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Who is Ogletree?

UCOMM takes a look at Ogletree-Deakins, the law firm companies call to stop you from organizing

Brian Young's picture
Aug 28, 2017

When a workforce is organizing and the employer wants to bust the union, anti-union law firms are brought in to guide the company. These high-priced lawyers are brought in with one goal, to squash organizing efforts by any means necessary. One such firm is Ogletree-Deakins, who has been hired to bust some of the highest profile organizing campaigns in recent history.

Ogletree-Deakins has 50 offices spread throughout North America, with over 850 lawyers working every day to stop organizing campaigns, defend employers against injured employees, and lessen employee benefits. Ogletree has worked for companies such as Boeing, US Food, and Union Pacific to name a few. They brag on their website about having busted organizing drives with unions such as the United Steel Workers (USW), United Mine Workers (UMWA), Teamsters, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Electrical workers, International Association of Machinists (IAM), and United Auto Workers (UAW). Charging $400 an hour, Ogletree has 25 lawyers on call at a moments’ notice to be dropped in to squash a potential union.

Ogletree has broken countless unions, but what makes them so good at their job? According to the IAM, this is their game plan:

They’ll alternate between scare tactics and promises of a new day. Management will start whisper campaigns—remember the false rumor that you’ll start bargaining from zero? We can’t fall into their trap again.

Here’s what to watch for:

  • Good cop, bad cop: Have you seen Dave Carbon lately? I can guess you will see more of Ms. Joan Robinson-Berry.
  • We’re buddies: The law firm will instruct management to look for opportunities to express heartfelt, sincere care for you.
  • Captive audience meetings: They will pretend your concerns are their concerns, but the free-ranging discussion is not what the boss has in mind.
  • Letters and emails: The law firm will ghost write letters from employees, well-liked supervisors and managers. They may express appreciation for what the team has accomplished. They may admit they made mistakes. You can bet they’ll talk bad about the union. This double standard is designed to get you to think the “truth” is coming from them.
  • Divide and conquer: These union busting law firms also direct management to play one group against another in the hopes of generating disunity. They’ll exploit racial and gender differences and pit senior workers against new workers, and so on.

Ogletree and the company will also lean on local politicians to speak out against the campaign. In South Carolina during the Boeing organizing campaign, Governor Nikki Haley made statements opposing voting yes including saying that South Carolina doesn’t need unions. The goal of these statements is to make the employees feel like they are not welcome in their community if they support the union. In busting a union, Ogletree creates the game plan and then advises the company on what they legally can and can’t say. Common threats include threatening to fire someone or to close the plant should the employees vote yes. Of course, the company can’t just come out and say this, but Ogletree teaches the company how to get the threat across legally.

While Ogletree is one of the biggest and most public union busting law firms, many others exist. Firms like Littler Mendelson and Jackson Lewis have seen a lot of business in recent years. Now union buster Trump has even appointed a Littler Mendelson shareholder to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

If you are organizing your workplace or already have a union, and you hear that one of these firms is being brought in, get ready to fight back. Their sole goal in life is to destroy an organized workers voice and get rich doing it. They have infiltrated not only the biggest companies in the world, but now hold important positions within our government and overseeing our unions.

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