FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Three Ways Labor Can Fight Back

by DAVID MACARAY

There’s no denying it:  In politics and commerce, slogans are gold.  No matter how inane or inaccurate, a clever slogan has a good chance of changing public opinion.  Recall Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign from some years ago.  That ubiquitous slogan resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in Nike sales….despite no one even knowing what the hell it meant.

Politics is worse.  Smearing a candidate as “tax-and-spend,” attacking national health care as “socialized medicine,” portraying government assistance as a “nanny state,” calling fixed time-tables for leaving Iraq or Afghanistan “surrender dates,” using “death panels” to frighten the elderly—all of these visceral appeals have worked.

What unions need to do is join the party.  They need to streamline their message, make it less cerebral and more visceral.  While smears, innuendo and wild generalizations aren’t tactics that necessarily make you proud, they are tactics that tend to work.  And, as the man said:  If you want to win, you don’t bring a knife to a gunfight.

Here are three approaches labor might consider taking.

Sponsor of the middle-class.  Fortunately, the happy term “middle-class” still resonates with America, and, accordingly, the notion of the middle-class shrinking away (even though it’s happening before our eyes) still frightens people.  Labor needs to pounce on this, make it their new equation:  Sponsor of the middle-class = labor unions.  Slogan:  Since when was it a crime to want to be middle-class?

Labor must stop referring to groups or institutions as “anti-union.”  That label won’t win enough supporters, not in today’s environment.  Take the offensive and refer to them as “anti-middle-class.”  Anti-people.  Anti-family.  Anti-prosperity.  Merge this with the anti-government sentiment that exists in the country, turn it around and use it to expose those state governors who are trying to eliminate collective bargaining as tyrants.  Power to the people….not the politicians!

Take what’s going on in Wisconsin and turn it into a Tea Party-like anthem.  “Let the workers decide, not the government!”  Depict what’s happening as a battle between good and evil—between the government and the workers—but make sure the public knows who the good guys are:  police, firefighters, teachers.  While nobody becomes a cop, teacher or fireman to get rich, they do hope to remain in the middle-class.  What’s the government now telling them?  That wanting to remain in the middle-class is now a crime?  Have we as a country honestly fallen that far?

Patriotism.  Accuse the anti-union forces of being “traitors,” of committing economic treason.  Smear the anti-union forces the way progressives were smeared during the Red Scare days of the 1950s.  Make it clear that if people really want to see some old-fashioned, patriots, all they need do is visit a union hall.  Emphasize the fact that unlike Wall Street bankers, many union members are former military veterans.  Also, publicize the fact that countries that are/were America’s enemies have outlawed labor unions.

Don’t be shy.  Wave the flag.  Buy ads that show union members proudly wearing their military uniforms, representing everything good about America.  Contrast the U.S. with other countries.  Use slogans like this:  “North Korea bans labor unions.”  Or this:  “Union activists in Latin America are being systematically murdered.”  And remind people that—unlike Wall Street bankers, who troll the world looking for profits—union members earn every nickel in this country, and spend every nickel here.  Why?  Because they’re patriots.

Don’t be shy about waving the flag.  Indeed, patriotism could be the locus point where the Tea Party and labor intersect.  Those anti-government TP’ers who say, “Give me back my country!” need to know that Big Business, in collusion with the government, is playing this country for suckers, maximizing profits while keeping working men and woman down, and that it’s only the unions who see working people as something more than “overhead.”

Safety net.  The public needs to understand that without the resistance that unions provide, working people would be in economic free-fall, and that, in theory, they could continue falling until they hit the federal minimum wage ($7.25 per hour).  And it’s labor’s job to let the public know that the same people who are out to destroy unions (e.g., U.S. Chamber of Commerce) are also on record as wanting to eliminate the minimum wage.

Labor needs to run ads using the example of Gen. Douglas MacArthur (a right-wing Republican) who insisted that post-World War II Japan establish labor unions.  Why?  Because MacArthur—Republican or not—knew that, without unions, management would have too big an advantage.  Labor needs to quote Republican senator Orrin Hatch:  “We need unions to make sure that working people have a legitimate and consistent voice.” (Business Week 5/9/94).

Because anti-union forces have declared war on labor, labor needs to declare war on them.  And even though it could get ugly, we have to do it.  They’re killing us here.  Statistics show that the gap between rich and poor is widening.  It’s time for unions to demonstrate not how reasonable they are, but how tough they can be.  Worst case?  We get our butts kicked.  Best case?  We put America back on track.

DAVID MACARAY, a Los Angeles playwright, is the author of “It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”. He served 9 terms as president of AWPPW Local 672. 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

March 29, 2017
Jeffrey Sommers
Donald Trump and Steve Bannon: Real Threats More Serious Than Fake News Trafficked by Media
David Kowalski
Does Washington Want to Start a New War in the Balkans?
Patrick Cockburn
Bloodbath in West Mosul: Civilians Being Shot by Both ISIS and Iraqi Troops
Ron Forthofer
War and Propaganda
Matthew Stevenson
Letter From Phnom Penh
James Bovard
Peanuts Prove Congress is Incorrigible
Thomas Knapp
Presidential Golf Breaks: Good For America
Binoy Kampmark
Disaster as Joy: Cyclone Debbie Strikes
Peter Tatchell
Human Rights are Animal Rights!
George Wuerthner
Livestock Grazing vs. the Sage Grouse
Jesse Jackson
Trump Should Form a Bipartisan Coalition to Get Real Reforms
Thomas Mountain
Rwanda Indicts French Generals for 1994 Genocide
Clancy Sigal
President of Pain
Andrew Stewart
President Gina Raimondo?
Lawrence Wittner
Can Our Social Institutions Catch Up with Advances in Science and Technology?
March 28, 2017
Mike Whitney
Ending Syria’s Nightmare will Take Pressure From Below 
Mark Kernan
Memory Against Forgetting: the Resonance of Bloody Sunday
John McMurtry
Fake News: the Unravelling of US Empire From Within
Ron Jacobs
Mad Dog, Meet Eris, Queen of Strife
Michael J. Sainato
State Dept. Condemns Attacks on Russian Peaceful Protests, Ignores Those in America
Ted Rall
Five Things the Democrats Could Do to Save Their Party (But Probably Won’t)
Linn Washington Jr.
Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Hiring Practices: Privilege or Prejudice?
Philippe Marlière
Benoît Hamon, the Socialist Presidential Hopeful, is Good News for the French Left
Norman Pollack
Political Cannibalism: Eating America’s Vitals
Bruce Mastron
Obamacare? Trumpcare? Why Not Cubacare?
David Macaray
Hollywood Screen and TV Writers Call for Strike Vote
Christian Sorensen
We’ve Let Capitalism Kill the Planet
Rodolfo Acuna
What We Don’t Want to Know
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of the Electronics Ban
Andrew Moss
Why ICE Raids Imperil Us All
March 27, 2017
Robert Hunziker
A Record-Setting Climate Going Bonkers
Frank Stricker
Why $15 an Hour Should be the Absolute Minimum Minimum Wage
Melvin Goodman
The Disappearance of Bipartisanship on the Intelligence Committees
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS’s Losses in Syria and Iraq Will Make It Difficult to Recruit
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer Bernie Morphs Into Public Option Dean
Gregory Barrett
Can Democracy Save Us?
Dave Lindorff
Budget Goes Military
John Heid
Disappeared on the Border: “Chase and Scatter” — to Death
Mark Weisbrot
The Troubling Financial Activities of an Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate
Robert Fisk
As ISIS’s Caliphate Shrinks, Syrian Anger Grows
Michael J. Sainato
Democratic Party Continues Shunning Popular Sanders Surrogates
Paul Bentley
Nazi Heritage: the Strange Saga of Chrystia Freeland’s Ukrainian Grandfather
Christopher Ketcham
Buddhism in the Storm
Thomas Barker
Platitudes in the Wake of London’s Terror Attack
Mike Hastie
Insane Truths: a Vietnam Vet on “Apocalypse Now, Redux”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail