Please Buy Our Beer


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 “Nightshift: 270 Factory Stories.” He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
October 9-11, 2015
David Price – Roberto J. González
The Use and Abuse of Culture (and Children): The Human Terrain System’s Rationalization of Pedophilia in Afghanistan
Mike Whitney
Putin’s “Endgame” in Syria
Jason Hribal
The Tilikum Effect and the Downfall of SeaWorld
Paul Street
Hope in Abandonment: Cuba, Detroit, and Earth-Scientific Socialism
Gary Leupp
The Six Most Disastrous Interventions of the 21st Century
Andrew Levine
In Syria, Obama is Playing a Losing Game
Louis Proyect
The End of Academic Freedom in America: the Case of Steven Salaita
Rob Urie
Democrats, Neoliberalism and the TPP
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
The Bully Recalibrates: U.S. Signals Policy Shift in Syria
Brian Cloughley
Hospital Slaughter and the US/NATO Propaganda Machine
John Walsh
For Vietnam: Artemisinin From China, Agent Orange From America
John Wight
No Moral High Ground for the West on Syria
Robert Fantina
Canadian Universities vs. Israeli Apartheid
Conn Hallinan
Portugal: Europe’s Left Batting 1000
John Feffer
Mouths Wide Shut: Obama’s War on Whistleblowers
Paul Craig Roberts
The Impulsiveness of US Power
Ron Jacobs
The Murderer as American Hero
Alex Nunns
“A Movement Looking for a Home”: the Meaning of Jeremy Corbyn
Philippe Marlière
Class Struggle at Air France
Binoy Kampmark
Waiting in Vain for Moderation: Syria, Russia and Washington’s Problem
Paul Edwards
Empire of Disaster
Xanthe Hall
Nuclear Madness: NATO’s WMD ‘Sharing’ Must End
Margaret Knapke
These Salvadoran Women Went to Prison for Suffering Miscarriages
Uri Avnery
Abbas: the Leader Without Glory
Halima Hatimy
#BlackLivesMatter: Black Liberation or Black Liberal Distraction?
Michael Brenner
Kissinger Revisited
Cesar Chelala
The Perverse Rise of Killer Robots
Halyna Mokrushyna
On Ukraine’s ‘Incorrect’ Past
Jason Cone
Even Wars Have Rules: a Fact Sheet on the Bombing of Kunduz Hospital
Walter Brasch
Mass Murders are Good for Business
William Hadfield
Sophistry Rising: the Refugee Debate in Germany
Christopher Brauchli
Why the NRA Profits From Mass Shootings
Hadi Kobaysi
How The US Uses (Takfiri) Extremists
Pete Dolack
There is Still Time to Defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Marc Norton
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
Andre Vltchek
Stop Millions of Western Immigrants!
David Rosen
If Donald Dump Was President
Dave Lindorff
America’s Latest War Crime
Ann Garrison
Sankarist Spirit Resurges in Burkina Faso
Franklin Lamb
Official Investigation Needed After Afghan Hospital Bombing
Linn Washington Jr.
Wrongs In Wine-Land
Ronald Bleier
Am I Drinking Enough Water? Sneezing’s A Clue
Charles R. Larson
Prelude to the Spanish Civil War: Eduard Mendoza’s “An Englishman in Madrid”
David Yearsley
Papal Pop and Circumstance
October 08, 2015
Michael Horton
Why is the US Aiding and Enabling Saudi Arabia’s Genocidal War in Yemen?