20/20 (ABC 9:00 pm ET)
– FIRED CAMPBELL’S SOUP EMPLOYEES FIGHT BACK
employees at a Campbell's Soup factory in Napoleon, Ohio, are
fighting their dismissal by the company after private investigators
said they were using drugs, despite the lack of hard evidence.
DOWNS: What if the person working next to you every day was really
a spy, hired by the boss to keep an eye on you? Well, believe
it or not, that's exactly what was going on at the Campbell's
Soup Company. Campbell's says it was looking into complaints by
a dozen employees that some workers were using drugs on the job,
but most of the 62 workers who were accused and fired say it's
a worker be fired based on accusations? Was Campbell's Soup's
investigation fair? Well, Tom Jarriel looked for answers during
his own investigation.
JARRIEL, ABC News: [voice-over] For over a century, Campbell's
Soup Company has nurtured its image as a friendly, healthy addition
to the table of millions of American homes. Today, top names like
skater Nancy Kerrigan endorse Campbell's products in sophisticated
advertising campaigns. It's a multi-billion-dollar company that
makes soups and a wide range of foods from fish sticks to juices
to pickles. It's big business with a small-town appeal, and one
of its main plants is located smack-dab in the heartland.
camera] Napoleon, Ohio, population 8,800. If there's anything
like a company town, this is it, and the company is Campbell's
Soup, by far the largest employer here. It seems an unlikely place
for controversy, but just over a year ago more than 60 workers
were summarily fired for allegedly using drugs on the job. Most
of the workers say they're innocent, and were framed by the company.
The result? A bitter confrontation between Campbell's and the
union over the firings.
Caught in the crossfire are typical American families, the fired
employees of Campbell's Soup. Ted Iorio is the union's lawyer.
IORIO: No matter what we do, no matter how hard we fight, no matter
whether we try to bargain with them or not, they're not backing
off, 'cause they're the Campbell kids, and it's the power of soup,
JARRIEL: [voice-over] Local 626 of the United Food and Commercial
Workers International is fighting to get those fired back in the
plant, and some of the workers are suing the company for millions
of dollars in damages. David Gelios is head of the union.
To the best of your knowledge, was there a significant drug problem
at the plant?
GELIOS: No. We have never had that. The company has the right
to inspect their lockers, their lunch buckets, the bags that come
in. They've never found a case like that. We've never had it.
JARRIEL: [voice-over] So is Napoleon a hotbed of drug trafficking?
No. In fact, only 36 arrests were made for drugs in the area last
year. But Campbell's was convinced there was a need for an internal
investigation at its plant, so the company hired a California
private detective firm, Krout and Schneider, to place undercover
operatives inside the Napoleon plant.
several months, ending in December 1992, three operatives went
undercover to spy on the assembly lines, working side by side
with Campbell's employees. Another was posted as a guard who roamed
the parking lot, keeping notes on people he thought were using
drugs. But there were no photographs, videotapes or other physical
evidence, only the secret reports sent back each night to the
headquarters in California. Finally, the workers were brought
into an interrogation room, sometimes for up to six hours, confronted
with the accusations, and dismissed.
Nagel worked for Campbell's Soup for 10 years. He lost his $13-an-hour
job because one investigator charged he smoked marijuana twice
during lunch in the parking lot.
NAGEL: I've never touched it, I don't care to. I won't have it
around my family because I don't want it around my kids.
JARRIEL: Did you have a sense that through the interrogation,
they were trying to break you?
NAGEL: Oh, yeah. They- you know, they kept harassing you about
drugs, you know, they had photographs of me smoking marijuana.
And I told them the only way they had a photograph of me smoking
anything, even a cigarette, is if they doctored up photographs.
JARRIEL: These are the company's charges that they made against
you specifically. How do you answer them? 'Subject was observed
smoking marijuana with Steve Gilgenbach in a company parking lot.'
NAGEL: It never happened. Steve doesn't smoke, I don't smoke.
He doesn't smoke cigarettes, either.
JARRIEL: It goes on to say that on the very next day you stated
that you had smoked marijuana a couple of times in the company
parking lot, this to what they call their operative, their uniformed
NAGEL: Never talked to their operative that I know of. I wouldn't-
I sure wouldn't stand in a hallway and have a conversation with
somebody I don't know.
GILGENBACH: I told them that there was no way I did it, you know.
JARRIEL: [voice-over] Steve Gilgenbach, the father of two young
girls, was fired for allegedly using marijuana twice in the parking
lot. A private eye said he saw him with Nagel.
They never offered any videotapes, any hard evidence?
GILGENBACH: I asked them to see the evidence, and they said they
didn't have time to go into it. I stood up and I come across the
desk, and I said, 'I want to take a drug test now.' And they said,
'It wouldn't do you no good.'
JARRIEL: [voice-over] His wife Julie.
GILGENBACH: He told me, and I just couldn't believe it. And I
know for sure that he is not guilty of what this person accused
him of. There's no doubt in my mind.
JARRIEL: What was it like on you and your family at home? A lot
GILGENBACH: Very. Lot. It was- it was bad. It was a rough time.
It still is tough.
JARRIEL: [voice-over] Les Guelde lost his job preparing spices
for soups, after 13 years at Campbell's. An undercover agent claimed
Guelde snorted cocaine in a company bathroom.
GUELDE: I told them that I've never even seen cocaine, except
on TV, and the investigator sat there and called me a liar.
JARRIEL: What did you do to try to prove you were innocent?
GUELDE: I demanded a drug test on the spot, to the investigators,
and they denied me one. They wouldn't give me a drug test. So
I come home that night very upset, and I called the hospital,
and I had a urinalysis drug test done, and I had a hair follicle
test, which tests for cocaine residue in the hair follicles and
the hair shafts, and I had a polygraph test done, and all the
drug tests come back negative, and the polygraph test come back
showing that I was telling the truth, and they wouldn't even look
JARRIEL: So that was never considered by the company before they
let you go?
JARRIEL: What angers you the most about what they did?
GUELDE: Well, just, you know, I had to- I couldn't pay my bills,
so I had to call places, and you know, as soon as you mentioned
that you worked at Campbell's and they knew exactly what it was
for, and it's just ruined my reputation, it's ruined my name.
You know, if it wasn't for my family, I would have lost everything.
JARRIEL: [voice-over] Of the 62 employees fired, some insisted
they were innocent, while over half admitted orally or in writing
they were guilty of the charges. Nearly all of them have since
retracted their statements, claiming they were coerced into making
them during lengthy interrogations. Forrest Fisher speaks for
Campbell's. He's head of the company's medical and safety programs.
FISHER: We feel that the investigation was credible and reasonable.
It was our intent to maintain a safe workplace and to address
this as a workplace issue, and that's exactly what we've done.
JARRIEL: [voice-over] Campbell's won the first round when the
state of Ohio ruled the company had followed appropriate procedures
in firing the employees. But the cases are now before independent
arbitrators and the civil courts. Ironically, the only criminal
charges filed in the big drug bust at Campbell's were against
the private investigating firm. They were fined $1,000 for failing
to register with local authorities, as required by Ohio law.
retained Mike Kessler, a long-time private investigator, to analyze
the cases made by Campbell's.
What's your assessment of this investigation?
KESSLER: Well, I have some problems with them. There was- the
notes that were taken were destroyed. Covert recordings and audio
were not done at all. Witnesses that backed out after they made
various statements against an individual, and finally the coercion,
the interviewing process, keeping somebody in a room for the amount
of time that was involved certainly leaves questions regarding
JARRIEL: These aren't normal techniques?
KESSLER: No, they're not.
JARRIEL: Have you heard of a case this size, with this number
of employees being accused of drug use and local police being
totally cut out of it?
KESSLER: It's unbelievable. When you have 62 employees getting
involved or caught in an undercover operation in a three-month
period of time, and not having local law enforcement contacted
so that they can find out what the sources are, it's- I question
the validity of that investigation.
JARRIEL: Do you think the fired employees have a case against
KESSLER: Oh, I think that they have an argument. I think they
have a damned good argument.
JARRIEL: [voice-over] Dr. Fisher of Campbell's declined to discuss
any specific cases of those fired because of pending lawsuits,
but the company agreed to speak about the overall investigation.
You based your case on the work of Krout and Schneider, right?
FISHER: We based our case on the facts that were developed from
JARRIEL: By Krout and Schneider. Why didn't these people pick
up any hard physical evidence in their investigation? It's all
one man's word against another.
FISHER: The manner of the investigation was determined by the
investigating firm, and any questions referable to that should
be addressed to them.
JARRIEL: [voice-over] Dr. Fisher maintains local officials were
consulted about the investigation, but police say they were cut
out of the probe.
It sounded like a major drug operation. Why not call in the police?
FISHER: It was not Campbell Soup Company's intent to pursue criminal
prosecution. It was our intent to maintain safety in the workplace.
That's the way it was pursued. We feel that was fair, we feel
that the facts speak for themselves.
JARRIEL: [voice-over] We wanted to speak with the private detective
firm, but they declined our request to be interviewed.
those fired at Campbell's, one of the principal employers in all
of western Ohio, finding work has been difficult. Steve Gilgenbach
searched for more than a year before he finally found a job.
GILGENBACH: It takes a toll on you, knowing you- you don't do
nothing, and everybody's saying- they put you all in one group
and say, 'You're all druggies in here.'
GILGENBACH: I just hold my head high and know what we believe
in, and we do not believe in using drugs for our lifestyle.
JARRIEL: [voice-over] Jim Nagel is still out of work.
Hope you get your job back?
NAGEL: There's nothing else around here really pays what Campbell's
Soup does. I know it won't be the same going back, if I do go
back, because Campbell's Soup lost my respect, and it's going
to take them a long time to get that back, if they ever will.
WALTERS: Tom, this seems to be a very unusual way to go about
things, or am I just misinformed? Is this how most companies try
to find out if people are on drugs?
JARRIEL: Not at all, Barbara. Our consultant says this was a very
rare investigation. Most companies use surveillance cameras and
drug testing, standard techniques. They don't build a case like
WALTERS: Now, what about arbitration? You said that the men and
women may be going into arbitration.
JARRIEL: The first case has been completed. An arbitrator has
ruled entirely in favor of one of the employees, Les Guelde, he
was in our report. He gets his job back, he gets back pay, he
gets seniority restored. He will report back to Campbell's. The
other cases are still pending.
WALTERS: But each one has the opportunity for arbitration?
JARRIEL: Right. Right. There are 62 cases here. This is only the
first. Each one has to fight their way back in. Guelde has succeeded.
WALTERS: There's a long road ahead.
WALTERS: Thank you, Tom.