FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

10 Things America’s Unions Need To Do This Labor Day

by

By now, anyone who’s paid attention to what has generously been called the “American labor movement” is aware that organized labor is in critical need of resuscitation and revitalization, if not downright reinvention.

Despite its storied history—and it being the only friend that working men and women have ever had (note the undeniable correlation between the decline in union membership and the decline of the middle-class)—organized labor is clearly losing the public relations battle.

Although this observation has been noted countless times, it bears repeating: Perception is everything. How one is perceived is the basis for how one is judged. And right now, as we approach Labor Day, 2014, it can be argued that America’s unions are perceived by much of the public as not only anachronistic and irrelevant, but—preposterous as this sounds—as genuinely “harmful.” How labor managed to find itself in this predicament is a long and gruesome story, one filled with political betrayal, corporate treachery and union stupidity.

But as battered and debased as organized labor has allowed itself to become, it still holds one very significant ace-in-the-hole. It has money. Not anywhere close to the money that Corporate America has, of course, but still, it’s enough money to make a difference. Accordingly, the AFL-CIO (11.5 million members) and Change to Win (4.25 million), the two dominant U.S. labor federations, need to rethink their organizing philosophies.

Instead of spending all that dough trying to attract a few hundred new union members, they should focus their efforts on changing how organized labor itself is perceived. The reason American companies spend, literally, billions upon billions of dollars on advertising is because advertising is effective. Advertising actually works, otherwise they wouldn’t continue running all those commercials. And what is advertising, if not the attempt by a company to alter the consumer’s “perception” of its product?

Here are ten things organized labor needs to do. Ten things to do if they’re serious about improving the way they are perceived by the public. Some are modest suggestions, others are fairly ambitious; but all of them are worth a try.

1. Let the public know how little the average union leader (local president, business agent, organizer, etc.) actually earns. Too many people think union guys are overpaid and underworked. Take Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO. His total compensation package for running an 11 million-member organization is $298,500. No, he’s not poor, but in this day and age, given his responsibilities, that’s a fairly modest salary. Compare it to what the CEO of United Way (a charity) makes.

2. Make a big deal out of purchasing new football uniforms for underfunded high schools in the Deep South, the geographical region where high school football is hugely important and where labor unions are most reviled.

3. Do the same for high school bands. Buy them new uniforms and, if needed, new instruments. Make sure everybody knows it was a labor union (“the working man’s best friend”) who donated this stuff. Even hardcore union-haters will have to acknowledge the much appreciated move.

4. Consider entering an AFL-CIO race car in the Indy 500 and NASCAR events. Granted, this would be a bit of a stretch, but the House of Labor certainly has the extra bucks to do it, and the visibility it would offer could be valuable.

5. On September 11, buy television air time to eulogize those 343 firemen who gave their lives on 9-11-01, at the World Trade Center. The commercial won’t be maudlin or morbid. It will be celebratory. These dead firefighters were heroic in every sense of the word. It should also be proudly noted that every one of them was a union member.

6. Widely publicize the fact that the U.S. has the worst maternity leave benefits of any industrialized country in the world, and that it’s America’s labor unions—and only the unions—who are actively seeking to improve them. While many people tend to think the U.S. has the best of everything, when it comes to maternity leave (for the new mom as well as the new dad) we stink.

7. Threaten to withhold campaign donations to the Democrats unless they adhere to a pro-labor agenda. These threats have been made in the past, but weren’t invoked. This time around, labor needs to mean what it says. Money talks in Washington.

8. Hire some big-name entertainers to go on television and promote organized labor. If a professional athlete can sell shaving cream, a cool young actor (Daniel Radcliffe?) can certainly enhance the perception of labor unions.

9. Set up scholarships at high schools around the country. They don’t have to be large ones, just a couple hundred bucks to help with expenses. Kids are thrilled to get any scholarships. Make sure everyone knows the benefactor was a labor union.

10. Endow a chair in Labor Studies at various colleges and universities. It doesn’t have to be a Harvard or Berkeley. Set up these programs at smaller, less prestigious schools, where a Labor Studies chair won’t get lost in the shuffle.

David Macaray is a playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor,” 2nd edition).  He can be reached at damacaray@yahoo.com

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
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
Lawrence Davidson
Moral Failure at the UN
Pete Dolack
World Bank Declares Itself Above the Law
Nicola Perugini - Neve Gordon
Israel’s Human Rights Spies
Patrick Cockburn
From Paris to London: Another City, Another Attack
Ralph Nader
Reason and Justice Address Realities
Ramzy Baroud
‘Decolonizing the Mind’: Using Hollywood Celebrities to Validate Islam
Colin Todhunter
Monsanto in India: The Sacred and the Profane
Louisa Willcox
Grizzlies Under the Endangered Species Act: How Have They Fared?
Norman Pollack
Militarization of American Fascism: Trump the Usurper
Pepe Escobar
North Korea: The Real Serious Options on the Table
Brian Cloughley
“These Things Are Done”: Eavesdropping on Trump
Sheldon Richman
You Can’t Blame Trump’s Military Budget on NATO
Carol Wolman
Trump vs the People: a Psychiatrist’s Analysis
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Marines to Kill Desert Tortoises
Stanley L. Cohen
The White House . . . Denial and Cover-ups
Farhang Jahanpour
America’s Woes, Europe’s Responsibilities
Joseph Natoli
March Madness Outside the Basketball Court
Bill Willers
Volunteerism; Charisma; the Ivy League Stranglehold: a Very Brief Trilogy
Bruce Mastron
Slaughtered Arabs Don’t Count
Ayesha Khan
The Headscarf is Not an Islamic Compulsion
Pauline Murphy
Unburied Truth: Exposing the Church’s Iron Chains on Ireland
Ron Jacobs
Music is Love, Music is Politics
Christopher Brauchli
Prisoners as Captive Customers
Robert Koehler
The Mosque That Disappeared
Franklin Lamb
Update from Madaya
Dan Bacher
Federal Scientists Find Delta Tunnels Plan Will Devastate Salmon
Barbara Nimri Aziz
The Gig Economy: Which Side Are You On?
Louis Proyect
What Caused the Holodomor?
Max Mastellone
Seeking Left Unity Through a Definition of Progressivism
Charles R. Larson
Review: David Bellos’s “Novel of the Century: the Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables”
David Yearsley
Ear of Darkness: the Soundtracks of Steve Bannon’s Films
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail