Modern labor struggles frequently witness use of legal consultants hired to ensure a “union-free environment.” By 1979 such legal consultants had become a major industry in the nation, with annual sales of well over a half-billion dollars.

Labor union records of the period indicated that out of 6,000 organizing campaigns, two-thirds of them witnessed some form of outside anti-union experts. A dramatic glimpse of such wholesale legal activity to weaken unions was reflected in the fact that the firm Modern Management Methods, Inc. provided anti-union legal consultants in 500 organizing drives by labor in 1978-1979. Some estimates indicate that more than 100 firms and 1,500 individuals were engaged on a full-time or part-time basis in union-busting activity.

In their first effort to organize a union at Maine Medical Center in Portland in the 1970s, nurses suffered defeat in a struggle in which the services of Modern Management Methods and the union-busting legal services of Morgan, Brown, Kearns & Joy of Boston were employed.

The current struggle of nurses at MMC to organize themselves into a collective body for the purpose of protecting and enhancing their interests offers a more recent example of this species of legal opposition, which reaches back nearly a half-century. MMC has employed an anti-union consulting firm, Reliant Labor Consultants, whose advertised services include “avoiding a union” and “fighting a union,” to help ensure that the sparks of unionism do not billow into a genuine countervailing-power of resistance by workers, a demand for democracy in the workplace and a voice in the decisions that directly impact their lives.

Charles Scontras
Cape Elizabeth

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