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Troy-based company hired to break Grand Rapids Gravel workers strike

August 5, 2012

Yesterday, we posted a second story about the Grand Rapids Gravel workers strike. In that story we identified a company hired to provide security, but the name was inaccurate.

We now know that the company’s name is Huffmaster. Based out of Troy, Michigan, Huffmaster considers itself “as the leading provider of strike management solutions.”

Huffmaster has been around for 45 years and has a long history of working for companies that use scab workers and seek to bust up unions. In the late 1990s, the parent company of the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press hired Huffmaster to provide 480 security personnel to protect the scab workers hired by another company. Huffmaster was also hired to break the strike of a teachers’ union in Toledo in earlier this year.

According to the company’s website:

Huffmaster has earned its reputation as the leading strike management resource on the front lines of many of the nation’s most difficult and high-profile labor disputes. As a result, few companies can match our depth of experience or our range of services. We can assist with all aspects of pre-strike contingency planning and, if a work stoppage occurs, we can provide replacement workers, strike-trained uniformed officers and a full array of supporting services. With a unique combination of experience and single-source capabilities, Huffmaster is the proven choice for strike management solutions.

Another aspect of Huffmaster, which is common in security companies, is that the management team includes former military personnel. The President and Vice President of the company both served in the US military, with President Gregory Johnson having served in the US Army Special Forces.

The military connection to Huffmaster doesn’t end there, however. One of the “associations” the company boasts online is with ASIS International. ASIS International has been a major beneficiary of the US led War on Terror and has won major taxpayer funded contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Indeed, Huffmaster has also profited handsomely since the 2011 declared War on Terror. They provide consulting, security and surveillance services in the US for companies that “might be potential targets of terrorist attacks,” such as chemical companies. Huffmaster produced this video a few years ago that used the War on Terror as a pretext to sell its services.

However, the company’s bread and butter lies with strike breaking in the US. According to the company:

When a strike occurs – whether expected or unexpected – Huffmaster’s strike security professionals can rapidly respond to secure your facilities, deter strike-related violence and support your continuing operations with:

Picket Line Security – Our highly specialized strike security officers are trained to deter picket misconduct and, when necessary, keep driveways clear using defensive formations.

Property Protection – Designed to help prevent sabotage and/or vandalism to your facility and equipment through high visibility and deterrence.

Mobile Protection – Dedicated to protecting drivers, trucks and other mobile assets by deterring misconduct on the road.

Evidence Collection – Highly specialized officers are trained in investigative and evidence gathering techniques, which include documenting evidence of picket line misconduct for use in injunctions, restraining order hearings or for employee disciplinary purposes.

Command and Control – Experienced site management teams can coordinate every aspect of your strike security operation.

Executive Protection – Our highly trained agents provide low-profile security to company owners, managers and/or family members who may be targeted for harassment during a labor dispute.

While this writer was present at the Grand Rapids Gravel workers picket line on Friday, we observed Huffmaster security guards attempting to blame union workers for throwing roofing nails near the entrance of the Grand Rapids Gravel Co. facility in Grandville and then contacting the Grandville Police. This clearly was a way to intimidate striking workers.

In addition, when striking workers and supporters engaged some of Huffmaster’s guards, one of them made threatening comments as if to provoke a physical confrontation. This was so evident that other Huffmaster security guards had to coax the man back in the van and remove him from the area where the workers were holding the picket line.

You can see from the photo here one Huffmaster security personnel filming the striking workers when the workers were confronting the guards about the fabricated roofing nail incident.

GRIID will continue to provide updates on the Grand Rapids Gravel workers strike, for as long as it lasts. We openly support worker solidarity with these striking workers and believe it is important that people know that the Grand Rapids Gravel Company is using a strike-breaking, scab providing company like Huffmaster.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. Thomas Smith permalink
    August 5, 2012 5:07 pm

    great article, thanks, striking teamster

    • August 5, 2012 5:11 pm

      Thanks Thomas, let me know if there is any other way we can support you and the other striking workers.

      • Tom permalink
        August 6, 2012 12:17 am

        thank-you jeff,for taking the time to come and join us on the pickett line friday. It’s great having solidarity with other unions in this area. As everybody else that read your article can see, the security dinks from Huffmaster are trying to set us up for vandalism. We are not that stupid. We are going to follow the quidelines set forth by the Teamsters and the Grandville Police Dept. We are still willing to take the $3.26 pay cut and get back to work. Thanks again Tom Smedley, Fellow Teamster

  2. August 6, 2012 11:57 am

    Tom, worker solidarity is critical. If there is any way we can help bring awareness to this struggle let us know.

  3. Jeri Steckling permalink
    August 6, 2012 6:05 pm

    Jeff, I just want to tell you when I read your article about Huffmaster, it made me sick. I am still upset to here about them. I cannot believe that Dykema would hire a company like that, they only have 62 employees! The cost must be astranomical! I want you to know I called Michigan Radio this morning to tell them someone should let the people know what is going on. It is crazy! The lady I talked to knows you. I asked her to call my husband for more info.

    • August 6, 2012 6:10 pm

      Jeri, I can certainly can understand you feeling sick. Great idea to contact Michigan radio, as the light needs to be put on GR Gravel for sure.

  4. Ron Williams permalink
    August 8, 2012 12:24 am

    You will b seeing this kinda stuff across the country, as long as the republicans have power, it will continue!!

    • August 8, 2012 12:28 am

      Ron, thanks for the comments. However, I must disagree with you on this point. I think it is less about partisan politics and more about the capitalist class attacking the working class. There is just no evidence that when there is a Democrat in the White House or a Democratic controlled Congress that these kinds of attacks on working people and unions cease or decrease.

      • Ron Williams permalink
        August 8, 2012 12:35 am

        Jeff,

        The republican party has been attacking the middle-class worker going back 2 Ronald Regan. Just recently we need only 2 look @ Wisconsin, Ohio etc.

  5. August 8, 2012 12:43 am

    Ron, I am not denying the the GOP is attacking working people, but so have the Democrats………passing NAFTA and other trade agreements, bailout out Wall Street, providing ongoing welfare to corporations, but cutting it for working families. Again, it is a class war not a partisan war.

  6. October 24, 2012 3:13 pm

    This is a sign of the times, and people need to take these actions seriousally, Grand rapids Gravel used to be a great company, I know, I worked there for years, The mangement acts as though the employees are beneath them, they need to understand their company will never be the same, their employees are the best in the area, most people don’t understand, the best employees are at UNION companies, why, because the employees can have a say, and receive good pay and benifits. The company really dosen’t have many problems with their workforce because every knows what to except. Good employees make or break a company, but I quess the 4 J’s just don’t care like their fathers. GREED, GREED,GREED, will come back to haunt them. what a pity, This new mangement should be ashamed. Sometimes must fight fire with fire. All contractors in the area should only buy concrete from other concrete companies in the area until the strike is resolved. I think praying is not enough this time. I support the strikers completly, they’re all great employees. Fight for your rights!
    anything I can do I will. sincerely David Deace

Trackbacks

  1. Grand Rapids Gravel workers strike – Day 16 « Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy
  2. Elections, not worker solidarity, dominates West Michigan Labor Fest 2012 « Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

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