Here is the problem with Chris Lehane going to work for the studios for me. Working for Democrats and Democratic causes means we are working to improve the lives of the many not the few. Going to work for these massive media conglomerates is the opposite. We are for people not profits. Unfortunately Chris Lehane has done this before and rather likes working for corporations. The huge piece of research on the Chris Lehane blog starts off with this quote:
“I like dealing with CEOs. I like taking strategies and tactics we used in the White House and applying them to the corporate world.”
– Chris Lehane quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle, May 19, 2002
Chris Lehane decided that he was going to work for the huge movie studios and television companies and work to bust the union during a strike. You just don’t do that as a Democratic operative. It is incompatible with Democratic values and impossible to justify. The studios were the ones who walked away from the negotiating table. Look, there is no way I and others would not be this riled up about a Democratic operative simply taking a gig working for any old corporation. It is the union busting that is an enormous problem. Undermining solidarity during a strike is the cardinal sin.
Now under Lehane’s direction, the studios are attempting to divide the WGA membership and they are not being subtle about it. How else to describe the counters they have up on the newly redesigned AMPTP site. I first spotted them on a LAT banner ad. If you notice, the second banner is about the IATSE, whose leadership has not been supportive of the writers. They are modeled after the ones on the United Hollywood blog.
(Notice that the TNS survey they are crowing about on the top of the website is a “internet” survey and has absolutely no statistical value.)
This is part of a pattern of behavior from Chris Lehane, which Jane picked up on at Fire Dog Lake, but I want to pick up on the section titled: Lehane and the Bay Bridge Welders. It illustrates quite well Lehane’s disregard of workers. This time it was not over being paid a fair wage, but over the worker’s basic safety.
In 2004 welders working on the new span of the Bay Bridge filed a Cal/OSHA claim against KFM, the consortium contracted to build the span. 48 workers were sick with respiratory problems that they believed were caused by exposure to dangerous levels of manganese.
The Cal/OSHA investigation found that KFM knew about the overexposure, but didn’t do anything about it. Manganese is pretty terrible stuff and overexposure can lead to a neurological disorder.
The workers also claimed that not only had the welds made them sick, but that they were faulty and threatened the structural integrity of a bridge designed to withstand a major earthquake. KFM denied any problem existed – and fired the sick workers who complained. KFM claimed an excellent safety record on the bridge project, but only accomplished it by punishing injured workers and rewarding those who did not report injuries. But to ensure that they could fight off the sick workers’ claims, who did they turn to? Chris Lehane. Lehane’s job was to defend KFM’s record in the media and prevent the sick workers from receiving the justice they were owed.
The media had been the key player in the matter all along. The sick workers had filed Cal/OSHA claims in early 2004, but chronic understaffing and underfunding caused the claims to be ignored, until the workers got the Oakland Tribune interested in the story. With the Tribune’s reporting Cal/OSHA finally got involved, and KFM realized that to keep the safety concerns quiet and to avoid paying the sick workers, they needed someone to keep the media away from the truth. Lehane was their man.
So what did Chris Lehane do?
Lehane’s strategy was to play up FBI investigations that could not conclusively prove anything was wrong with the welds or the workers. When the FBI found that they could not get at the actual welds – by then encased in concrete – nor prove criminal intent, they had to drop the probe. Lehane celebrated this as proof that the welds were good, telling the San Francisco Chronicle that there was no reason for any further investigation and the NY Times that “KFM always puts the safety of its workers and the public first,” refusing to acknowledge the sick workers whose own bodies were proof that KFM was dangerous.
The sick workers’ case is now pending trial in Oakland, but there has been virtually no media coverage of their case since 2005. Lehane successfully helped cover up KFM’s responsibility for the sick workers and deflected media attention from one of the most egregious acts of corporate malfeasance in California this century. In fighting against justice for the Bay Bridge workers, Lehane proved that he has no principles whatsoever, no interest in helping workers even when they are literally sick.
Just disgusting tactics. Was this something he learned at the White House? One would hope not.
This anti-worker pattern of behavior should mean that Chris Lehane never gets another contract from a labor union. I don’t care how good the man is at getting media coverage. There are just somethings you should not do. Going to work for a company to work on busting a union in the middle of a strike is one. Going to work for a company to cover up the fact that they injured their workers is another.