New York, NY – The NewsGuild of New York and IBEW Local 3 are currenlty fighting a couple of very powerful corporations who view them like an invasion of the plague. Not surprisingly, both Advance Publications and Charter Spectrum share top policymakers who are virulently anti-union.
The NewsGuild of New York, led by President Susan DeCarava and its organizing team, deserve much praise for their numerous organizing victories in the news publication industry. But organizing workers to vote union is one hurdle; getting a decent first contract is a whole other ballgame. Especially, if you’re up against intransigent management taking orders from fiercely anti-union corporate executives and board members.
That message hit IBEW Local 3 Business Manager Chris Erickson hard five years ago, when Charter Communications acquired Time Warner Cable and turned 1,800 Local 3 members into employees of Charter Spectrum — the largest provider of cable TV, internet, and telephone service in New York State.
The robber barons running Charter Communications relish operating in a union-free environment where workers have miniscule power. IBEW Local 3 members, rebelling against Charter Spectrum’s onerous demands and refusal to bargain in good faith, went on strike. That strike is now in its fifth year.
Companies like Charter Spectrum learned long ago, how to weather long strikes and to either temporarily — or permanently replace workers who dared to challenge their autocratic rule.
To secure a first contract, members of The NewsGuild of New York, CWA Local 31003, have voted 98% to authorize a strike against three Condé Nast publications: The New Yorker, ARS Technica and Pitchfork. Union protection for journalists and other media personnel is critically important to promote journalistic integrity — as well as, fairness, honesty and accuracy in reporting.
Conde Nast and its other publications, including Vogue, Vanity Fair, WIRED and GQ, are owned by Advance Publications. Two fiercely anti-union Advance Publications executives behind the hardline being taken in negotiations with the NewsGuild are board members of Charter Communications. They are Michael Newhouse, co-president of Advance Publications and Steve Miron, a senior executive officer of Advance and CEO of Advance/Newhouse Partnership, a privately held media company headquartered in Syracuse, NY. Advance Publications holds approximately 13% of Charter Communications, whose majority owner is right-wing billionaire John Malone.
So, how do you pressure top decision makers like Michael Newhouse, Steve Miron and key players like Condé Nast’s CEO Roger Lynch and influential board member Domenico DeSole who have the power and influence to assure workers are treated fairly — including the right to being represented by a union of their choice? The unions have to set the ground rules as to how, when, where, and around what issues the labor battles will be fought.
To make the strike a much more powerful weapon in labor’s arsenal, it must be viewed as one key element of a multi-dimensional strategy I’m calling a “Corporate Campaign.” Every phase of a Corporate Campaign is timed and implemented in a way that immediately places the workers and their union on the offensive — relentlessly escalating pressure from many angles on a company’s top decision makers, and other secondary players who have the power to influence them. Such a planned strategy encompasses, but also goes far beyond, striking, picketing workplaces, spotlighting just labor issues and filing grievances.
A Corporate Campaign is not simply a campaign against a corporation or, in the public sector, a political entity. It is a well thought out, multifaceted organizational and public relations strategy that, if properly executed, offers employees and their union the best opportunity for bargaining success.
My message to workers and their unions is: “You cannot challenge powerful corporations and political entities and expect to gain any meaningful concessions or justice unless you’re backed by a significant force of power yourself. A real Corporate Campaign is a mechanism to effectively confront power with power.”
Ray Rogers is a longtime labor organizer and director of Corporate Campaign. Business Week described him as a “legendary union activist”, while the Boston Herald described him as “labor’s most innovative strategist” and “one of the most successful union organizers since the CIO sit-down strikes of the 1930s.” Ray can be reached at email@example.com.