FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

We Need to Hire George Clooney

Back in the 1980s the Johns-Manville Corporation got hit with so many asbestos-related lawsuits that—given the company’s culpability and the gravity of the medical problems (asbestosis is incurable, and there were tens of thousands of valid cases)—it was forced to seek bankruptcy protection.  It was a disaster.  Those previously exposed to asbestos were now using oxygen tanks; supervisors as well as hourly employees were afflicted; wives contracted asbestosis from laundering their husband’s asbestos-laden work clothes.

The Johns-Manville Corporation emerged from bankruptcy in 1988, under the new name, the “Manville Corporation.”  Changing the name was a public relations maneuver designed to distance themselves from the bad memories and negative publicity of the asbestos debacle.  Granted, one could argue that the ostensible difference between “Johns-Manville” and “Manville” is a distinction that’s going to be lost on the majority of the public (but that’s another issue).

The corporation not only changed its name, they went out and hired a very nice man to be their spokesman—to go on television and serve as the public face of their “new” company.  A nice man, a popular man, a respected man, a man who practically exuded decency.  They hired professional golfer Jack Nicklaus.  And then, in 1997, after bouncing back economically and putting all those bad memories behind them, they very quietly reacquired the name “Johns-Manville,” and that was that.

Because of all the bad publicity unions have been receiving, organized labor needs to do the same thing.  Labor needs to respond publicly to the brutal smears and lies that are being spread; it needs to respond publicly to the shrill, anti-union demonization that’s being deliberately picked up by the media.  Make no mistake; there’s a powerful and concerted public relations drive being waged against the labor movement.  And the surest way to neutralize that drive is by pushing back.

Labor needs to do what Manville did.  It needs to hire someone to be its public face, someone to go on TV and remind everyone that unions are just people—working people.  It needs a television personality to remind the public that union members are not the enemy.  They are not syndicate goons or con artists or thieves.  All they are is working people trying to earn a middle-class living.

This spokesman needs to drive home the point that union members are our neighbors.  They’re our patrons and our providers.  They’re pilots and flight attendants and school teachers and symphony orchestra members and nurses and police and firemen.  If it’s con artists, syndicate goons and outright thieves you’re looking for, then look no further than defense contractors.

So who should labor’s spokesman be?  For one thing, it needs to be one, single, identifiable individual, and not a committee of people or a rotating spokesman.  We’re looking for a face, not a chorus.  Also, it probably needs to be either an actor or professional athlete, because both are glamorous, both tend to be idolized, and both are union members, which means (in principle at least) that they’re not adverse to unions.

Because actors are generally more articulate than athletes, I suggest that it be an actor, and that it be George Clooney.  The AFL-CIO should hire Clooney to be its spokesman and put him on TV as often as possible—put him on as often as they run those beer or car or electronics commercials—to talk up the virtues of labor unions.  Clooney could make a tremendous difference.  In any event, it’s certainly worth a try.  After all, didn’t somebody once say that we have nothing to lose but our chains?

DAVID MACARAY, an LA playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”), was a former union rep.   He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press.  He can be reached atdmacaray@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

January 16, 2019
Patrick Bond
Jim Yong Kim’s Mixed Messages to the World Bank and the World
John Grant
Joe Biden, Crime Fighter from Hell
Alvaro Huerta
Brief History Notes on Mexican Immigration to the U.S.
Kenneth Surin
A Great Speaker of the UK’s House of Commons
Elizabeth Henderson
Why Sustainable Agriculture Should Support a Green New Deal
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, Bolton and the Syrian Confusion
Jeff Mackler
Trump’s Syria Exit Tweet Provokes Washington Panic
Barbara Nimri Aziz
How Long Can Nepal Blame Others for Its Woes?
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: When Just One Man Says, “No”
Cesar Chelala
Violence Against Women: A Pandemic No Longer Hidden
Kim C. Domenico
To Make a Vineyard of the Curse: Fate, Fatalism and Freedom
Dave Lindorff
Criminalizing BDS Trashes Free Speech & Association
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: The Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party: Part Two
Edward Curtin
A Gentrified Little Town Goes to Pot
January 15, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
Refugees Are in the English Channel Because of Western Interventions in the Middle East
Howard Lisnoff
The Faux Political System by the Numbers
Lawrence Davidson
Amos Oz and the Real Israel
John W. Whitehead
Beware the Emergency State
John Laforge
Loudmouths against Nuclear Lawlessness
Myles Hoenig
Labor in the Age of Trump
Jeff Cohen
Mainstream Media Bias on 2020 Democratic Race Already in High Gear
Dean Baker
Will Paying for Kidneys Reduce the Transplant Wait List?
George Ochenski
Trump’s Wall and the Montana Senate’s Theater of the Absurd
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: the Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Glenn Sacks
On the Picket Lines: Los Angeles Teachers Go On Strike for First Time in 30 Years
Jonah Raskin
Love in a Cold War Climate
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party
January 14, 2019
Kenn Orphan
The Tears of Justin Trudeau
Julia Stein
California Needs a 10-Year Green New Deal
Dean Baker
Declining Birth Rates: Is the US in Danger of Running Out of People?
Robert Fisk
The US Media has Lost One of Its Sanest Voices on Military Matters
Vijay Prashad
5.5 Million Women Build Their Wall
Nicky Reid
Lessons From Rojava
Ted Rall
Here is the Progressive Agenda
Robert Koehler
A Green Future is One Without War
Gary Leupp
The Chickens Come Home to Roost….in Northern Syria
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: “The Country Is Watching”
Sam Gordon
Who Are Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists?
Weekend Edition
January 11, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Richard Moser
Neoliberalism: Free Market Fundamentalism or Corporate Power?
Paul Street
Bordering on Fascism: Scholars Reflect on Dangerous Times
Joseph Majerle III – Matthew Stevenson
Who or What Brought Down Dag Hammarskjöld?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
How Tre Arrow Became America’s Most Wanted Environmental “Terrorist”
Andrew Levine
Dealbreakers: The Democrats, Trump and His Wall
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail