The union organizer, by definition, is a type of trade union member who is sometimes elected, but more often than not, specifically appointed to their role. They “recruit” workers under the “organizing model.” Sometimes, the union organizer’s role is to enforce work rules and act as shop steward.
We were charismatic people who were willing to take risks and were extremely persuasive. We were the people who cared about workers’ needs and the “real” employee issues. So, combine this person with the very “American” initiative of unionization and people would be flooding the union halls day and night to be part of the union movement.
As a union organizer, I fought for employees’ rights and guided them in their decision to create a “better” work environment. But as I stated before, my main objective was to win, BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY. To do this I knew how to use the American legal system to my advantage. More specifically, I knew how to walk the “legal line” to win!
One of the many tactics I used was “Salting.” Salting is defined as the “initiative to make efforts to organize non union workers from ‘within’ a company. Salting became increasingly popular when legislation made other organizing efforts more difficult. But, how deep does salting go?
We needed people who would promote the union from within a company. Salting is not something that you will find in a union organizers handbook. It is not something that is publicly discussed but these are my “confessions” and salting is VERY real.
At one point I had 50 different people I “used” to gain access to various different companies. The people would make good money from the union (in addition to the salary earned from the infiltrated company) for their efforts. Their goal was to promote the union, but more importantly, their job was to gain access to the company and all of its information that could help me in my efforts.
The “employee” would hand over information such as photo copies of schedules, names and addresses of employees (which were very useful for those home visits from union members), human resource files, organizational charts, policies and procedures, when these policies were not being followed we would use this to attack the company. I wanted to know where the security guards sat and when they took their breaks, many times I would send a security guard union rep to talk with them and get their sympathy . I wanted to know if Mary from accounting was married or a single mom and how many children she had. I wanted to know if any employee had too many days off and what they were used for.
My “inside” people were very effective, and varied in title. I had human resource people working for me, executive administrative assistants, accounting personnel and one case (my personal favorite), a Vice President.
No information was too private for me, actually the more private and personal information was, the better it was for my initiative. I always needed to “have” something on someone. How easy is it to promise to fight for better healthcare to a person that was out sick 4 weeks already that year? Wouldn’t the guy who lives 50 miles from the office like for me to promise to fight to work virtual office a few days a week? There was nothing I couldn’t find out about you if you worked for the company, and more importantly, there was nothing I wouldn’t promise to fight for.
I used every piece of information that my “salts” provided. Sometimes, it was basic information I used to capture the attention of the employees. More often than not, I used this information to become the employees only hope for a better life. But, as I stated before, my promises were strictly made to “win” by any means necessary. The single mom (Mary) from accounting didn’t really have a name once my goal was accomplished.
If I thought a job too big, I would simply put someone on my staff as a “salt”. If I thought a job required a little too much work, I would make sure that he became an employee. Of course there was a special “way” in which he would become employed. I had employment agency’s that would graciously accept “kickbacks” from the union, on top of the commission received from job placement in the organization they were hired into. They could become employed in any company regardless of their work experience. I had resumes tailored to any field I chose, and the agency could simply select the one that best suited the position. Once his position was established within the company, they could begin their “real” work.
First, and most importantly, the salt became a friend to the staff. He became the “go to” person. It was important that our salt was a “star” employee, one that was respected by both management and fellow employees. One that was very “easy” to talk with. Our salts were experts in being the best in any industry.
The work didn’t stop there. Once “the call” was made, and the union was organizing, he switched hats to organize. He would photo copy schedules, hold meetings in break rooms, provide names of the people who needed further convincing. He also was able to provide all of the useful information my union needed to win, and I never failed.
To illustrate just how effective our salts were let me give you a specific example. While working an organizing effort in Tennessee in a large candy factory I activated one of my salts to work as a receptionist in the human resources department. This office sat directly next to Operations Managers office. This salt, who we will call “Alice”, was a star employee. She was able to work for over a month in the HR office as a high performer. She even was able to help implement new policies to streamline data input and record retention policies with the Director of Human Resources and within one month she gained his complete trust.
Once the campaign swung into “fight” mode she was able to provide me with records of every employee including home addresses, social security numbers, and number of dependants, marital statuses and a copy of all disciplinary actions for every employee in the plant. She had developed a plan to smuggle this information out of the building and completed her mission in one day. On her way out of the building she noticed that the Operations Manager had left his computer on and that the office was empty due to a high level meeting that was scheduled to last all day long. Alice was able to collect enough data from the manager’s desk including copies of personal emails from the Operations Manager to his wife bragging about how much he enjoyed disciplining and terminating employees who did not work “his way”. Thanks to Alice, this was one of the easiest campaigns that I ever worked on. It was very funny to me that these emails would end up in work bathrooms, left in lunch rooms, sent to every single employees home. Alice never lost her cover. In fact, she assisted the Director of Human Resources with his investigation into how personal information leaked out to the union. She was able to place the blame on another worker in the HR Department. Did it matter to me that an innocent person was fired for the work that Alice did as one of my salts. No! Remember, we were there to win “by any means necessary!”