Union Boycotts and the Law (RE: Social Protectionism

Nathan Newman nathan.newman at yale.edu
Thu Mar 16 13:57:57 PST 2000

> >4. You don't explain why if the boycott is such an important weapon that
> >Sweeney, etc aren't fighting for the right to use it at home.
> >
> >MBS: Which boycott are you referring to?
> Max, isn't it illegal in many cases to organize boycotts against union
> busters in the US. If we think it's so important to boycott such foreign
> producers--and to organize massive Seattle size rallies towards this
> end--why not so much pressure to revise US law?

Labor unions have held far larger rallies than Seattle demanding labor law reform, so your continual rhetorical statements that Sweeeny and company only worry about labor law abuses in other countries is false. Why you continue to imply otherwise, I have no idea, since I have noted that at least three times in the last few decades that labor reform legislation has been passed by the House of Representatives (under intense labor mobilization) only to be defeated by a GOP-led filibuster in the Senate.

While the law is still unclear, a 1988 Supreme Court decision DeBartolo Corp. v. Fla. Gulf Coast Bldg. & Const., substantially opened up the right of unions to promote boycotts against union-busters and their corporate supporters. What the law clearly bars is strikes that target employers other than one's direct employer and most physical picketing outside the offices of employers other than one's direct employer (although handbilling is generally allowed.)

Unions have launched significant boycotts and consumer targetting against numerous union-busters over the years, from Coors Beer to Apple Computer to the New Otani Hotel in Los Angeles. For a list of current union-busters being targetted by the AFL-CIO, you can check out there "Do Not Patronize" boycott list at: http://www.unionlabel.org/donotbuy/Default.htm

The media does not cover most of these boycott efforts, but they are happening everyday. In fact, unions spend orders of magnitude more time, money and volunteer efforts on these boycotts than on trade policy.

-- Nathan Newman

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