Picketing the anti-unionists

August 27, 2008

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--Some 65 union members and supporters turned out to picket an anti-union event being held at the Sheraton Commander Hotel in Harvard Square on August 20.

The Massachusetts AFL-CIO organized the action to protest a daylong seminar by an outfit calling itself "HR Heroes." The $500 seminar, sponsored by M. Lee Smith Publishers, LLC, was for employers and human resource directors who want to learn how to keep their workplaces union-free.

The seminar was titled "Labor Union Avoidance Master Class: Countering Labor's Aggressive New Organizing Agenda" and featured prominent anti-labor attorneys as guest speakers. Some of the workshops included, "Development of a Union-Free Philosophy," "Six Ways to Get Employees to Vote No" and "How to Spot Employees Most Susceptible to Organizing."

Expecting to arrive undisturbed for their morning backslapping and chumming over event-sponsored breakfast, the managers were instead greeted by angry picketers. Booing, hissing and chanting, the picketers let it be known that, as far as they were concerned, the war on unions being planned inside the hotel would not be a one-sided fight.

Several times hotel representatives came out to angrily inform the picketers that they were disturbing the posh hotel's guests, to which the picketers called back, "Good! They're disturbing our right to organize!" It wasn't soon after that the Cambridge Police showed up to monitor the protest.

While there were several unions represented at the picket, it was unfortunate that there wasn't more representation from any of the unions at Harvard University--the third-biggest employer in the state.

If labor is to defend itself in a worsening economy, in which employers are gearing up for major attacks on our right to organize, cross-union solidarity and mobilization will be critical. Actions like this AFL-sponsored picket are important to the future of labor. But they also should be soberly viewed as just a small sample of what will be needed to reverse labor's decline.

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