Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Anti-Union Forces Running Ads, Running Scared

Change to Win, AFL-CIO health care organizing campaigns, janitors, hotel workers, meat packers, disasters in the nation's mines and refineries, "card check" organizaing campaigns. Oh my! The anti-union folk must be getting a tad nervious. What is to be done?

Run a bunch of ads and form another corporate-backed union busting association. And who can they find to run it? How about someone who's been busy forming corporate-backed associations to defend mercury in fish (FishScam.com), challenge Mothers Against Drunk Driving and its efforts to lower the legal blood alcohol content limit, to dismisses concern about obesity as "hype," to defend the tobacco industry against smoking curbs in restaurants and the beverage industry against restrictions on alcohol use,and to argue against raising the minimum wage forthe Employment Policies Institute?

The so-called Center for Union Facts (UnionFacts.com) a group created by Richard Berman, a lobbyist behind all of these organizations, ran a full page ad in the Washington Post, New York Times and Wall Street Journal yesterday
show that "so many of the things that the union leadership accuses business of and demonizes business for probably can be turned around, and the unions can be shown to be duplicitous and two-faced about their accusations."

The site includes statistics about what it calls the "size, scope, political activities, and criminal activity of the labor movement in the United States of America." It emphasizes the number of labor racketeering investigations and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints against unions and also lists rights workers have in dealing with their unions. Members can click on their own union on the Web site to see the union's executive compensation, budgets, political donations and "the shady tactics they practice," the site says. It also highlights how to end a union's right to represent employees at a workplace.

Berman clearly hasn't been following the recent mine disasters or reading about meatpackers in North Carolina or hotel workers or....well, he hasn't be reading Confined Space:
"The way unions are presently structured is often anachronistic," said lobbyist Rick Berman, who started the group. "They don't want to recognize that the world has moved on. Management isn't treating employees like they were in the 1930s or '40s. Unions don't have anything to sell anymore."
And who's funding this noble effort?
Mr. Berman said various companies and a foundation had contributed to his nonprofit group, but he refused to identify them. He said he hoped to spend more than $5 million a year on the campaign.


A.F.L.-C.I.O. officials said the president of a state chamber of commerce told them that at a conference in Florida on Jan. 26, the state chambers had pledged several million dollars to back Mr. Berman's effort. But Mr. Berman said that when he spoke at the conference, he neither asked for nor received contributions. Rather, he said, he asked chamber officials to recommend that businesses in their states donate to his efforts.

Randel Johnson, vice president for labor, immigration and employee benefits at the United States Chamber of Commerce, said that as far as he knew neither the United States Chamber nor any state chambers had contributed to the Center for Union Facts.

Mr. Johnson said he had served as an adviser to the center.
And what's the real purpose behind the campaign?
The center was founded as several unions had grown more aggressive about unionizing workers, often pressuring employers not to fight organizing drives. In addition, many unions are pressing companies to agree to recognize them, not through representation elections, but through a process known as card check, in which companies grant recognition as soon as a majority of workers sign cards saying they want a union.

"In card check campaigns, unions tend to control the information that the workers hear," Mr. Johnson said. "We think the Center on Union Facts is useful for workers to have access to more information on unions."

Mr. Berman said his center hoped to help enact a Republican-backed bill that would prohibit unions from organizing workers through card checks.

It all makes perfect sense to the AFL-CIO:
A spokeswoman for the A.F.L.-C.I.O., Lane Windham, said: "It's clear that corporations are fighting back against workers' efforts to roll back corporate power. It's no accident that corporations are doing this against us when unions are trying to make sure that employers pay their fair share on heath care and when we're taking on giant corporations like Wal-Mart."
Well, Dickie old boy, all I can say is keep running those ads, every day -- until you're out of money. I'm sure the miners, meatpackers, hotel workers, health care workers and janitors of America are listening carefully.

Update: Nathan Newman writes on the same subject, noting that the "400 million in labor racketeering fines and civil restitution in the last five years" on Berman's site comes from a Department of Labor list -- and, lo and behold most were
businesses that defrauded the unions-- ie. the union leaders were the victims not the criminals....In fact, almost all of the big money associated with the $400 million figure in labor racketeering was committed by private industry AGAINST unions, not by union officials.