The labor union movement is dead in the water.
What’s the best way to revive it?
Corporate campaigns ? targeting a company’s corporate, financial and political ties.
Fighting power with power.
That’s the take of Ray Rogers.
He knows how to do it.
He’s the founder and executive director of Corporate Campaign Inc. in New York City.
And he’s deployed corporate campaigns successfully over the years.
Against Farah Clothing.
Against JP Stevens.
Against Campbell’s Soup.
And now against Coca Cola ? what Rogers calls his Killer Coke campaign.
The idea is to hold Coca Cola, its bottlers and subsidiaries accountable and to end the gruesome cycle of violence and collaboration with paramilitary thugs, particularly in Colombia.
Rogers says that the atrocities include the systematic intimidation, kidnaping, torture and murder of union leaders and members of their families in efforts to crush their unions.
Rogers says that despite his successes, the AFL has put him on a blacklist.
“A lot of union leaders feel more comfortable riding on a corporate jet than they do sitting down with rank and file workers,” Rogers told Corporate Crime Reporter in an interview last week.
“They are totally disconnected from the rank and file worker.”
“It might be also about control.”
“They love to control everything.”
“Let’s look at the AFL over history.”
“Richard Trumka, when he first became Secretary Treasurer, I gave him some credit because of his work with the mine workers. But as a leader of the AFL-CIO, he’s been a total flop.”
“Who was before Richard Trumka?”
“John Sweeney. John Sweeney would make a great Santa Claus, but not a great union leader.”
“Before him was Lane Kirkland. Lane Kirkland was appointed by George Meany.”
“It’s been said that George Meany never walked a picket line.”
The nastiness between Rogers and the AFL hit a peak when Rogers started organizing in Minnesota for Hormel workers.
“The corrupt union leadership at the Union Food and Commercial Workers Union, along with the AFL-CIO and Lane Kirkland ? they decided they were going to destroy me and my reputation,” Rogers said.
“And they spent millions of dollars trying to do it.”
How did they do it?
“Vicki Frankovich was the head of a flight attendants’ union for TWA,” Rogers said.
“I went to see her. They were in a big dispute. They were an independent union. Even union leaders who wanted to hire me felt threatened because I was on the blacklist.”
“She said ? Ray ? I knew you from the Stevens campaign, I respect your work, I could really use your help. She said ? you can’t believe ? here I am not even an AFL-CIO affiliate, and during that Hormel struggle, I would be getting mailings just trying to destroy you as a human being, destroy your reputation, destroy your credibility.”
“I involve the rank and file,” Rogers says.
“The major unions ? the only way they want to employ the rank and file is when they want to call them out to some demonstration. They get up and give another speech. Unfortunately, that is not going to build the labor movement.”
“I say to the rank and file ? you have all of the knowledge, skills and imagination we need to carry out a winning strategy. We can work with you to develop a winning strategy.”
“We know how to do the research and analysis, then sit down and knock out a campaign that you can carry out. And then what we have to do is recognize that we have to organize the power that we have.”
“I sit down with workers and say ? what we are involved with is a power struggle. And your struggle is not just against one entity ? corporation X. But it’s against an integral web of powerful banks, insurance companies and political interests.”
“We have to understand how to build a strategy and build the power to take that on.”
“There is a great deal of power in the collective mobilization and strategic deployment of workers’ knowledge, skills, imagination, energies, bank accounts, pension investments, insurance policies ? you name it.”
“We have to go out and mobilize that power that is being used against you. And when we talk about your energies, we need to start deploying you throughout the communities, the states, the country, and around the world, if we have to, to build the power that you need to take on whoever you are taking on.”
“You are not just taking on one entity, but there are many entities helping to starve you into submission. When we did the Hormel thing, we had a corrupt national union that was trying to destroy a local union. The international union demanded that the local just keep taking concessions because the national union had no answers for their problems. And they lied and lied and lied.”
Russell Mokhiber edits the Corporate Crime Reporter.