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  • authored by remote viewer
  • published Fri, May 25, 2001

A Reformer Runs Away

Here is an interesting article from some time ago. In this article, Bill Reno, then UFCW Research and Education Director, takes direct aim at some highly undemocratic practices in the election for President of UFCW Local 175. Reno speaks like a true reformer - and he must have felt strongly about what he was saying - for a guy in his position to "go public" is a very big step indeed. Although he had a stake in the outcome of the election, talking it up with the media is a dangerous move in union officaldom, under any circumstances. And something strange did happen to Bill at some point after he made his very bold statements: He ran back to the fold and became its media spin doctor. (It was Bill who was dispatched to put a spin on the Local 1977 expedition to the trough. You can find examples of his spin-doctoring talent elsewhere on this site.)

On one level this article is a good bit of UFCW history but on another it raises a question that reformers need to think about: Why do (some) reform-minded members return to the fold? What steps can be taken to prevent this from happening?

Hey, I have an idea: Maybe we should ask Bill Reno (in his media guy role, I just know he's reading this). So, what happened, Bill?

The Toronto Star
NEWS Thursday, November 10, 1988
Food workers' vote rigged against him candidate charges
By Peter Edwards Toronto Star

Vote-rigging is rampant in the race for the presidency of Canada's largest union local, a senior officer with the United Food and Commercial Workers charges.

"The whole thing has been rigged to defeat me," says Bill Reno, the union's education and research director and a candidate for presidency of Local 175.

And ballot scrutineer, Diane Gale of Hamilton, said a new election should be called because of repeated violations of the union's constitution, including the denial of secret ballots to some members of the 40,000-member, province-wide local.

Reno, who bills himself as a reform candidate, accused his opponent, Jim Crockett, a negotiator and the union's top Canadian officer, of repeated violations of the union's constitution in the balloting, which ends today.

Union time

Among Reno's charges:

* While he was refused an unpaid leave of absence to campaign, 34 of 35 salaried union staff members were campaigning against him on union time while drawing union pay cheques. This violates the union's constitution, Reno said.

* Balloting has been switched in mid-election out of workplaces where Reno's support is particularly strong to discourage voter turnout.

* More than $250,000 of members' dues has been spent, contrary to the union constitution, against him in the campaign. "They've spent enormous amounts of members' money on Crockett's campaign," Reno said. "What I've learned is they have no compunction about spending members' money in order to get elected."

Crockett dismissed Reno's charges as electioneering and said it wouldn't be proper to respond to them before all ballots have been cast.

"I've run a clean campaign all the way through and I'm not going to start doing something now I shouldn't do," Crockett said.

Cliff Evans, the food union's Canadian director, said Reno hasn't bothered to make any formal complaints or offer any evidence to the union's head office.

'Challenged ballots'

Gale said she was shocked this week when serving as a scrutineer during early balloting. For the first time in her 16 years in the union, Gale said, she saw large, brown envelopes at polling stations with, "Challenged Ballots" written on the side.

Gale said she asked an election official about the envelopes and was told: "They're going back to the union and if we need to use them, we'll use them and if we don't, we won't."

Gale also charged that members' social insurance numbers have been written on envelopes containing their votes. She said this can only be seen as a form of intimidation, letting union members know that their ballots aren't secret.

Gale said cynicism was pronounced among members during this campaign. She said she and many co-workers have no faith in either the reform or establishment slates, but want another election to restore faith in union democracy.

Reno was one of the union's staunchest defenders a year ago when it was accused of being undemocratic in an ugly jurisdictional battle with the Canadian Auto Workers over 23,000 east coast fishermen. The union accused the Auto Workers of stealing members while the CAW argued it was providing the fishermen with an avenue of escape from a union that was insensitive to their needs.

  • posted by sleK
  • Fri, May 25, 2001 1:37pm

LMAO!

Money talks!

Here's Bill Reno's comments from another star article.

 

quote:


Bill Reno, a consultant hired by Local 1977 to deal with the issue, said there should be no controversy about the whopping increases because an elected, 13-member board approved them.

And he said the raises are known beyond that small group because executive salaries are included in financial statements made available at general membership meetings held every three months.

''Nobody's done anything untoward at all,'' Reno said.


Quite the change of heart on Bills' part.

So what exactly is his position within the UFCW now?
Or,
What is his relationship with the UFCW now?

[ 05-25-2001: Message edited by: sleK ]

  • posted by sleK
  • Fri, May 25, 2001 2:03pm

Hey remote!!

May I cut & paste your post to the front page of the site?

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Fri, May 25, 2001 2:15pm

Sure, go ahead. I've got another one for you as well - a real classic, even better than this one. I can't believe what happened to this guy!

I think Bill is now a "consultant". He does media relations work for the UFCW. I guess they call him whenever something's going on that's making them look bad - so he must be a pretty busy guy. Others may know more.

[ 05-25-2001: Message edited by: remote viewer ]

[ 05-25-2001: Message edited by: remote viewer ]

  • posted by siggy
  • Fri, May 25, 2001 7:07pm

Was he "reform minded" or just "electioneering"?
You can "bill yourself as a reform candidate" as many times as you like but that doesn't necessarily make it true.
Now, if you are a "spin doctor" (bullshitter) you could probably make alot of people believe it was true.
Likening him to any truly "reform minded" is just plain silly.
Is it not more likely his agenda then, was the same as it is today? Self serving?????

On his "all is forgiven, here's a promotion" return to the "fold" after such a bold display?
The questions that more readily comes to mind is ..... who owed who what? and why? Or how much more was there to tell?

Now if Bill was to answer, who is listening?

K .... Bill you're up next.

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Fri, May 25, 2001 8:17pm

I should probably provide a little context:

During this period of time (the mid to late 80's) things were a little different within the UFCW than they are today. Evans was just establishing himself as the almighty ruler. He was in charge of the Canadian UFCW and was busy installing his loyal followers in key positions within the larger locals. The methods that Reno complains about in the article are an example of how it was done.

At this point, the rot was setting in but hadn't completely consumed the organization yet. There was dissention in the ranks, including at the national office. A lot of people objected to Evans' tactics. Reno was vocal in his opposition to Evans and his followers. His views were fairly well known in the local labour community and he attracted attention because of his high rank. I tend to believe that Reno was not entirely self-serving in his comments. If he was, he would never have made them (publicly criticizing the organization is about as bad a sin as you can commit).

As to why he ended up back in the fold, we'll never know unless he himself tells us but there are a couple of plausible reasons that I can think of:

1. It's not uncommon for authoritarian organizations to attempt to weaken opposition movements by enticing away members who could really cause some damage. It's better to have them on the inside where they can be controlled.

2. Even the most committed reformers can become disillusioned and worn down. "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."

Who knows? Only Bill himself can tell us if he was just being opportunistic or if he really was trying to prevent the organization from being swallowed up by opportunists.

  • posted by siggy
  • Fri, May 25, 2001 8:45pm

"At this point, the rot was setting in but hadn't completely consumed the organization yet"

Maybe speaking out at this time was not as risky as it would seem? After all it was a time when it appears everyone was vying for position.

"Even the most committed reformers can become disillusioned and worn down"

I don't doubt everyone has a price. But what I don't believe is that after being worn down, you could go on selling the "tainted" product so convincingly.

"Only Bill himself can tell us"

That's right, but can we believe him?

[ 05-25-2001: Message edited by: siggy ]

  • posted by Richard
  • Fri, May 25, 2001 8:48pm

Reno is well known around these parts. You're right, he didn't have much use for old Cliff a few years back.

quote:


Reno acknowledged he held staff posts with the UFCW and ran unsuccessfully for the presidency of Local 175 during a bitter campaign in 1988.

He ran at the time as a reform candidate out to shake up a union structure that concentrated power in a few hands at the top and kept members from having a meaningful say.

One of his chief targets was Cliff Evans, then the union's national director. Evans has since retired, but was hired by Local 1977 earlier this year to write a report that recommended the huge pay hikes for its top officials.

"We have a medieval king in the form of Cliff Evans and a bunch of little fiefdoms underneath him," Reno said during his election campaign in 1988. "His knights are the paid business representatives pillaging the countryside. It's all done on the backs of the serfs, the workers."


I visited a labour chat room the other night, and there is a bit of talk about Reno doing some work for the UFCW. Oh, and BTW, one guy said that there are a whole bunch of UFCW reps that read the MFD pages regularly. Apparently, they read the pages and when something good appears, they watch the brass run around pooping themselves.

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Sat, May 26, 2001 8:07am

There's no doubt that there was a pretty vocal opposition movement going on at the time and that Reno was part of it. I did not know him personally (although I believe our paths may have crossed a couple of times) but I was acquainted with some of the others - they were genuine. They were outraged at what they saw happening to their union. There was a lot of anger and disbelief at Evans and what he was doing. At first they thought the damage could be contained through the electoral process - good leaders would be elected and this would keep Evans in check but as they found out, the election rules were changing. They thought that the International would help them but little did they know that the International was backing Evans. They thought the labour movement (other unions, the CLC, the OFL) would help them, but these outfits just sat on their hands. They waited for someone to help them but no one did. In the end, they were beaten down pretty quickly.

Not all of them survived but some did and those men now occupy various positions within the UFCW organization. How is it that they can promote an organization that crushed them and what they believed in? Well, what happens when the belief system that's anchored your whole life collapses? People have different reactions. Some simply decide that shit happens, what can you do, better go along to get along. Working for the union becomes just another job. Or they tell themselves that maybe it's all necessary, like the leaders are saying, short term pain for long term gain. They buy the party line, carry out their duties and hope that things get better. Still others though, carry around a lot of anger and conflicting emotions. They turn on the people they once supported because this provides an outlet for their anger and a means of justifying their decision to abandon the cause they once believed in. I sometimes think that the most committed leaders can become the biggest bastards once they lose their faith.

Anyway, I'm not trying to make saints out of any of these guys - just to shed some light on what they once were and what may have caused them to become what they are today. Not many of them were bought, at least I don't think so. They just screwed their heads around until the picture looked OK.

I also want to remind them of what they were at one time. I know that they visit this site (at least some of them do) and their reasons for doing so go beyond simple curiosity. Some of them feel - however vaguely - a connection with what's going on here. It's never too late fellas...

[ 05-26-2001: Message edited by: remote viewer ]

  • posted by David Brighton
  • Sat, May 26, 2001 9:10am

Remote,

You never cease to amaze me. Thank you for your tremendous amount of information and insight.

  • posted by siggy
  • Sat, May 26, 2001 9:45am

quote:


Some simply decide that shit happens, what can you do, better go along to get along
They buy the party line, carry out their duties and hope that things get better.


Those examples are a far cry from the "promoting" and the "spinning"we have witnessed from Reno and the like.
Saint or not you can "go along to get along" without being a big part of the problem.

I for one would be hard pressed to {knowingly?} accept any info offered up by a "spin doctor", or to suggest that such influence could benefit a "movement away" from the very thing they have come to represent?
We need new ideas, new blood and mostly we need not to repeat the past.
And in my view Reno and people like him are just as responsible for the past in the UFCW as anyone. {old habits are hard to break?}

 

quote:


I know that they visit this site (at least some of them do) and their reasons for doing so


It could be "recollection of the good old days".

Could it also be, considering the MFD"s success, they've mistaken the MFD for a "gravy train"?

  • posted by Richard
  • Sat, May 26, 2001 10:41am

From what I understand, there's a lot of shame going on within the ranks of business agents, but they are so "bought" with the free trips, salaries beyond their worth and fancy cars that they fear everyone who is a threat to their lifestyle.

They are like drug addics. They are completely hooked, but they can still recognize the truth and because of that, they are filled with remorse, shame and self loathing. They spend their days telling their members to fight but they are too, fearful to fight those who oppress them and those they seek to represent.

  • posted by siggy
  • Sat, May 26, 2001 11:34am

quote:


From what I understand, there's a lot of shame going on within the ranks of business agents


I would need more than "from what I understand" to convince me that a bird can change its' feathers or even wants to.
And as for "remorse, shame and self loathing."? Maybe in your neck of the woods, but I have seen nothing of its' kind in B.C.

 

quote:


They are like drug addics


You can call them what you want, it does not excuse the wrong choices made at the beginning.
Before they became "addicted" they had a choice.
When bad choices are made consistently over a long period of time and to the detriment of so many, I tend to question a persons' stability, motives and trustworthiness.

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Sat, May 26, 2001 12:08pm

I think that you're right to weigh whatever you hear from the inside carefully. Certainly professional spin-doctors like Reno I wouldn't trust either. (I don't think he falls into the "oh well what can you do category".)

However, not everyone on the inside is evil either and I would say that many had no idea what they were getting into when they got their first staff appointment. The stuff we're talking about isn't widely known or at least wasn't up until recently. A lot of biz agents start their jobs believing that their union is good and thinking all the right thoughts. The process of realizing what's really going on is a slow one. Many excuses are offered up as to why the organization must do what it must do. By the time it finally stares them in the face, they're hooked on "the life". It's hard to get out. The UFCW bureacracy is sort of like a cult: it's a very closed society. Staff become very dependent on the union. People come to think that the union is their life - if they leave, they'll perish. (This sounds weird I know, but it's true!)

I agree that this doesn't excuse their complicity. Once you know the score, you have a choice. It's a tough choice though and not many can make it. That's why the self-loathing.

That's why some of them come here. For some of the older crowd (the ones who were a part of the anti-Evans movement in the 1980's)it's a trip down memory lane as you say (but not a pleasant one - you're doing what they couldn't do). For others, especially those who never knew life-before-Cliff, there's a kind of fascination - you're doing the unthinkable and nothing bad is happening to you.

It may not be something that you want to spend a lot of time on but when opportunities present themselves, you may want to encourage the insiders to make those choices. Some never will, but some are on the borderline. Putting some cracks in the bureacracy would be very helpful in your reform efforts. Don't forget, the organization depends on an obedient bureaucracy for its survival.

  • posted by siggy
  • Sat, May 26, 2001 3:29pm

There have been many references on this site indicating the "elite" are where they are for various reasons and not necessarily because of any particular skill.
They do seem to have one thing in common however. And that is, they are "opportunists" at heart.

Now, by whatever means, they are the ones who have the "history", the "power" and the "insider stuff" that many believe to be an asset/necessary to reform.
That their dissent will somehow even be the key to reform.
"Axe grinding" and "opportunity" should not be the groundwork for positive reform.

 

quote:


Putting some cracks in the bureacracy would be very helpful in your reform efforts.


If anything that has been said here, even remotely (pardon the pun), resembles fact then those "cracks" are well in place.

 

quote:


you're doing what they couldn't do).


What exactly am I doing that they "couldn't" do?

Be honest? Not live off the back of others? Care about the future? Speak up regardless of the consequences? (we are painfully aware of the sacrifice of some of our members).

They could have they just didn't.

 

quote:


but they are too, fearful to fight those who oppress them


Fearful of what? Fearful they might have to live in common housing? They might have to work a labourers job for minimum wage? They might only be entitled 2 wks vacation? (wait while I get the tissue)

And as for "encouraging" them, I do.
I encourage them all to step forward and break the mold.
But for that there is no "reward" other than the self-loathing and shame will diminish.
Is that not incentive enough for truly remorseful people?

  • posted by weiser
  • Sat, May 26, 2001 8:14pm

I once told some UFCW staffers about some of the crap that was going on. When I showed them the proof, one of them said, "What you're telling me doesn't make me feel very good about my union." Up until that point they didn't know for sure what was going on. However, from that point on, they had no excuse for not trying to change the corruption. Scared for their undeserved paycheck, they ran for cover and either did nothing or joined in trying to crush reform.

It was at that point that they became pukes and opportunists.

Rather than standing on the sidelines, they had the chance to help either directly or indirectly. They did everything for themselves and nothing for the rank and file. That's why they are pukes of the lowest sort--pukes in fancy cars and fancy clothes paid for with the sweat and toil of working men and women.

  • posted by brother_hood
  • Sat, May 26, 2001 11:30pm

To risk it all for others...I thought that's what unionism was all about. "Duty to principle" and not the almighty dollar was what was supposed to set us apart from our employers. The fraternity and "brotherhood" of union members. Family. Well how truely disfunctional we've all become. How easy it is to proclaim "forward ever! backward never! Solidarity forever!" and then abandon your other family members when troubled waters surround us. This is what these "former" reformers continue to do to this day!
When I read posts about a sorry bunch of sellouts who cry tears of sorrow over what's become of them, only to go back to work and keep silent about what's going on in the union they represent I feel like puking. Spare me.

  • posted by Troll
  • Sun, May 27, 2001 8:07am

You get what you pay for. The only problem with what you're paying for is that more expensive isn't always better.

Unions have gone from the participatory model to the service model. Where union members used to do everything for themselves, they now hire people to do it for them.

Sometimes you vote on whom you are going to hire and sometimes you vote for someone who will do the hiring. The ones you vote to hire are near impossible to fire after that. They hold the rulebook on firing.

The service model is the root of corruption. The service model has turned unions into businesses. They are just like an insurance company, however, you don't get to find a new insurer if you get dissatisfied with the product or service. Those types of decisions are left up to the "union industry" executives. They have a club called the Canadian Labour Congress.

And, yes, Buzz Hargrove just re-joined the club. Apparently, he must have been reading the CLC constitution upside down. He now says it reads much better and he can live with its undemocratic rules about rank-and-file democracy.

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Mon, May 28, 2001 4:43pm

If you liked Bill Reno (former anti-Evans crusader, current UFCW propaganda machine) in the earlier article about vote-rigging and other undemocratic election practices, you'll positively cheer for him when you hear what he has to say about a suspected sweetheart deal with a new supermarket chain in this article. (Bill, come on, you have to tell us, how did you lose your faith?)

The Toronto Star
NEWS Thursday, February 18, 1988 C28
Supermarket plotted with Teamsters group rival union complains
By Peter Edwards Toronto Star

The United Food and Commercial Workers has launched a counterattack against the Teamsters in a battle over a proposed pact that the UFCW says threatens rights and wages of all Ontario grocery workers. At a news conference yesterday, the food workers union charged that a Teamsters local organized by Thomas Corrigan enjoyed favoritism from management of Super Carnaval in signing up workers for the new grocery chain. Super Carnaval owner Joseph Burnett countered that the food workers union - not the Teamsters - is guilty of seeking a sweetheart deal. "They (UFCW) are doing it to put pressure on me to give them a sweetheart deal," Burnett said. Burnett called the union's stance "sour grapes" and dismissed its allegations as "hogwash."
Super Carnaval is a large chain that started in Quebec. Its first Ontario store opened in Scarborough at Neilson and Tapscott Rds. last October.
The verbal hostilities broke out after the food workers union filed a complaint with the Ontario Labor Relations Board, alleging management helped bring the Teamsters into Super Carnaval.

'Tainted certification'
The complaint argues "a well-orchestrated plan" was hatched between Super Carnaval and Laundry Linen Drivers and Industrial Workers Local 847, affiliated with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
"We're saying the certification is tainted," said UFCW Ontario president Bill Reno.
The Teamsters' Corrigan could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Stephen Whal, lawyer for Local 847, expressed surprise when told of the charges.
"That's the first time I've heard of anybody asserting that any Teamsters' affiliate is not a union," Whal said.
"The Teamsters don't usually get along with employers that well that anyone could assert otherwise."
Reno argued yesterday that the Teamsters-Super Carnaval proposed pact is so poor in terms of wages, benefits and working conditions that it threatens to undermine contracts for workers throughout Ontario in the competitive grocery industry.
Under the proposed agreement, some Teamsters workers will make half of what their UFCW counterparts make in competing supermarkets, Reno said.
No set hours
The complaint of the food workers union states that, under the proposed agreement, there is no outline for the number of hours Super Carnaval workers must work per day or the number of days they must work per week.
The pact would also give management the right to change all schedules, the UFCW says.
But Burnett said he's now paying higher wages than those given unionized workers in new A & P and Miracle Mart stores.
"I have to pay good wages if I want to wind up with good employees," Burnett said.
"I don't know why the big hullabaloo about our stores," he added.
Reno said ramifications of the dispute extend beyond the Scarborough store, giving Super Carnaval an unfair cost advantage over its unionized counterparts.
"It threatens every legitimate union," Reno said, adding he's contemplating a boycott of Super Carnaval stores.
Last fall, the Teamsters-affiliated Laundry and Linen Drivers and Industrial Workers signed up 46 of 75 workers at Super Carnaval's Scarborough store.
Expanding chain
The UFCW said this gives the Teamsters rights to a projected 7,000 workers throughout Ontario at the rapidly expanding chain, which has since opened another store in Hamilton. A second Hamilton store is to be opened later in the month.
"What you're saying, basically, is that 46 people will decide the fate of 7,000," food workers union organizer Abe Peters said.
Burnett argued the Teamsters only have the bargaining rights for Super Carnaval employees in the Metro area.
UFCW officials charged that while their organizers weren't even allowed on the Super Carnaval parking lot in their attempt to organize workers, Teamsters organizers were allowed to sign up members in the company cafeteria.
Some signed with the Teamsters after being told to do so by company management, Peters said.
The charges are untrue, Burnett said.
"Management definitely would not direct anybody to sign up anywhere," Burnett said. "That's a fight between them (UFCW) and the Teamsters. That's an inter-union fight. That's not my fight."
The UFCW belongs to the Ontario Federation of Labor and Canadian Labor Congress; the Teamsters belong to neither federation.

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