By David Roddy and Michael Israel
The striking Raley's employees during the November 2012 strike faced the coordinated hostility of consultants hired by the company to negotiate against the union and to present the company's position to the media. The professional background of these consultants is a case study in the flexible networks formed by the power elite in the realms of politics and business, and demonstrates the use of public relations to present the interests of employees as one with their employers.In December of 2011, one month before the expiration date of the union's contract with Raley's, the Sacramento Bee quoted CEO Michael Teel's “special assistant” Bob Tiernan that cuts to retiree health cuts and the introduction of a high insurance premium "will save the company millions and is critical to our future success." Tiernan established himself in the grocery business as the CEO of Grocery Outlet from 2004 to 2009, which he resigned from to take the position as Oregon's Republican Party chairman. In 2010 he triggered a media scandal by justifying the use of $2000 from the RNC at a West Hollywood topless BDSM club by stating it was an “extremely high-end bar.” As chairman, he was also the chief petitioner for mandatory minimum sentencing in the state, and the odious Measure 17, which made state prisoners work for companies without compensation in “public-private partnerships,” and eliminated any grievance mechanism for “free-workers” downsized from competition with prison labor.
We want you to know that we are going to run this company as if there’s no union here...As long as all of you continue to do your jobs, that’s what’s good for you...Try to ignore the distraction of the union...You’ve just got to stick to your business.
|Picketing stylist at Dosha. Source,|
The implicit message sent to Raley's employees by the hiring of a professional union buster was not lost to the strikers,“The union buster made the greed part [of the company’s motives] stand out even more...by trying to convince them [management] that employees are the biggest expense and to take from us” said one striking clerk in Jackson.
|Marching against Gallo in 2005.|
The fact that support for a strike was from 70 percent (to) 80 percent clearly shows that the union’s members do not want a strike because they recognize that Raley’s is making reasonable requests and they know that going on strike can personally devastate them with the loss of jobs, income and benefits.Teel sent a notice to employees following the vote echoing the message that it was unpopular, “I am very pleased that so many of you bravely voted ‘no'... It is clear that with your support, we will be able to continue operation of most of our stores if the union calls a strike.”
|Strikers at the Jackson Raley's|
The struggle of Raley's workers, therefore, is tied to the struggles of farm workers, hair stylists, other grocery workers, and even prisoners forced to labor by a common thread made from the same individuals occupying various positions of power over their careers, justifying the exercise of their power with the same basic message to those beneath them: "continue to do your jobs, that’s what’s good for you"