Ray Rogers on How a Corporate Campaign Would End the Writers and Actors Strike

Ray Rogers is a pro at corporate campaigns.

Ray Rogers

For most of his professional life, he’s been hired by unions to pressure corporations to negotiate contracts with unions. To prevent strikes. And if strikes happen, to make them short and sweet.

He has a long track record of high profile union campaigns. JP Stevens. American Airlines. Hormel. Farah Manufacturing Company.

With more than 175,000 Hollywood writers and actors walking the picket lines since earlier this year, many predicted a deal would have been done by Labor Day.

But Labor Day came and went. And now, insiders say that the strike will drag on through the winter into next year.

Rogers says striking is not enough. The unions must pressure the corporations behind the corporations to bring the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) to its knees.

“A corporate campaign is not simply a campaign against a corporation. It is based on a comprehensive, multifaceted plan of escalating relentless pressure,” Rogers told Corporate Crime Reporter in an interview last week.

“The plan is based on my analysis and strategic pinpoint targeting of a corporation’s or industry’s top policy and decision makers as well as those outside individuals, financial and other institutions that can have enormous influence, to the point of control, over the policies and decisions of the targets.”

“Any major labor struggle against a multibillion-dollar transnational corporation or an industry is a power struggle involving gains or concessions totaling hundreds of millions or billions of dollars for employees and their families. Thus, we must constantly figure out how to increase the union’s power.” 

“Workers have a lot more power than to simply withhold their labor. There is a great deal of power in the collective mobilization and strategic deployment of workers’ bank accounts, insurance policies, pension investments, stock proxies, votes and purchasing decisions.” 

“There is also a great deal of power to be harnessed in mobilizing their collective knowledge, skills, imaginations and energies. Most of this potential rank-and-file power sits dormant.  A corporate campaign unleashes this power to help unions win contract justice.”

“Workers and their unions cannot confront powerful corporations and other behemoth institutions and expect to gain justice or any meaningful concessions unless they are backed by a significant force of power themselves.”  

Have you approached the striking union?

“I have talked to people in the Writers Guild. They say to me – we have brilliant people here, they are smart writers. We know what we are doing.”.

“I said – well you are organizing a traditional strike. That’s just not working. If they had used a corporate campaign, they could have averted the strike. Now, they could win the battle.” 

“I’ve been to some of these strike actions in New York City. They are penned up and encircled by the police. They chant their chants. There is a lot of energy. They are putting it all on the line.” 

“But I say to myself – as the months go by and as the winter comes in, people are going to get demoralized.” 

“I’ve been working on this for months. I believe that in a manner of five weeks that the other side would know – we have problems.” 

“There are about 175,000 workers on strike. With that number of strikers, you ought to be able to organize a revolution, not just win a strike.” 

“We would target the seven major companies – Amazon, Apple, Comcast, Netflix, Paramount, Walt Disney and Warner Brothers/Discovery. All you have to do is look at the Violation Tracker database and document their wrongdoing and corporate crimes.”

“We would put up all of that information on a web site targeting these companies. The web site would be called justiceforentertainmentworkers.org. The public asks – are these companies really so bad? And we would make the answer – yes. We would document their wrongdoing.”

“I’ve always said you don’t have a campaign unless you have literature. I’ve been to these strikes and I don’t see them handing out literature.”

“We’ve drafted a four page leaflet entitled – Why 175,000 Actors and Writers Are on Strike and Asset Manager BlackRock’s Role In It – that if handed out to the public and distributed through social media and the internet, will bring enormous pressure on BlackRock to exert its influence on AMPTP and the streaming and film companies it represents to reach a fair settlement.” 

“Printed literature is key to communicating with people. And it’s a great organizing tool to get the thousands of strikers meeting the people in the public square – at train stations, at the subways stations, going door to door.”

Is it your view that if there is a strike, that’s an indication of a failed labor campaign?

“No, not at all. But it’s a short sighted strategy. There are people on the far left that all they want to do is strike, strike, strike, strike, strike. But you have to understand the power dynamics. The Teamsters had real power over UPS. They could not be shut down for any period of time. The political pressure came down on the company but also on the Teamsters. You cannot shut down UPS for a long period of time. The Teamsters had the upper hand.” 

Back to the Hollywood strike. Literature. Web site. Then what?

“Colleges and universities. These companies and their executives are tied to at least sixteen colleges and universities. And we all know the power of college and university students when they get behind something. Why not bring this job onto the campuses and go after the board members that these students could be going after.”

Okay, what’s another one?

“I would target four companies, two of which are Apple and BlackRock. They have the power and influence to force the AMPTP and its members to settle on the terms of the unions.” 

“BlackRock is the biggest asset manager in the world. They are beneficial owners of six of the seven entertainment companies. They are the stockholders of these companies. They have some level of control. They are the first or second largest beneficial owner. The second one is Vanguard. But BlackRock has a lot more control over the voting.”

It would be a pressure campaign on BlackRock?

“Yes. These companies are prepared to deal with a strike. They are not prepared to deal with a corporate campaign.”

“I know exactly who has the power to tell everyone in this industry – get this damn thing over. They will tell the seven companies – we are friends, but we are not going to be friends anymore unless you settle this thing.”

“Corporate Campaign has organized more successful union contract campaigns than any firm in the country over the past 40 years. We also developed the campaign that saved the non-commercial free speech Pacifica Radio Network from a corporate takeover and played a critical role with the Alaska Wilderness League in preventing the oil companies from entering the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).”

To the question, why don’t they employ corporate campaigns, you are saying – they don’t want it to work. But why don’t they want it to work?

“Take a look at the United Auto Workers. There were corrupt leaders at the head of this historically great union. A number of months ago, I wrote to the leadership of the UAW and introduced myself. I felt there was a strategy to help them avert a strike, or if they were forced to strike, we could make it one of the shortest duration possible.” 

“The UAW has a strike fund of close to $1 billion. But that will only last so long if you have 150,000 auto workers on strike. And why spend all of that money on a strike? You can use that money to win the campaign.”

Whether the unions hire you or not, why don’t they employ on their own the corporate campaign? They don’t need to hire you to do it. Why don’t the unions behind the Amazon action, or at Starbucks, or at the Hollywood strike – why hasn’t this become a tried and true way to force companies to the table?

“Sometimes you wonder whether or not the people at the top of unions want to win? And how far they are willing to go?”

[For the complete q/a format Interview with Ray Rogers, see 37 Corporate Crime Reporter 35(13), September 11, 2023, print edition only.]

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