A labor spy is a person recruited or employed for the purpose of gathering intelligence, committing sabotage, sowing dissent, or engaging in other similar activities, typically within the context of an employer/labor organization relationship.
Some of the statistics cited by researchers suggest that, historically, trade unions have been the frequent targets of orchestrated campaigns employing labor spies, indicating that such actions against labor organizations are often the result of strategic considerations.
Labor spying is most typically used by companies or their agents, and such activity often complements union busting. In some cases — apparently much less common, according to resources — labor spies have acted in support of union goals, against company interests, or against the company's hired agents. Unions may also utilize labor spies to spy upon other unions, or upon their own members. In at least one case, an employer hired labor spies to spy not only upon strikers, but also upon strikebreakers that he had hired.
Within the field of labor relations, union busters make the largest salaries. In 1993, there were 7,000 attorneys and consultants in the United States who made their living busting unions. The war against unions is a $1 billion-plus industry. Labor spying is one of the most formidable tools of the union busters.
Sidney Howard observed that the labor spy, "often unknown to the very employer who retains him through his agency, is in a position of immense strength. There is no power to hold him to truth-telling." Because the labor spy operates in secret, "all are suspected, and intense bitterness is aroused against employers, the innocent and the guilty alike."
Historically, one of the most incriminating indictments of the labor spy business may have been the testimony of Albert Balanow (some sources list the name as Ballin or Blanow) during an investigation of the detective agencies' roles during the Red Scare. Albert Balanow had worked with both the Burns Detective Agency and the Thiel Detective Agency. Balanow testified that the Red Scare was all about shaking down businessmen for protection money. "If there is no conspiracy, you've got to make a conspiracy in order to hold your job."
The sudden exposure of labor spies has driven workers "to violence and unreason", including at least one shooting war.
Other articles related to "labor spies":
... Wal-Mart is so terrified of union organizing, the company allegedly monitors some of its stores' phone calls and emails ... Jon Lehman, a former Wal-Mart store manager, told Bloomberg news in February 2004 that Wal-Mart has a 60×60-foot room in Bentonville in which two dozen people with headsets conduct surveillance on calls and emails from stores, to see whether anyone is talking about union organizing ...
Famous quotes containing the words spies and/or labor:
“What do you think spies are: priests, saints and martyrs? Theyre a squalid procession of vain fools, traitors too, yes; pansies, sadists and drunkards, people who play cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten lives.”
—John le Carré (b. 1931)
“I count him a great man who inhabits a higher sphere of thought, into which other men rise with labor and difficulty; he has but to open his eyes to see things in a true light, and in large relations; whilst they must make painful corrections, and keep a vigilant eye on many sources of error.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson (18031882)