Labor Action

Defending management in a bitter strike

Client:

One of the largest facilities management companies in the U.S.

Overview:

Thousands of union employees took to the streets in a major East Coast city during an emotional, noisy strike that dragged on for several weeks. Seventeen buildings were targeted. Some strikers blocked traffic. Initially, the mayor and two U.S. senators backed the strikers. Advocacy groups joined in, and even college students began picketing. Wherever it turned, the company found itself being portrayed as "public enemy #1."

Strategy and Plan:

Building off a theme of "good jobs at good wages," N&A recommended a response blending paid and non-paid communications tactics. Within hours, N&A was on-site writing a full-page ad to appear in Sunday newspapers with a circulation of 1 million. Ads in Spanish and English followed on radio. The CEO was profiled in a highly regarded business column. A delegation visited Washington. A company spokesperson fought back hard, refuting union claims of low wages and poor benefits.

Results:

News coverage became more balanced. Negative rhetoric from the business community, building owners and politicians subsided. After hearing the other side of the story, the mayor supported management and played a major role in bringing labor negotiations to a successful conclusion. In the end, the strikers accepted an offer that was not as good as an earlier offer on the table. The wage increases were smaller than those won in similar strikes and only a handful of strikers gained additional health coverage.