(Also posted on National Review Institute’s Media Malpractice blog.)
LA Times reporter Tom Hamburger has a very good article in Tuesday’s paper chronicling the business community’s largely behind-the scenes lobbying effort against the so-called “Employee Free Choice Act,” also known as the “card check” bill, which would largely do away with the secret ballot in unionization elections.
To Hamburger’s credit, he provides a lot of details about the business community’s lobbying effort that were not reported contemporaneously by the national media, such as an April meeting of 250 business owners in Arkansas that aimed to pressure Senators Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor in opposition to the card check legislation. Hamburger also reports about an “airlift” operation by pro-business groups that flew business owners to Washington for personal visits to their Senators’ offices.
However, Hamburger leaves unchallenged a questionable claim from an unnamed union advisor that unions have been “outspent” by business groups this year, and he gives the impression that unions have been largely sitting on their hands during this year’s debate:
“… once (Obama) was elected, labor leaders made a fateful decision … The labor groups scaled back (lobbying efforts on card check,) partly to give Obama time to get his bearings amid the deepening economic crisis…. Before labor groups had fully engaged this winter, the allied business groups successfully cast the legislation as undemocratic… The unions stepped up their pressure. On a frigid, blustery day in early April, 100 union members gathered outside Lincoln’s office in Little Rock and chanted for her to support the legislation.”
Those who have been fighting the card check bill over the past six months should be forgiven for wondering exactly when this supposed “scaled back” union lobbying period occurred, or when they weren’t “fully engaged” in the debate. Were unions giving Obama “time to get his bearings” on Jan. 14, when the union organization American Rights at Work announced a massive $3 million national TV ad campaign in support of card check?
Was it on Jan. 30, when the same group announced a “new television, print and online advertising campaign setting the record straight on the Employee Free Choice Act…?” Or maybe it was on Feb. 4, when labor unions brought hundreds of their members to a huge rally on Capitol Hill in support of the bill? In fact, a look at American Rights at Work’s news release web page shows a steady stream of announcements touting one ad campaign after another on the issue.
Is it likely that more strategic and effective grassroots lobbying by the pro-business community has helped give card-check opponents the upper hand, at least for now? Yes. But have labor unions been dramatically outspent or not “fully engaged” this year? Not by a long shot.
Filed under: Card Check, Unions / Labor | Tags: Card Check, efca, employee free choice act, unions
If you’re at all interested in the card check / EFCA debate, you should check out this must-see video over at the Heritage Foundation’s Insider Online site.
In the video, former union organizer Rian Wathen exposes some of the secret tricks that he and his colleagues used to get workers to sign cards in support of unionization. Interestingly, Wathen goes beyond the intimidation line we’ve heard a lot about; in the video he also explains how the one mandatory sentence calling for unionization can be hidden or camouflaged in the middle of a lot of other unrelated and innocuous text:
“The card can have any language on it, as long as it has one line on it, which is the suggested language from the National Labor Relations Board that says ‘I hereby authorize what ever the union is to represent me for the purposes of collective bargaining.”
Wathen goes on to display a creative unionization card that SEIU has been using in California:
“It’s a color pamphlet, and it has real nice pictures on the front, and it has a bunch of fluff about SEIU and how you’re going to get better wages and benefits and all this wonderful stuff. Buried in the middle of the paragraph on that front is the line about how you authorize SEIU to represent you for purposes of collective bargaining… But most interestingly about this card, is the inside of the card – it’s just a line of signatures – put your name, put your address, put your phone number. I don’t see anything on that page on the inside of the pamphlet that says ‘I authorize SEIU to represent me for the purposes of collective bargaining. So I have this pamphlet, I’m a union organizer, I hold a meeting at the local pizza joint where I’m buying pizza and beer, and I lay this down on the table like this and say, “Here… sign in here on our sign-in sheet. Right? Not against the law. This is the card that they’re using right now in California.”
Wathen describes several other methods of manipulation — check out the entire video here.
Filed under: Card Check, Unions / Labor | Tags: Card Check, efca, labor, uaw, unions
Inspired (if that’s the right word) by Time magazine’s photo essay featuring the ruins of Detroit, I put together a few mock inspirational posters for the upcoming debate on the so-called Employee Free Choice Act. Enjoy:
For larger versions of these posters, e-mail me here.
Filed under: Card Check, Online Video, Unions / Labor | Tags: Card Check, dan boren, intimidation, seiu, unions
Throughout the card check debate, union bosses have bristled at the notion that organizers intimidate workers into signing cards in support of unionization. “Us, intimidate workers?” they ask with cat-that-ate-the-canary grins.
Not sure who to believe? Just take a look at the disgusting video below, in which the SEIU attempts to tie the horrible death of an industrial worker to U.S. Rep. Dan Boren of Oklahoma, one of the few House Democrats who have voiced concerns about the bill.
This video is a clear signal not just to Boren, but to every other Member of Congress who has concerns about the so-called Employee Free Choice Act. Some would call the video an intimidation tactic, but you be the judge. Watch the video below… then ask yourself if union bosses would ever resort to intimidation…
Michael A. Fletcher at the Washington Post reports that a Senate committee confirmation vote on Obama Labor Secretary-appointee Hilda Solis has been postponed because her husband just yesterday paid a longstanding tax lien against his business.
Of course, this comes on the heels of reports that she failed to disclose that she served as Treasurer of a pro-labor lobbying group at the same time she supposedly did the people’s business as a United States Representative for everybody who lives California’s 32nd Congressional District.
A Senate committee today abruptly canceled a session to consider President Obama’s nomination of Rep. Hilda Solis to be labor secretary in the wake of a report saying that her husband yesterday paid about $6,400 to settle tax liens against his business — including liens that had been outstanding for as long as 16 years.
The report, by USA Today, came just before the Senate’s Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee was slated to meet to consider Solis’s nomination, which had been delayed by questions over her role on the board of the pro-labor organization American Rights at Work. A source said that committee members did not learn about the tax issue until today.
Does anybody in this Administration pay taxes? And just how many jobs could have been created in this troubled economy had the Obama Transition Team actually hired a few vetters?
Yesterday afternoon, organized labor rallied on Capitol Hill in support of card-check legislation that would effectively end secret ballot elections for workers.
At the rally, at least one worker claimed that 90% of his colleagues signed cards supporting a unionization election, but it turns out when workers cast their secret ballots, the pro-union forces only won by two votes.
Organized labor claims that secret-ballot elections lead to intimidation by employers, but if 90% of workers signed cards when confronted by union organizers in dark parking lots or in vacant break rooms and then only a very slim majority actually voted to unionize when those union operatives couldn’t see their votes, doesn’t that prove that union intimidation is much worse than employer intimidation?
We asked that simple question to two union officials at the rally, including AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. Not surprisingly, neither were really able to answer the question. Check it out in the short video below:
I just listened into a Big Labor media conference call, and it looks like they’re certainly not easing up at all in their big push to take away the secret ballot from workers and spread that oh-so-successful UAW/Detroit business model to the few remaining vestiges of profitability in America.
On the heels of their recent $3 million TV ad campaign that blanketed the cable news shows, American Rights at Work today unveiled a new TV spot and a new print ad – both embedded below.
This time they’re playing defense, claiming that the card check legislation wouldn’t really take away the secret ballot from workers in unionization drives. Other than that, the tone of the new ads seem to be pretty much the same. Namely, that guys who wear ties to work and play golf on Sunday afternoon collectively represent the greatest threat to America since Hitler himself.
To their credit, a couple of reporters pressed Executive Director Mary Beth Maxwell on her secret-ballot-for-all claim, and got her to finally admit that most of these union-forming cards (which are signed and therefore not a secret ballot) are collected on a “one-on one, worker-to-worker” basis.
In other words, 250-pound Salvatore corners helpless 98-pound Maria in the back room or in the dark parking lot and kindly “suggests” that she just sign the card. Or else. Don’t think that happens? Hear it directly from Salvatore here.
Like most Congressional Democrats, U.S. Rep. Hilda Solis – President-elect Obama’s pick to be the next Labor Secretary – is a co-sponsor of the controversial “card check” bill that would essentially do away with the secret ballot for America’s working men and women in union elections.
However, it turns out Congresswoman Solis is a big supporter of the secret ballot – but only for herself! Check out this Washington Post report from February 2007, when Solis and three of her colleagues sent a letter to Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Joe Baca protesting the fact that the Caucus’ recent election wasn’t conducted with secret ballots:
“When Baca was elected, Solis, Sanchez and her sister, Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), disputed the election procedure and unsuccessfully pushed for a new vote by secret ballot.”
According to this article, Solis signed a letter to Baca saying that a secret ballot was necessary to protect the “integrity” of the Caucus election:
“…in a letter to Baca earlier this month, she, her sister, Solis and Velazquez contended the vote did not follow procedure because secret ballot votes were not taken.
“The letter requested a new vote, by secret ballot.
“While this request is not likely to change the results, and while it may seem like a mere formality, it is important that the integrity of the CHC be unquestioned and above reproach,” it said
Typical. A secret ballot for me, but not for thee!
One of the first big battles in Congress next year will likely be over something known as card check, which is a term that most Americans haven’t even heard yet.
At issue is a bill ironically titled the Employee Free Choice Act. I say ironically because rather than promoting “free choice” for employees, it would actually take away the secret ballot that workers currently have when they decide whether or not to form or join a union. Instead of a secret ballot, union organizers would be able to confront – some would say intimidate – individual workers and encourage them to sign a card stating that they want to unionize.
The stated goal of the so-called card check bill is to unionize more businesses across America, which would essentially spread that fantastic UAW business model to every corner of the land. Hey – it worked great in Detroit, right?
Anyway, the card check battle is already heating up in Washington, on the nation’s TV airwaves – and on video sharing sites like YouTube. I’ve scoured the web in search of the best card check videos out there in the hope of learning more about how we can better wage this battle in the coming months. Here are the five best ones I found:
5. Coercive “Card Check” Union Organizing Victims Speak Out — by National Right to Work:
Why It Works: The use of real workers who have been the victims of intimidation by union organizers really drives the issue home in an emotional, easy-to-understand way.
How it Could Be Better: Some of the cuts are a little rough and abrupt, but an unpolished product is often better for online audiences than a perfectly produced video. Also, the white Right to Work logo next to each worker’s name is a little distracting, as is the constant crawl at the bottom of the screen.
4. EFCA Exposed: Former Union Organizers Spill the Beans – by EFCA Exposed, Labor Relations Institute:
Why It Works: This video delivers a creative twist on the ones that feature real workers who have been victims of intimidation by actually showcasing the intimidators – former union organizers who admit to manipulation, deception and intimidation to get workers to sign union cards. One of the former organizers, Salvatore (above), is right out of central casting. The guy could have guest starred on The Sopranos.
How It Could Be Better: The video assumes the viewer is already knows what the card check bill is all about. There’s no real background provided, and the shorthand “EFCA” acronym is used, which could confuse a lot of potential allies.
3. You Don’t Want to Meet Bill – by U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Why It Works: If you want to convince people that union bosses can be intimidating jerks, you can’t do much better than to show an actual union boss being an intimidating jerk in a candid, unscripted, moment. What worker in his right mind would want this guy in their face when the secret union ballot is abolished?!
How It Could Be Better: Contrary to the video’s title, I actually would like to meet Bill – at least virtually. I’d love to see the Chamber post a video with Bill’s backstory – the unedited video, information about who Bill is, what union he belongs to, the circumstances surrounding his outburst, etc. The video above obviously had the constraints of a 30-second TV ad, but those same constraints don’t exist online. Tell us more about this jerk, please!
2. Ashwin Madia Can Run But He Can’t Hide – by Employee Freedom
Why It Works: This video clearly shows just how powerful one inquisitive and persistent person with a camera can be. In the video, Congressional candidate Ashwin Madia from Minnesota’s Third District is shown literally running away from somebody who asks him why he supports the Employee Free Choice Act. You’d expect a potential Member of Congress to be able to answer a simple question from a voter on the campaign trail, yet he literally runs away like a frightened little girl. Not his finest moment, obviously. Fortunately, Madia lost his election in November, 48% – 41%.
How It Could Be Better: This video is great, but it doesn’t include any kind of call to action at the end. Why not urge viewers to visit the website of Madia’s campaign opponent? Or some other anti-Madia or anti-card-check website? The content is great, but it doesn’t do anything to get the viewer to actually do anything at the end.
1. EFCA Means Intimidation – by Union Facts
Why It Works: Like the Right to Work video above, the use of real workers is very effective. The fact that every worker interviewed in the video is female and most of them are ethnic minorities only makes that emotional connection even more powerful. Also, the stark black background, red line and chilling sound effects (did your blood pressure rise a little when you heard that knocking-door sound effect?) further the emotional impact. Overall, I think this is the best produced, most effective card check video online right now – informative, emotional, interesting, and relevant.
How It Could Be Better: Clocking in at more than four and a half minutes, the video’s a little on the long side. Research shows that most people don’t watch online videos for more than a minute or so. That said, this video’s target audience isn’t the same one that’s looking for the latest celebrity meltdown, so it’s probably not a dealbreaker.
Honorable Mention: Obama Girl on the Employee Free Choice Act – by American Right at Work
Yes, she’s a complete idiot. She obviously has no idea what the bill would do. In fact, she can’t even say the name of the bill without stumbling over the second word. The video is devoid of any substance whatsoever.
But she’s hot. And semi-famous. Which is why nearly 8,000 people have clicked to see her deliver one shallow line about the bill. That’s more than four of the five good videos above and one of the 20 most viewed online videos on this issue. Take that, Salvatore!