Ray Rogers Corporate Campaign: Friend or Foe?

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Before the transit contract talks began, a union-consulting firm headed by Ray Rogers of the Corporate Campaign Inc. (CCI) approached TWU Local 100. Rogers has a reputation for being a “progressive,” but apparently believes that strikes are “out of date.”

The CCI conducts public relations campaigns against corporate abuses, with a special focus on the media. CCI’s thrust is moralistic appeals for companies to “do the right thing.”

Rogers approached TWU President Willie James, who actually promoted union-busting workfare in the last contract, and was badly in need of an activist cover for his company unionism. Rogers then contacted New Directions, promising that he would not take the job unless ND was on board.

President James got only tentative approval to hire the CCI from the union’s Executive Board, of which nearly half are New Directions members, pending a final vote and discussion. That meeting and that vote never happened, but CCI was hired. New Directions was outraged.

Rogers’ first gained attention during a union recognition battle at the giant J.P. Stevens textile company in the late 1970s. Rogers’ publicity campaign attacked the company’s image and called for a consumer boycott. Union organizing and the boycott persuaded the company to sign several contracts.

In 1985, Rogers was involved in the pivotal Local P-9 strike at a Hormel meatpacking plant in Minnesota. The strike lost.

Although the union’s international was mainly to blame, Rogers was criticized. For example, Rogers advised strikers to be passively arrested in “civil rights” style protests, instead of stopping scabs that were walking unimpeded through the company’s gate.

According to a 1990 study published by Cornell University, out of 28 contract campaigns, 12 by the CCI and 16 by similar organizations, these campaigns produced “tangible success” in only eight union contracts!

The CCI exploits workers’ fears that they’re outgunned by management. Union defeats have contributed to this pessimistic view. But ND attracted much media attention without the CCI’s help, by engaging in real fightback activities.

However, the biggest lesson to be learned is that the CCI’s media-oriented campaigns distract workers from organizing where the greatest power of workers lies-on the job!

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My Friend Michael Ratner

[The following is the July 27, 2021 presentation by Michael Steven Smith at a book party in New York City’s Lower East Side sponsored by