Given Amazon’s total efficiency in delivering packages, and its new dominance in Hollywood as a key film and TV series producer and financier, it’s not difficult to imagine that its union busting operation is top of the line. There is nothing new about the ruthless nature of employer campaigns to defeat unions. If you need a refresher, read Confessions of a Union Buster, by Martin Jay Levitt, published in 1988. The book is written by a former hired hand of employers. It’s filled with swagger, as it should be, given how many campaigns Levitt helped destroy. In it, he tells the reader, “Union busting is a field populated by bullies and built on deceit. A campaign against a union is an assault on individuals and a war against the truth. As such, it is a war without honor. The only way to bust a union is to lie, distort, manipulate, threaten, and always, always attack. Each ‘union prevention’ campaign, as the wars are called, turns on a combined strategy of disinformation and personal assault.”
One perusal of Levitt’s book—which should be required for all union organizers and activists—and you get a sense of just how deeply stacked the deck is against workers trying to form unions in the United States (and, increasingly, the world, as union busting is now a hot service-industry export). His book, the Amazon campaign, and just about every union election since the Reagan era are proof enough that to stand any chance of reversing the diminishing fortunes of America’s workers, HR 842, the Protecting the Right to Organize [PRO] Act of 2021, which just passed the House, is desperately needed.
Support for unions today is at record highs, and support for big business is at historic lows. Sadly, popular support for any proposal has little if nothing to do with legislation getting approved by Congress. Given the history of failed attempts at progressive labor law change under Democrat-controlled administrations—even with majorities in both houses—passage of the PRO Act seems like a long shot. But in spite of the many obstacles thrown in the path of workers trying to form unions, lifting up the strategies and tactics that have led to the most successful outcomes is crucial. To accept the defeat of hard-to-win unionization campaigns is to accept a very bleak future. To stand a chance at winning the hardest campaigns, the best methods must be deployed from the earliest days of a campaign and followed throughout the election. Wishful thinking and inexperienced hunches have no place in a campaign against an employer as sophisticated and well-resourced as Amazon.