Corporate Response to Corporate Campaigns:

"If We Can't Beat 'Em, Let's Ban 'Em"

It's annoying! It's alarming! It's appalling!

That's what leaders of the largest and most influential business groups say about Corporate Campaign, Inc. (CCI) and its record of helping unions and other underdog groups "confront power with power."

After Republicans took over the U.S. House of Representatives in 1994, some members — notably, Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan — suggested the time was right for "corrective legislation" (Hoekstra's phrase) to outlaw tactics and methods pioneered by CCI founder Ray Rogers in the successful J.P. Stevens battle of the 1970s.

Rogers was a guest on an October 1995 segment of the TV news series, "The Washington Review," produced and sponsored by the American Trucking Associations. The host, Thomas J. Donahue, then president of that lobbying group and now president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, introduced him as "someone whom many consider to be the architect of the modern-day Corporate Campaign."

Donahue quoted a Time magazine article that said Rogers "brought some of the most powerful corporations to their knees" and smilingly conceded, "You're pretty damn good at this."

Ray Rogers on "The Washigton Review" with Thomas Donahue

On the same program, union-hating congressman Hoekstra promised: "We'll have a whole series of hearings to get to the bottom of this Corporate Campaign issue."

Before introducing Rogers, Donahue proclaimed: "Our fight to stop the spread of union Corporate Campaigns has just begun... (They are) a serious threat to American business... If left unchecked, these campaigns will have a long-term detrimental effect on the ability of our industries to compete."

Jerry Jasinowski, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, applauded Rep. Hoekstra and advised other business leaders: "We ought to uniformly condemn this (Corporate Campaign) practice."

At a 1995 press conference to promote Hoekstra's planned legislative moves, Donahue noted ominously: "Such campaigns include carefully orchestrated tactics such as suspiciously-timed complaints to government agencies, consumer boycotts, shareholder resolutions and harassment of company officers, directors and consumers... What union Corporate Campaigns are really all about is undermining the productivity, profitability and competitiveness of some of America's best companies."

Despite all this overripe rhetoric, Hoekstra's hearings fizzled when calmer voices in Congress and elsewhere pointed out that his real targets were freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and other basic Constitutional rights.

Leading corporate apologists like the magazine Barron's and the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal had sounded similar alarms in 1978-79, when J.P. Stevens' corporate and financial support network was put at risk. "If the Textile Workers succeed in their naked aim, no company, in future dealings or disputes with any union, will be safe," said Barron's; the union "has now resorted to terrorizing businessmen who do business with Stevens," complained the Journal.

Rogers stresses that CCI "has always been and will always be committed to using only lawful and nonviolent means." Accusations of "terrorism" by CCI's critics simply show that the Corporate Campaign concept "is feared as a powerful weapon and a real threat to the Big Business agenda and its reign of terror on workers and their unions," he says.