NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Union Organizing Tactics Include Intimidation, Say Critics

April 26, 2004

The Teamsters and UNITE, a union representing garment industry workers, have decided to go outside the traditional channels to unionize Cintas, a provider of uniforms and laundry services. Cintas has over 27,000 employees and 14 manufacturing sites in the United States and Canada, including Michigan.

Ordinarily, when a union seeks to represent a group of workers, it looks to gather support of 30 percent of its workers and file a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The employer may then call for a secret ballot vote to determine representation or outright agree to recognize the union on its own.

According Paul Kersey of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, union organizers in Michigan are not looking to generate support among Cintas workers, but rather to launch a campaign of intimidation:

  • In order to damage public reputation, unions are approaching religious, social and political groups in the hopes of convincing them Cintas is engaged in unfair and anti-union activity.
  • Unions are approaching Cintas clients, such as Starbucks coffee, to get them to stop using Cintas services.

These methods, referred to as a "corporate campaign" can inflict heavy damage:

  • A Michigan campaign directed at the Family Foods grocery chain contributed to its bankruptcy just three years later.
  • The Teamsters and UNITE want to use these same tactics to force Cintas to recognize the union rather than oppose it.

Kersey suggests the reason union leaders are resorting to intimidation is because support for unions is falling across the state. For example, between 1992 and 2002, unions in Michigan lost 80,000 members while the state added 400,000 jobs.

Source: Paul Kersey, "Let Cintas Workers Make Up Their Own Minds," Viewpoint on Public Issues No. 2004-03, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, January 6, 2004.

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