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Connecting the Blogs on Labor’s Supply Chain Attacks

By Joel Anderson | 05/29/2012 | 6:14 AM

In previous blog postings I have discussed unwarranted attacks on our industry by leftwing front groups for the labor unions who have targeted the third-party warehouse industry in Illinois, New Jersey and California.

At IWLA we felt, the campaigns were too similar in action and words to not be orchestrated from a single source. All of these attacks had two things in common: They target temporary employment in the warehouse industry as being inherently abusive, and all accuse Walmart by name of forcing third-party warehouses to resort to these abusive employment practices even when the retail giant is not one of their customers. This has made these campaigns appear like the union front groups were simply targeting warehouse operators in order to continue waging their so-far unsuccessful war on Walmart by other means.

Some readers may have thought I was being paranoid, or at the very least exaggerating the extent and aim of this conspiracy. If so, you should take a close look at an article published at the end of March by Labor Notes, which is the name of both a monthly magazine of the union movement and an organization that holds annual union organizer meetings and training conferences.

Titled “Supply Chain Workers Test Strength of Links,” it appears on the Labor Notes website here: http://labornotes.org/2012/03/supply-chain-workers-test-strength-links.

See if the author’s lead sentence doesn’t chill you: “Workers in the nation’s sprawling distribution network hold enormous potential power. They bring $622 billion of goods each year from abroad to retail shelves. A work stoppage in any section of the interlinked network—dock workers, railroad workers, truck drivers, warehouse workers, store workers—could shut off the spigot of goods that keep consumers happy and keep profits churning through the supply chain.”

The article cites wildcat and other strikes by the longshoremen’s union and Teamsters as examples of how a coordinated cross-modal union action could bring the U.S. economy to a halt. The article then discusses coordinated efforts to organize warehouse workers in what it identifies as “three crucial hubs” – the Inland Empire area of California, warehouses southwest of Chicago, and distribution centers along the New Jersey Turnpike.

In regard to the Inland Empire organizing drive among warehouse workers, the article states, “Originally designed to blitz the industry following passage of the abandoned Employee Free Choice Act, the drive is now targeting workers whose ultimate controller is Walmart.”

The article then discusses the Chicago area warehouse worker organizing campaign mounted by an affiliate of the United Electrical Workers, while failing to mention that this union was kicked out of the AFL-CIO in the late 1940s because it was accused of being controlled by the Communist Party.

The article quotes one of the UE affiliate’s organizers: “Any effort to improve conditions for warehouse workers has to be centered on Walmart.” The article explains: “The strategy is to organize workers on the lowest rungs of the Walmart ladder at the same time that allies such as Jobs with Justice and OUR Walmart, the organization of store workers backed by UFCW, are pressuring the company.”

The goal is to embarrass Walmart by smearing its 3PL warehouse vendors, the organizer said. “Shaming in combination with a robust campaign of organized workers could cause the company to look hard at its own business model.”

This article traces coordination of the smear campaigns in the three different parts of the country back to a teleconference held by the organizers last fall. It also quotes the UE-affiliate organizer to the effect that “logistics workers have tremendous potential power because retailers compete on the basis of how efficient their supply chains are.”

The article points out, “Pulling that supply chain taut puts power in the hands of the workers who move the goods.” It also quotes a longshoremen’s union organizer saying that warehouse workers need their own “pervasive ground game coupled with leverage from trucking and the docks.”

This organizer also said he likes to envision a future longshoremen’s union contract expiration when warehouse workers could “rowdily demand union recognition” while his union’s members on the docks insist that these warehouse workers receive it.

Now you know where the smears are coming from, why they were spawned, who is creating and directing them, and how far the unions are willing to go to get their way. Look to next week’s blog for the IWLA response and action plan.



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About Joel Anderson

Joel Anderson

Joel D. Anderson is president and CEO of the International Warehouse Logistics Association (IWLA). Based in Des Plaines, Ill., IWLA is the 120-year-old association of the warehouse-based third-party logistics industry, with 500 members in the U.S. and Canada. Before joining IWLA, Anderson spent 28 years at the California Trucking Association, the last 13 as executive vice president and CEO. An economist by training and profession, Anderson was also a past board member of Cascade Sierra Solutions. He is a frequent speaker before supply chain industry groups.


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