Business Manager Tony Sapienza
Series of Anti-Union TV Ads Aired in Maine & New Hampshire
June 6, 2008 - Television viewers in Maine and New Hampshire have been forced to endure a seemingly endless barrage of anti-union commercials in recent weeks. The TV ads, funded by the so-called “Center for Union Facts,” are being broadcast by television stations in Bangor and Portland. Viewers in New Hampshire can also watch those stations either over the airwaves or on cable.
The Center for Union Facts is a front group for a notorious Washington D.C. lobbyist namedRichard Berman. The center is supported by business groups and anti-worker interests who seek to inflict the maximum possible damage on labor unions while staying discretely in the background. Berman himself is known for mounting public relations campaigns for corporate groups that seek to relax drunk driving laws, minimize the health risks associated with obesity and tanning, and prevent increases in the minimum wage. He has also advised that pregnant women can eat a lot more mercury-laden tuna than the FDA recommends. Berman doesn’t really care about canned tuna fish, or your rights in the workplace. He’s just a paid lobbyist looking to make a buck.
Television news reports have also quoted J. Justin Wilson, the center’s Managing Director, as saying that the TV ads are aimed at the Employee Free Choice Act, federal legislation pending in Congress. The Employee Free Choice Act would make it easier for workers to join a union through majority sign-up and could lead to a tremendous increase in union membership.
Workers and labor leaders recently held a news conference at the Solidarity Center in Brewer, Maine to criticize the misleading commercials. Eastern Maine Labor Council President Jack McKay told reporters that “…the ads play on is a sense that, 'I'm not gonna win, I should keep my head down and I can't make a difference, because somebody out there is going to beat me down,'" McKay said. "That's exactly the problem unions see."
The television ad campaign has run in other parts of the country. Some observers believe that there also could be a connection to the hotly-contested U.S. Senate race in Maine. Incumbent Republican Sen. Susan Collins is opposed to the Employee Free Choice Act, while her Democratic challenger Rep. Tom Allen supports it.
"It certainly would not be surprising that groups who are anti-worker and anti-middle class would want to diminish Tom Allen's support of working people and would favor his opponent, who voted against the Employee Free Choice Act,” Allen’s Communications Director Carol Andrews told WLBZ-TV in Bangor.
"Tom Allen is a proud supporter of the Employee Free Choice Act and our labor unions because he understands that our middle class is seeing an erosion of health insurance coverage, pension benefits and job security,” Andrews continued. “Unions help level the playing field in these areas because they negotiate through collective bargaining."
June 10, 2008 Update: To read John Buell's excellent commentary from the Bangor Daily News, click here.
July 21, 2008 Update: Television ads opposing the Employee Free Choice Act are also being run by the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace featuring an actor who portrayed a murderous gangster on the HBO series "The Sopranos." The Coalition, which has no real interest in workers' rights, gets its funding from various Chambers of Commerce, Restaurant & Lodging Associations, Manufacturers, and other right-wing business interests who have long fought against workers joining unions. Many of these groups that helped pay for these vicious but polished attacks have also voiced their repeated opposition to the Family and Medical Leave Act as well as guaranteed paid sick days for workers.