Phil Cohen                 Union Organizer and Author

 

 

SKILLS

  • Internal organizing, membership building, transforming balance of power between employer & union, contract negotiation, leadership development

  • Investigation & presentation of cases to the NLRB, OSHA and DOL, within grievance procedure & arbitration; expertise in workers comp & FMLA

  • Communication with workers and public:leaflets, plant visits & union meetings; press releases and interviews

  • Author of books and articles

 

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE

1967 – 1973:    Left home at age 16: worked a variety of blue collar jobs,

                         including gypsy cab driver in New York City and cheap hotel

                         manager

 

1970 – 1974:    Frequent publication in several magazines, including

                         Metropolitan Review: memoir and articles about life on the

                         streets of NY

                     

1974 – 1979:     NYC taxi driver: signed first union card in 1974

 

1980 – 1988:    City bus driver in Chapel Hill NC

  • 1981 - Elected chief steward of ATU Local 1565 and began receiving ongoing press coverage for efforts to represent the unit, despite state law prohibiting collective bargaining agreements for municipal employees

  • Built alliances within the Rainbow Coalition and among progressives within local government

  • Forced the Town of Chapel Hill to the bargaining table; won a succession of issues involving working conditions, health & safety, discipline & discharge

 

1988:    Hired as lead organizer by the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile

             Workers Union

  • Directed internal organizing campaigns within poorly represented, company dominated locals

  • Received substantial media coverage

 

1990:    Promoted to International Representative

  • Continued to direct internal organizing campaigns, including filing, investigation & representation of NLRB charges, grievance & arbitration, contract negotiation, strikes, and press coverage

  • 1992 – Broke the power of the Ku Klux Klan within Local 2500; developed leadership to represent without discrimination

  • 1993 – Initiated campaign & Labor Board case against illegal union busting at Highland Yarn; filed OSHA complaint for cotton dust violations

  • 1994 – Directed successful campaign against Grief/Genesco in Allentown, PA, preventing employer’s withdrawal from national clothing contract

 

1994 – 1997:   Manager of Central North Carolina District

  • Supervised staff, negotiated contracts, and arbitrated cases throughout district

  • Ran successful NLRB campaigns against illegal union-busting at Brooks Brothers and VF Corporation

  • 1995 – OSHA complaint against Highland Yarn resulted in Willful Citation, highest fine for cotton dust violations in NC history

  • 1996 – Highland Yarn Complaint upheld by NLRB in Washington, setting precedent regarding and “illegal employer assistance in an effort to decertify the union.” Still cited by attorneys today.

 

1997 – 2011:  Special Projects Coordinator

  • Continued to direct successful NLRB campaigns against illegal union busting and other unfair labor practices

  • Negotiated contracts, including first contracts

  • Assigned to service the most challenging locals

  • Appeared for the union in arbitrations

  • Internal rebuilds and leadership training at challenged locals

  • 1996 & 1999 – Produced albums for and managed the union’s (apparel workers offering a unique blend of original labor songs and Southern gospel

            - Received extensive radio play and media coverage, including Mother                 Jones, Voice of America, and SingOut

            - Performed at numerous venues, including the AFL-CIO national             

              convention, countless ACTWU (renamed UNITE!) conventions, and on

              picket lines

 

  • 1997 – Directed successful first contract campaign against Serta Mattress licensee, involving significant NLRB complaint and national media coverage

  • 1999 – Directed campaign against Monterrey, Inc. in Janesville, WI, preempting a looming decertification and developing new leadership

  • 2000 – Filed NLRB charges preempting a decertification effort at Serta Mattress and negotiated 2nd contract

  • 2001 – NLRB campaign, defeating illegal decertification at Kmart Distribution Center

  • 2002 - Leveraged better contract terms at Cone Mills during Wilbur Ross takeover through picket line and extensive press coverage

  • 2007 – Restored balance of power at Aramark Laundries via NLRB charges

  • 2008 – Local union president at Kmart DC reinstated through NLRB charges

  • 2008 – 2011 – Negotiated 1st contracts at laundry and food service facilities, trained leadership and subsequently serviced locals

 

 

2011:   Retired from full time staff with what had been renamed Workers

           United/SEIU

  • Continued to present cases in arbitration

 

2016:   Published The Jackson Project: War in the American Workplace  

            (University of Tennessee Press) resulting in ongoing media interviews

 

2017- 2020:    Called out of retirement by Workers United/SEIU to investigate

                         and expose an illegal decertification campaign by Mohawk

                         Industries (Fortune 500) at its Eden, NC carpet factory

  • Filed NLRB charges, convinced frightened witnesses to give affidavits, met frequently with Board agents, filed briefs & position papers, generated media coverage

  • 2018 – NLRB issues massive complaint against Mohawk.The employer capitulates and the petition is withdrawn.

  • 2018 – 2020 – Forged a productive bargaining relationship with new management.Represented workers in grievance procedure, FMLA & workers comp cases.

 

2020:   Published Fighting Union Busters in a Carolina Carpet Mill (McFarland

             & Company) and began a new series of press interviews

 

REFERENCES

  • Chris Bowman, International Vice President & Director of Southern Regional Joint Board, Workers United/SEIU

  • Harris Raynor, Assistant Director of Southern Regional Joint Board

  • Mark Fleischman, Executive Vice President, Workers United/SEIU (retired

  • Ernest Bennett, International Vice President & National Organizing Director, Workers United/SEIU (retired)