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Labor organizer Ray Rogers:; 'fighting power with power'

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Ray Rogers is a unique kind of fighter -- a labor organizer who says he has the timing and technique necessary to KO opponents of unions. Last November the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers' long, 17-year organizing drive against J. P. Stevens, which Rogers started engineering in 1976 , left the textile giant on the ropes -- with a brand new union contract that forbids future use of Rogers's unorthodox tactics against the company. He looks forward to more "skirmishes."

"It was like Muhammad Ali doing Sonny Liston," says Rogers, who is mild-mannered but not overly modest, jabbing the air in his small office suite near New York City's Union Square as he describes the Stevens victory.

"He jabbed him here and he jabbed him there, he danced around, and boom boom boom, weakened him, always knowing that he was going to come in with a final knockout blow, but he could not take his adversary head-on, he had to figure out ways to go in the back door before he could actually deal that knock-out blow."

But Rogers didn't use physical violence against Stevens -- he planned what he calls a "corporate campaign," using organized labor, the press, and other groups to pressure the sources of the company's financial capital in a carefully timed strategy aimed at disorganizing its strength as well as organizing labor. He claims this is the new look of labor struggles in the 1980s -- and last spring he started his own firm, Corporate Campaign Inc., to advise unions on how to use capital to pressure capitalists.

The next opponent: New York Air, the new low-cost non-union airline started by the heads of unionized Southwest Airlines. The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) has a half-year, probably renewable, contract with Rogers for a sum he would not disclose (though he denied press reports that it was for $1 million dollars) to force New York Air to accept Southwest's union contract. Already Rogers has prevailed upon the AFL-CIO's executive council to advise its 102 unions to remove invested pension funds from New York's holding companies, major investors, creditors, and corporations represented on New York's board of directors. In 1978 he helped ALPA negotiate a settlement with Northwest Airlines using his tactics of pressuring a company's financial backers.


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