Wis. AFL Wimps Out on Boycotts
Why isn’t the Wisconsin AFL-CIO supporting boycotts of companies whose executives are huge supporters of Governor Walker?
On April 28, Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt issued a statement denying any involvement in, or apparently any interest in, such boycotts.
“Let's be crystal clear, there are not, nor have there ever been, any boycotts encouraged by our organizations,” said Neuenfeldt. “We have made clear all along that we see small business as a partner and ally in getting Wisconsin back to work. Right now, Wisconsin teachers, students, students, firefighters, small business owners and citizens everywhere are working side-by-side to demand our governor and legislature stop playing politics and start putting Wisconsin first."
Earth to Neuenfeldt: Johnsonville Brats is not your “partner and ally.” Neither is Sargento Cheese, two of the targeted companies.
They are your enemy.
They hate your guts.
They want to destroy you—and all of organized labor.
Now I’m not crazy about the campaign to place anti-Walker stickers on grocery items of such companies because I think this particular tactic is silly. It’s needlessly illegal, and it’s not a good way to convince people not to buy a product. Far better to be picketing outside, like they used to do during the farmworkers’ grape boycott in the late 1960s.
But it’s one thing not to embrace the “Stick it to Walker” effort. And it’s quite another to eschew the boycott tactic entirely, and that’s what the Wisconsin AFL-CIO is foolishly doing.
Some opponents of the boycotts say why punish a company for the private decisions of some of its executives or workers.
But this is a joke of an argument.
Because the people from Johnsonville Brats and Sargento Cheese who’ve contributed to Walker aren’t some guys stuffing sausage into casings or cheese into sticks. They are the head honchos!
Take Johnsonville. Between November 12, 2008, and October 2, 2010, Johnsonville employees gave a total of $40,700 to Walker, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. Of that, $40,500 came from the Stayer family alone, which owns and runs the company.
Or take Sargento. Between September 16, 2008, and October 13, 2010, Sargento employees gave a total of $30,100 to Walker. Of that, $22,950 was from the Gentine family alone, which owns and runs the company. And $3,000 was from George Hoff, executive vice president and CFO.
Selected boycotts against companies whose bosses are the biggest backers of Walker, like Johnsonville and Sargento, make a lot of sense.
“Unions will only succeed if they use their power to pressure the corporations that are working with Walker to take collective bargaining rights away,” says Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of Labor Education Research at Cornell University. “They need to make the cost of not having collective bargaining greater than the cost of having it.”
The movement for labor rights in Wisconsin can’t work “side by side” with Johnsonville and Sargento.
For one simple reason: They’re not on the same side!
If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story "Obama’s Musical Chairs: Continuity in a Bad Way."
Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter
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