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Proud to be Union? How Unions Decimate Small Family-owned Businesses

As perverted as this may seem, there is almost no company that is too small to become a target of a union, as long as there are at least two employees.

Even worse, adding to the already-lengthy trail of industrial carnage left by unions, American labor law gives today’s unions the right to destroy small companies under the guise of unionizing employees. This is particularly true in the construction industry where, all too often, unions and their unionized employers compete for work against non-union companies in a Darwinian death dance.

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Very often, because of their costly benefits and often-underfunded pension plans, union contractors fail to get the work while non-union contractors get the work. This leaves union tradesmen unemployed–sitting “on the bench.”

With less construction being done these days, the high rate of unemployment among construction unions has led many of them to target non-union contractors for the sole purpose of unionizing them in order to get the work. In other words, because they already have enough unemployed members, they don’t want the workers–they want their work.

One of the more insidious ways that unions are allowed to unionize companies is through the practice of “salting.” Salting is the union tactic of sending one or more union members into a non-union company for the sole purpose of unionizing the company from within.

A union salt’s job is to infiltrate, as well as to spy on the company and its employees, to report back to the union bosses, as well as agitate and unionize the workers. Then, once the job of unionizing the company is finished, the salt typically moves on–often to the next vulnerable company.

According to this IBEW website:

“Salting” is the deliberate act of getting a job at a specific workplace with the intent to organize a union. Most union campaigns start with a lone individual or small group of individuals with no union experience deciding to organize a union from scratch. Sometimes, a union campaign can be strengthened if you know of a friend with union organizing experience. By applying for open positions at your workplace, your friend can secretly help you organize your workplace. There are other circumstances where salting is used.

[snip]

  • Salting is systematically placing our union members on nonunion job sites for the purpose of organizing.
  • Salting is a federally protected activity that ensures the right to organize
  • Salting is when a member keeps a daily log book
  • Salting is when a member compiles a list of all ongoing job
  • Salting is when a member compiles a list of all employees
  • Salting is when a member listens to the concern of other employees
  • Salting is when a member participates in concerted activities. i.e.: passing around a petition to better conditions on the job
  • Salting is when a member polices unfair labor practices, wage and code violations
  • Salting is when a member comes off the job when the organizing campaign is over

For more IBEW salting tactics, go here.

While the practice often happens to small companies here in the U.S., here is how “salting” affected one husband and wife who became the target of the IBEW in Canada.

Arc Electrical Ltd. is a small company run by a young couple from their home, where babies and bookkeeping occupy the president, Bridget Carey, better known as Mom.

It grew from nothing in 2007 to have six employees and total work in 2009 in the $600,000 range, led by Bridget’s husband Andy Nita, 36, also an instructor at Algonquin College.

The future looked bright.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, meanwhile, is the largest union of electricians in the world, with 725,000 members, and an Ottawa local with a high-profile membership drive underway.

In the fall of 2009, the IBEW tried to unionize the workers at Arc Electrical.

There is no other way to describe the outcome than a complete mess, so bad it was raised on the floor of the Ontario legislature.

To an outsider, it’s a story full of shocking twists and turns. “I was,” concludes Nita, “just blown away.”

To fast-forward to the end:

  • The vote, after fits and starts, ended up deadlocked at 3-3, meaning the application failed, but not before it cost Arc about $60,000 in legal fees and substitute labour costs.
  • The couple suspect Arc was “salted” by the IBEW, meaning a pro-union worker was directed there, with the express purpose of organizing the remaining staff.
  • Because the three pro-union workers left shortly after the vote, Nita had to scramble to fulfill his contracts, working 18-hour days for about a month straight, with a pregnant wife at home.
  • In their words, Arc has been “decimated” and is now down to Nita and a part-time apprentice.
  • Battered by the experience, Nita decided to take a full-time job at Algonquin, rather than risk waging war with the IBEW again.
  • The divisions over union membership are so deep that Nita says he’s been the target of veiled threats by IBEW members in his own classroom.

“It knocked us back right to the beginning,” said Nita. “We’ve lost two years of time invested.”

Read more of the Carey’s story here.

While unions here in the U.S. already win around two-thirds of the elections to unionize companies, Democrats in control of Congress have tried pass a law called the Employee Free Choice Act, which would effectively eliminate secret-ballot elections. If EFCA gets passed in Congress, President Obama has repeatedly said he would sign it into law.

Instead of trying to change the laws to make it easier for unions to use deceitful tactics like “salting,” perhaps its time to further look into unions and the dirty bag of tricks they use on workers and companies.

Until then, as unions work to put small, family-owned companies like the Carey’s out of business, instead of being “proud to be union,” they really should be ashamed of themselves.

__________________

“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776

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