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Fighting Union Busters

in a Carolina Carpet Mill

An Organizer's Memoir

by Phil Cohen

McFarland & Company

In 2017, Workers United/SEIU called veteran organizer Phil Cohen out of retirement to investigate and expose an illegal union-busting plot by Mohawk Industries at its 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 unlawful 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 Trump-appointed 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 since 1935. 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, and thrusts readers into the tumultuous environment of a union hall in crisis.











"Southern organizing and the role of anti-union consultants in thwarting it was back in the news this year…Union members and staff hoping to avoid such setbacks (as Amazon) in the future should consult a Phil Cohen’s new book,  Fighting Union Busters in a Carolina Carpet Mill."
- Steve Early, New York Labor History Association

"Fighting Union Busters provides many important lessons for the union movement in how to organize against corporations who are determined to use any means — legal or illegal — to defeat union organizing……an inspiring tale in the fight for a better world!"
- Alex Salmon, Green Left, Australia


“The lost art and skill of organizing…..Cohen was the hired gun pulled in to try and save the day.  It’s a riveting tale with plenty of heroes and villains and a good snapshot of the war in the trenches in winning and maintaining unions.”
- Wade Rathke: KABF, Little Rock, AR/Syndicated

"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. This book is almost a primer on union representation. Cohen includes clear explanation on federal law, union rights and even the leaflets he produces."

- Mike Matejka, Peoria Labor Paper

"Cohen's most recent book , Fighting Union Busters in a Carolina Carpet Mill, is riveting and a must read, especially for anyone who has been part of an NLRB fight or is interested in learning more about how working people can push back on corporate power."
- Bob Funk, LaborLab

"I’m sure Union Officers, organizers, stewards and members will find it an interesting read about his trials and tribulations organizing in the South.  This is a must read for all who are affiliated with the Labor Movement!"
- Pete Marchese, Union Strong Blog


"Cohen's new book is an excellent read. He gives a hard-hitting account of the fight to stop a Fortune 500 company from busting their 70+-year-old union."
- Kris LaGrange, UcommBlog

"He found his calling in a liberal college town, but no university degrees were needed for the fights Phil Cohen would go on to pick with union busters....He championed the need to heal racial divides and stand united amidst the export of industrial jobs in the 1990s. This unusual story recommends the book.
- Grant Holub-Moorman & Frank Stasio, The State of Things, syndicated NPR

"Legendary organizer Phil Cohen's shocking expose of illegal union-busting under the Trump administration"
- Chris Garlock, WPFW, Washington, DC

"We recommend this great book about hope vs. fear, offering great insights and perspective, not from a journalist or professor standing on the outside, but from a legendary organizer working the rails and living it day by day. Enter Phil Cohen to throw down the hammer!"
- Mark Gevaart, WELT, Fort Wayne, IN

"Reveals information about the NLRB having far more impact on people's lives than you hear about in the news."
- Aaron Keck, WCHL, Chapel Hill, NC

"Phil Cohen is one of the guys on the front lines fighting for worker's rights. He tells the truth about Trump's hostility toward unions.....a story the working class in this country needs to absorb."
- Rick Smith, WIOO, Syndicated throughout Central PA

"Phil Cohen's memoir chronicles the fight against union busting in North Carolina. LaborPress talked with Cohen about his book, his background, and how he was able to achieve his final result."
- Silver Krieger, LaborPress, NY




Phil Cohen left home at sixteen, managed a skid-row hotel and drove taxis in New York City before moving to North Carolina, where he became a union activist while working as a municipal bus driver. 


In 1988 he joined the staff of ACTWU (now known as Workers United).  He became one of the labor movement’s foremost experts at defeating employer sponsored decerfitications, and enforcing safety regulations: responsible for landmark decisions by the National Labor Relations Board and OSHA. 

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