Fighting Union Busters in a Carolina Carpet Mill

An Organizer’s Memoir


Available for pre-order / backorder

About the Book

In 2017, Workers United/SEIU called veteran organizer Phil Cohen out of retirement to investigate and expose a union-busting plot by Mohawk Industries at a North Carolina carpet mill. His hard-hitting account chronicles the resulting labor dispute that rocked a Fortune 500 company. The organizer had to prove management was behind an illegal decertification petition and forced workers to sign using strong-arm tactics. Though terrified of retaliation, witnesses gradually agreed to testify before federal agents. Mohawk retained a high-powered union-busting attorney who appealed directly to ultra-conservative heads of the National Labor Relations Board, while Right to Work Committee lawyers framed the issue as a test case to revoke laws protecting employee rights. The union’s only hope rested on presenting evidence too formidable for political bias to surmount. This memoir, infused with dry wit and insights into human nature, blows the lid off the nation’s union-busting epidemic, thrusting readers into the tumultuous environment of a union hall in crisis.

About the Author(s)

Phil Cohen emerged from a tough working class background to become one of the labor movement’s most celebrated field agents responsible for landmark decisions by the National Labor Relations Board and OSHA.

Bibliographic Details

Phil Cohen

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 208
Bibliographic Info: 7 photos, index
Copyright Date: 2020
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8304-1
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4105-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments v
Author’s Note 1
Prologue 3

Part One. The Campaign
1. The Committee 9
2. Meeting with Witnesses 21
3. Plant Tour 41
4. Labor Board Investigation 62
5. The Three Girls 67
6. The Union Busting Lawyer 74
7. Federal Agent’s Grim Forecast 81

Part Two. The Case Unfolds
8. National Right to Work Attorneys 91
9. Illegal Discharge 102
10. Cartoons 109
11. Labor Board Decision 111
12. Becoming a Test Case 118
13. Union Lawyers 129
14. Preparing for Trial 138
15. Injured Workers 152

Part Three. Aftermath
16. Compliance Period 161
17. The Tornado 167
18. House Calls 172
19. Shop Floor Confrontation 177
20. A Barrage of New Issues 184

Index 199

Book Reviews & Awards

• “Southern organizing and the role of anti-union consultants in thwarting it was back in the news this year when Amazon workers lost a union representation vote in Bessemer, Alabama. Union members and staff hoping to avoid such setbacks in the future should consult a new book by Phil Cohen, a longtime labor activist in the South. Cohen’s Fighting Union Busters in a Carolina Carpet Mill: An Organizer’s Memoir describes how a group of North Carolina factory workers survived a union-busting campaign, which employed many of the same tactics, legal and illegal, used by Amazon. For organizers countering similar threats to existing bargaining units or those trying to create new ones without the benefit of employer neutrality and card check recognition, Cohen provides a useful prep course on what to expect in any contested National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election proceeding…. a detailed account of the successful union detective work involved…Cohen drew on decades of experience handling NLRB case and utilized the workplace relationships and networks of Local 294-T members…Cohen’s book contains lots of good practical advice, for union officers and staff, about dealing with union and management lawyers, Labor Board agents, and Regional Directors.”—New York Labor History Association

• “Fighting Union Busters provides many important lessons for the union movement in how to organize against corporations that are determined to use any means—legal or illegal—to defeat union organizing… The ultimately successful efforts by Cohen and Local 294-T to prevent Mohawk’s union-busting campaign, against great odds, is an inspiring tale in the fight for a better world.”—Green Left

• “The decertification battle reads almost like a novel. Cohen interjects his personal story along with the local union leadership efforts and the rank-and-file workers’ reactions. As one reads, the tension grows … Cohen includes clear explanation on federal law, union rights and even the leaflets he produces. This is a great way to learn basic union rights and the how an organizer works with members and leadership to ensure their voice is heard yet also keeps the union moving forward. … This is an easy read and the intensive fight to stop the union busting campaign builds momentum within the book. A union representative’s job is a constant effort, maintaining self-discipline and building relationships with members, union officers, management and federal agents. Anyone who thinks the job is easy would learn from Cohen’s experience. Learning how a union operates with staff like Cohen and elected local members offers great insights.”—Peoria Labor Paper