Dale Kurschner


[Excerpt] By the mid-1980s, allegations of union busting had become as common in the upper Midwest's labor environment as management claims that competition was forcing it to seek concessions.

Regardless of management's true intent, local unions from Milwaukee to Minneapolis often lost ground, either in contract talks or in keeping their members interested and supportive. They lost because they continued to fight the old way, while management was using a barrage of new weapons from corporate restructurings and plant modernizations to clever legal maneuvers. But a battle fought in central Wisconsin turned the tables on management there in 1987, when 590 members of Local 1791 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) mastered the use of previously unheard of workplace strategies.

The new labor tactic saved Local 1791 and its members' jobs. It eventually led management to reverse its stand from harsh concessions to a healthy pay and benefit increase, and it sent a significant sign to management that labor had learned to fight back the modern way.