FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

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

Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
David Yearsley
Bollocks to Brexit: the Plumber Sings
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail