Merger Mania: The Corporate Union Response To Failure
By Mike Griffin
Everywhere we look these days unions are merging and in most cases, the mergers make little sense. Union mergers are the result of ineffective and incompetent leadership who have shown little imagination and no success in organizing new members. Like the corporate merger, union mergers provide a vehicle to save the huge salaries and perks business union leaders lavish themselves with. Golden parachutes are not reserved entirely for the rich and ruthless; but abound in union mergers as well. Often those who will be second fiddle in the New Organization find it easy to take care of themselves and their friends for a lifetime at the expense of their membership. The dues machine is a virtual cash cow for union thugs who fail to consider the needs of their members and who could, quite frankly, care less.
One argument for merger that tickles my funny bone is, as one big union we will have more strength and more power. It is the most commonly used and most fraudulent. That statement implies that leadership will use the members power and they are willing to fight for their members. I have never seen a merger followed by a legitimate struggle. In fact, most mergers are vehicles to rob the rank and file of a voice in how their unions are run and in every case; the members are moved further from fundamental union valuesdemocracy and involvement. The merger, while rank and file members may see it as positive, has only one function for leaders of the unions involved. Since organizing has failed miserably, the only way to sustain the treasury that pays for lucrative salaries, retirements and benefits, is to merge and suck up the dues from members of another union.
The wages for selling the merger by leaders of the subordinate union can be hefty and quite often are. Many leaders and staffers will get lifetime jobs. The higher up the corporate union ladder you are, the better your rewards, whether there is a legitimate need for your position or not. For those who sell the merger to the membership but do not want to stay, golden parachutes abound, just like a corporate merger. The leadership involved in mergers has one objective; to save the union, for themselves. Protect the cash cow at all costs.
Examples of mergers that hurt the members are endless. One example I was involved in was the merger between the AIWA (Allied Industrial Workers of America) and the UPIU (United Paperworkers International Union) in 1993 during one of the most prominent struggles in decades between AIWA local 837 and AE Staley in Decatur IL. The AFGM (Grain Millers) was an obvious choice but was run with an iron fist by its president and it too was slowly wasting away. Nick Serraglio, AIWA president met with the UPIU and crafted a deal that took care of himself and his top lieutenants. The members had little information about the Paperworkers and the merger passed. Had they known the real history of the Paperworkers, it probably would not have gone through. The UPIU President, Wayne Glenn vowed to pour resources in to the Decatur struggle, but almost immediately, there were signs that painted a different picture. In the end the UPIU undermined the struggle and used per capita blackmail to force the AFL-CIO to assist in putting the three and one half year struggle to bed.
Glenn had a history of betrayals; most notable was the International Paper (IP) struggle that left hundreds of union families standing on the outside looking in at scabs that permanently replaced them. Glenn, without a vote of the members, surrendered to IP. Glenn, retired shortly after betraying the Staley struggle as President Emeritus for life, then went on to become an arbitrator; a deal he cut with the Clinton Administration during the lockout. After leading two pickets at the UPIU headquarters in Nashville Tennessee, and threatened with arrest by GlennI hope I never have arbitration with Glenn at the table.
After Glenn retired and his automatic successor Boyd Young took the helm, a merger was crafted with the OCAW (Oil Chemical and Atomic Workers). In that merger, the sellers did quite well but the members of the OCAW lost a most precious commodity, democracy. The rank and file elected top leaders in the OCAW, and the OCAW was known as a progressive union, even sponsoring the birth of the Labor Party. All that is gone now and the members have little voice.
Is bigger better? PACE (Paper Allied Chemical and Energy) as it is now called, workers have taken a beating across the board. If there is real strength in numbers, someone forgot to tell the misleadership of PACE. It is amazing how hard the corporate-union bureaucrats will fight their members and local unions, but have no such energy for the bosses.
Recent mergers that trouble me, and in fact are still taking shape, are the mergers between the rail unions and the Teamsters. Somebody didnt do his or her homework on this one. While both are in the transportation industry, there are red flags all over the place. For years the BLE (Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers), the Signalmans Union, Maintenance of Way who repair tracks and UTU (United Transportation Union) have flirted with mergers without ever reaching a compromise that would have benefited the members and given rail employees enormous bargaining powerif that power were ever to be used.
The internal haggling over whom retained power, what bureaucrats kept their jobs and big salaries and benefits, crippled the hope of creating a vibrant union capable of taking on the rail industry. The result has been that almost every contract for more than twenty years has been settled by government referees, and always in favor of rails ruthless employers. Those efforts were never about the members, but little kingdoms dominated by corporate unionists whose thirst for personal power came first.
Degeneration of the Teamsters under Hoffa
So what is wrong with the Teamsters? Everything! Teamster President James Hoffa Jr. was the governments choice to run the union. Ron Carey, former President of the Teamsters, was taken out of office and banned from the Teamsters for life, based on the assumption that he must have known about election violations. Carey has since been vindicated by a Grand Jury in New York but is still banned from membership. The action by the Independent Review Board to remove Carey was an unbelievable injustice and must be considered illegal. In spite of the fact there were several election violations from Hoffas camp, he was allowed to remain.
Hoffas alleged ties to mob corruption made no difference and in fact, may have been why a corrupt government made him their choice. Such misleaders are easier to control. The main purpose for removing Carey was his success in the UPS strike and his militant efforts to halt Mexican trucks from entering the U.S. under NAFTA, a direct threat to the globalists who control our government. It is suspicious that as the Teamsters entered negotiations with Anhauser Busch in a major fight, Carey was removed. On that Independent Review Board sat William Webster, former CIA director and Federal Judge, and attorney representing Anhauser Busch for more than forty years.
Hoffa, after taking the helm, caved in to Anhauser Busch in what could have been an easy victory. Everywhere the Teamsters Union has been challenged, Hoffa leadership has caved, and in some cases where local leaders wanted to fight, the Teamsters took the locals into receivership. Of the major gains in the UPS victory, the most important was language that required UPS to make full-time employees out of temps, creating thousands of full-time jobs. Hoffa has not enforced those provisions.
Careys efforts to reform the Teamsters were hamstrung by the lack of finances as most of the wealth in the Teamsters was controlled by powerful Joint Councilsrun with an iron fist by Old guard goons of very questionable character, many of them Hoffa cronies. There are many more reasons why these are bad mergers that will never benefit the rank and file. The Teamsters efforts to organize new members in transportation have been laughable at best. The failed Overnight Trucking campaign is one example. Consolidated freight is another. Consolidated was union and one of the Teamsters prize possessions, but was allowed by the old guard to double-breast1 in the eighties, with the non-union side being Conway. Last year Consolidated moved its assets to Conway, and went out of business at Consolidated, leaving many teamsters without jobs.
There was no fight from Hoffas camp. The Teamsters most cherished division, Master Freight, is in serious trouble. It is literally bleeding to death in terms of jobs. With that, goes the stability of the Teamster pension fund, leaving many longtime drivers short on retirement as well as short of retirement.
Mergers represent many pitfalls for the members of unions involved. The members never benefit from mergers, only those who use the power of their office and spin system to deceive those they have an obligation to represent. Union mergers are just as ruthless and corrupt as corporate mergers and are carried for the same purpose. It is always the employees who suffer in the corporate world and members in the union. There is no difference between the CEO of a corporation and top leaders of our unions today, except, union bureaucrats are a little more dishonest about what they are doing.
From The Warzone, June 15, 2004
1 Double-breasting is the practice in which a unionized company has established a non-union spin-off company and is, in essence, operating as both union and non-union at the same time without the consent of the disenfranchised union members.