petitions, and once one is filed a company may receive a barrage of seemingly benign letters from union busting law firms saying they are experts on "labor relations."
That's why Rehberg insists, its critical to publicize exactly what these law firms do, And hold organizations such as SHRM responsible for hosting these kinds of seminars. SHRM, says Rehberg, "Sounds legitimate but through its relationship with Jackson Lewis it is a human rights violator. It provides a respectable front for some very dirty practices."