Change To Win racketeers ape organized crime

Bashas' has just slapped the United Food and Commercial Workers with a defamation lawsuit, which the union has bemoaned on these very pages. To understand why Bashas' is going to court, look at what the UFCW is doing not just in Arizona but all across the nation.

For over a decade, the UFCW attempted to unionize non-union employees at places like Bashas' and Wal-Mart the old-fashioned way - persuading employees and filing for secret-ballot unionization elections with the federal government - all to no avail. The UFCW's failure to win elections at Wal-Mart and other targets prompted union President Joe Hansen to lament, "We can't win that way anymore."

So the union tried a new tactic.

Once it became apparent the union couldn't win an election with confidential voting at Wal-Mart, it decided in 2005 to form Wake Up Wal-Mart, a non-profit with a rousing name aimed at making people think the retailer is bad for America. The goal was to drive away business and encourage the company to support the unionization campaign.

Having cut its teeth attacking Wal-Mart's reputation, a year later, the UFCW launched a similar campaign against Smithfield Foods in North Carolina, the nation's leading pork processor. The union is again attacking a company's reputation with phony claims until it agrees to an organizing method slanted in the union's favor and against employee rights. Smithfield has struck back with a lawsuit alleging racketeering and defamation.

The union has an equally cynical campaign against Bashas', with an equally cynical name: "Hungry for Respect."

But now, the UFCW's hunger for member dues money has taken it to the courtroom. Again.

Bashas' has accused the UFCW of planting outdated baby formula in the company's stores, a claim that echoes the union's conduct in a similar pressure campaign against the non-union Food Lion supermarket chain. The UFCW's "story" of food mishandling and unfair labor practices at the chain was fed to ABC News for a 1992 story, which cost ABC a major lawsuit after a judge found no evidence of wrongdoing by the company.

The UFCW's lawsuit count may be unusual, but its methods aren't; its fellow unions in the national Change to Win coalition employ the same shady tactics (and face similar lawsuits).

If labor organizations keep trying to force business owners to help extort union dues from their employees, the racketeering and defamation charges will keep piling up. And organized labor will once again start to look more like organized crime.

- Jonathan Berry is a research analyst at the Center for Union Facts.


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