FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Please Buy Our Beer

by DAVID MACARAY

Even though organized labor has a long and storied history of accomplishments, no one is ever going to accuse it of being creative or innovative.  In fact, when it comes to inventiveness, originality, or a willingness to break with orthodoxy, the AFL-CIO is about as nimble-minded as a hippo.

A prime example is labor’s reluctance to improve its public relations image.  Instead of recognizing that a change in conditions calls for a change in tactics, they slog along as usual, spending millions of dollars on old-fashioned, time-honored organizing tactics—throwing a ton of mud against the wall in the hope that a few ounces stick.  That may have worked in the 1930s, but it doesn’t work today.

If you want to see what works today, look closely at the Republican party.  They’re masters of the hit-and-run campaign: slogans, buzz words, sound bites and images.  Realizing that few people actually think anymore—that instead of “analyzing,” they react—the Republicans barrage the public with low-down, easily digested propaganda.

Consider:  During an organizing drive, where labor union reps dutifully provide potential members with reams of information—handbills, charts, graphs, brochures, and long lists of pro-labor statistics—the bosses counter by simply referring to labor unions as a bunch of “thugs” and “greedy bastards.”

After scaring them with talk of debilitating strikes and monthly dues, management shows newsreel footage of Teamster officials doing the perp walk.  And that’s pretty much all it takes.  The union’s eminently reasonable presentation is trumped by management’s mention of greed and corruption, and by the always-reliable appeal to fear of the unknown.  Game, point and match goes to the bosses.

The AFL-CIO badly needs to adapt; and by adapt, we mean transform itself.  Organized labor is seen as too big and clumsy, too massive and unwieldy.  Instead of projecting the image of a humongous moose plodding through the forest, labor needs to present itself as a pack of enraged chinchillas tear-assing through the urban landscape.  Yes!

Among other things, it needs to abandon those wildly ambitious, across-the-board organizing efforts—labor’s version of the invasion of Normandy—which are not only too complicated and cumbersome, but exorbitantly expensive, costing tens of millions of dollars.

Even if the House of Labor has the extra money to blow on these national organizing drives, when you assess what little bang for the buck they’re getting in return, it’s mind-boggling.  Just consider what they spent over the years trying to organize Walmart’s 3,800 stores ($40 million?  $50 million), and compare it to what they actually achieved as a result (not one single store voted to join up).

Following 9-11, organized labor should have launched a massive television advertising campaign.  The AFL-CIO should have made a big, splashy deal of the fact that those 343 firemen who tragically lost their lives—who heroically ran into the burning buildings that people were running out of—were union members, every one of them.

Emphasizing their union affiliation wouldn’t have been morbid or opportunistic.  On the contrary, labor’s gesture would have been seen as an appropriate memorial, a fraternal tribute to their fallen brothers.  If it’s naked, post 9-11 opportunism you’re interested in, Rudy Guiliani’s shameless grandstanding at Ground Zero took first prize.

But there was no such televised tribute.  Labor’s opportunity to publicly honor these brave union workers came and went without so much as a whisper.  The same was true of the Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger episode, the pilot who made the spectacular emergency landing on the Hudson River, in January, saving the lives of 155 passengers.

Again, organized labor should have seized the moment by flooding the airwaves with commercials honoring a heroic member of the pilot’s union, the ALPA (Air Line Pilots Association).  They should have made a huge deal of thanking and praising Sullenberger—indeed, of thanking union pilots everywhere for their excellent record of service.

Sulleberger was not only a hero, not only a union member in good standing, but, for crying out loud, he was a union official—the chairman of the ALPA’s airplane safety committee.  He would have been a perfect poster boy for the American labor movement!  Instead, you didn’t hear a peep or see a thing.  The opportunity was totally wasted.

DAVID MACARAY, a Los Angeles playwright (“Larva Boy,” “Americana”) and writer, was a former union rep.  He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail