Center for Labor Education & Research, University of Hawaii - West Oahu: Honolulu Record Digitization Project

Honolulu Record, Volume 10 No. 35, Thursday, March 27, 1958 p. 2


He Invented Sweetheart Contracts

Sears Roebuck Sponsored Rise of Mate Shefferman, Union-Buster

The U.S. Senate's investigation of anti-labor rackets by many leading Mainland companies spotlighted, the employment by Sears Roebuck of Nathan Shefferman and his union-busting firm, Labor Relations Associates.
Fortune magazine for February examines the notorious relation­ship and says:

"Neither Shefferman's rise nor subsequent influence would have been possible without the extraordinary encouragement of Sears Roebuck, the largest general merchandise chain in the country.

Abruptly Dropped

For 22 years, until 1957, Shefferman was a trusted employee and later a consultant for Sears.

In 1939 it helped him start Labor Relations Associates (LRA). In August 1957 as a result of the publicity in the Senate's healings he was abruptly dropped and repudiated by Sears But the record cannot be so easily expunged, nor the problem of responsibility so quietly evaded

Fortune describes the active friendship that Shefferman developed with Teamster President Dave Beck, also discredited by the Senate Investigation, and how Shefferman had visited Hawaii with Beck The magazine then continues.

"It was at the Sears Boston store that Shefferman's varied techniques came into full play.

The warehouse employes of seven Sears stores in the metropolitan area belonged to a quiescent teamsters union; some of the other store employes belonged to a Sears Employes' Council which had been organized by Shefferman in 1938 to head off the AFL Retail Clerks.

"In 1950, Roy Webber, head of the Employes' Council, told AFL organizer John Lind that the council wanted to join the AFL Retail Clerks because it was be­ing pushed around by manage­ment In fact, 80 per cent of the council members signed up for making the change.

Shortly before an NLRB election, however, Webber changed his mind, and the revolt failed. It was revealed later that Webber had been bought off with a $20-a-week pay raise.

The Technique

The dissatisfaction of employes with the Sears Employes Council continued, however, and in 1953 they voted overwhelmingly to affiliate with the AFL Retail Clerks A month later a Shefferman LRA staff man a Mr. Guffy, arrived in Boston with full plenipotentiary powers to break up this drive.

Mr. Guffy was actually James Neilsen an expert on sweetheart contracts Seals assigned a personnel manager, Paul Rohidanz to carry out Nielsen instructions. Over the next two years Nielsen and other LRA men did the following.

“Trained Rohrdanz in the use of the rotating committee technique; conducted a union-attitude survey among Boston employes; and arranged the transfer of pro-union employes.”

..The final strike was arranged by Nate Shefferman, Fortune says, who persuaded John Lind to leave Sears for another job, "and the upshot of these diverse maneuvers was that in May 1955 the majority of Sears employes voted for no union."

"In one sense," says Fortune, "the Shefferman technique has paid off for Sears. Of 205,000 workers in Sears, only 14,000 are organized and of these 7,000 belong to the Teamsters. Strange to say, or not so strange to say, the Teamsters have not yet mounted a really effective organizing drive.

“One of Shefferman's associates has defined his technique simply: We operate the exact way a union does,” he said. “But on management's side. We give out leaflets, talk to employes, and organize a propaganda campaign.”

"There is, however, one difference: union operations are "generally quite open, those of Shefferman — and Sears — have been covert and perhaps sometimes illegal."

p /> I do not say that at odd hours a patient must be given the regular hot dinner or supper. Few people would expect this.
But what is so complicated about opening and heating a can of soup, making some toast, or preparing instant coffee or tea? Why cannot a night nurse do these simple things after the kitchen to closed? Is it just too much trouble?

It is only common humanity to feed the hungry. If our hospitals are too big, too complex, too impersonal to do these small kindnesses for the sick, something is very wrong.