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

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
Stratos Ramoglou
Why the Greek Economic Crisis Won’t be Ending Anytime Soon
David Price
The 2016 Tour of California: Notes on a Big Pharma Bike Race
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Rev. William Alberts
The United Methodist Church Up to Its Old Trick: Kicking the Can of Real Inclusion Down the Road
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Lorenzo Raymond
Why Nonviolent Civil Resistance Doesn’t Work (Unless You Have Lots of Bombs)
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Ed Meek
The Republic of Fear
Charles R. Larson
Russian Women, Then and Now
David Yearsley
Elgar’s Hegemony: the Pomp of Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail