Full-Page Ads Launch Anti-Union Drive

By Amy Joyce
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The full-page newspaper ads that ran yesterday showed a "Closed" sign over a padlocked gate, declaring the sign "The New Union Label. . . . Brought to you by the union 'leaders' who helped bankrupt steel, auto, and airline companies.

The advertisements in The Washington Post, New York Times and Wall Street Journal, introduced the Center for Union Facts and its Web site, UnionFacts.com. The group was created by Richard Berman, a lobbyist behind often unpopular campaigns, including one that aims to dismiss concerns about mercury in fish (FishScam.com), another that challenges Mothers Against Drunk Driving and its efforts to lower the legal blood alcohol content limit, and one that dismisses concern about obesity as "hype."

Berman is also executive director of the Center for Consumer Freedom, a decade-old group founded with tobacco company and restaurant money to fight smoking curbs in restaurants. He is also founder of the American Beverage Institute, which fights restrictions on alcohol use, and the Employment Policies Institute Foundation, which has argued against raising the minimum wage.

Now, Berman said, he aims to show that "so many of the things that the union leadership accuses business of and demonizes business for probably can be turned around, and the unions can be shown to be duplicitous and two-faced about their accusations."

The site includes statistics about what it calls the "size, scope, political activities, and criminal activity of the labor movement in the United States of America." It emphasizes the number of labor racketeering investigations and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints against unions and also lists rights workers have in dealing with their unions. Members can click on their own union on the Web site to see the union's executive compensation, budgets, political donations and "the shady tactics they practice," the site says. It also highlights how to end a union's right to represent employees at a workplace.

"Workers are having more and more successes, so it's not surprising that this group has decided to fight back against workers' efforts and fight efforts to keep corporate power in check," said Lane Windham, an AFL-CIO spokeswoman.

Berman said he had the idea for UnionFacts.com years ago. He is a labor lawyer who once was director of labor law for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Berman would not reveal his funding sources but said they are a combination of foundations, businesses and the general public.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company