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Bulletin for the Emancipation of Labor: 1

Published by Pro-Labor Citizens in Defense of the Rights of Workers

NADERíS ANTI-LABOR RECORD

Naderís "Near-Sweatshops"

To read the literature about consumer advocate Ralph Nader is to become aware of the appalling conditions of long hours and low pay faced by workers in the organizations Nader founded. Jim Turner, one of the original members of Naderís Center for Study of Responsive Law, has commented: "We spent a hundred years trying to clean sweatshops out of our system and what happens? Along comes the first major reformer of any impact, and he starts doing the same thing." John Esposito, who was also one of the original staffers at the Center asked: "How can we go out and try to save the world when we're grinding people to death all the time?" Lowell Dodge, former director of Naderís Center for Auto Safety, claimed that one can "correlate loyalty as a Nader lieutenant with [a] dissolving marriage," and described "the pressures, the sort of psychological, insinuative arm-twisting that Ralph would get into to get more hours of work out of you." Both Turner and Dodge compared conditions in Naderís organizations with those in large corporations: "Some of the same conditions that we felt ourselves in the grip of working for Nader are applied consciously at places like TRW. There is a gap between what you would expect from someone who is fighting to make the world a better place to live and what you actually get working on Naderís team" (Dodge). "Not only does Ralph not work well with people, he insisted on being the one who made all the decisions about working with people . . . The very forces that drove General Motors to [investigate] Nader are the ones that drove Ralph Nader to be vindictive with his own people" (Turner)(in Sanford, Me & Ralph: Is Nader Unsafe for America? pp. 62, 63, 65, 66). In labor history, when a boss mistreats workers, unions get organized.

The Eighties: Government and Big Business Combine to Crush Unions

In 1981 Reagan used the entire force of government to end a strike by 11,000 air traffic controllers and destroyed PATCO, their union, which had welcomed Reaganís election. This loss marked the start of an entire decade of defeats suffered by union members at the hands of government and big business.

The New York Times has admitted as much. In a column in 1999, Tom Friedman explained that Reagan's most important accomplishment was "break[ing] the 1981 air traffic controllers' strike which helped break the hold of organized labor over the U.S. economy " [!] (NYT, 8/20/99).

Friedman does not exaggerate. At Greyhound and Continental Airlines in 1983-84, Hormel, the Chicago Tribune, Pan American Airlines and United Airlines in 1985-86, USX Steel and TWA in 1986-87, International Paper in 1987-88, Eastern Airlines and Pittston Coal in 1989, strikers were defeated. They faced mass firings, use of Federal troops to protect scabs, blacklisting , arrests, and beatings; in several cases, strikers were shot to death.

This decade of labor defeats allowed big business to implement the productivity drives which have further enriched the well-to-do. The Times explains: "U.S. firms are quick to absorb new, more productive technologies because they can easily absorb the cost of the new investment by laying off the workers who used to perform that task."

Union-Busting At Multinational Monitor: A Direct Attack on Working People

In 1984, in this context of defeats for labor, a union organizing drive was launched at a magazine Nader founded and subsidized.

The magazine Multinational Monitor (MM) was begun in 1978 to provide a "citizen perspective" on the activities of transnational corporations; in May 1984, a conflict between Nader and editorial workers at MM gave the public a perspective on the way Nader runs his business.

In 1982, Tim Shorrock was hired as editor of MM. Confronted with very difficult conditions on the job, Shorrock and the two assistant editors at MM, Kathleen Salvaggio and Rose Marie Audette, raised numerous concerns: they "complained about 60- to 80-hour work weeks, publication pressures, working conditions and lack of grievance procedures" (Peter Perl, "Editors Claim Firing by Nader Based on Unionization Attempt," The Washington Post, June 28, 1984, p. B3).

The staffersí "requests for pay raises (as editor, Shorrock was making only $13,000 a year), a larger staff, or a reduced publishing schedule were refused" (Pat Aufderheide, "Naderís unhappy raiders," Columbia Journalism Review, September Ė October 1984, p. 12).

According to Shorrock, Naderís response was: "You shouldnít think of this as a job." Shorrock added that "Ralph has said, and he is very adamant on this, that there is no need for unions at public interest groups" (Post). This statement is consistent with what Nader lieutenant Mark Green told the Columbia Journalism Review. Green, who formerly ran Naderís group Congress Watch, "says he has seen such disputes arise repeatedly in more than a decade of association with Nader organizations and thinks they are ridiculous. ĎWeíre a movement, not a companyí" (CJR, loc. cit.)

The MM editors wrote Nader with a request for collective bargaining, which was refused. Shorrock was fired the day after the staffersí union recognition papers were filed with the NLRB. Nader transferred ownership of the magazine to an entity called Essential Information (EI), which informed the other MM editors they were no longer employed. The firings of these union supporters who were concerned about workplace issues were only the first step taken against them. EI also attempted to have Shorrock arrested for removing his own files from the premises of MM, and, when that charge was dropped at a pre-arrest hearing, the Nader associates who headed EI brought a civil suit seeking $1.2 million in damages against the three fired union supporters, for allegedly trying to "destroy their business." In response to Mark Greenís claim that Naderís entities "are a movement, not a company," one wonders what movement ever treated union supporters the way Naderís "movement" has.

(To be continued)

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