I’ve noticed a strain of thought which believes that all that is needed to achieve Democratic goals in the state is better framing and messaging, because that can get into the media and convince more Californians of the need to restore sanity to the budget process and reform state government. This assumes that there’s any kind of substantial political media to begin with. There’s shockingly little on local news and radio, and even the newspapers have scaled back their local political coverage. What is currently out there reaches at most 1% of the electorate, and cuts to Capitol bureaus in Sacramento have decreased that gradually over the last year. No media outlet is willing to carry information to the public, a dangerous scenario for a state in crisis.
And because of this breakdown, this provides an opportunity for those with an agenda, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and right-wing think tanks (or even the false equivalent nonsense of a California Forward) to pursue their goals under the cover of “news.” They infect what little coverage there is and provide ready-made content in the form of editorials for papers to print. A sorry example of this showed up in yesterday’s LA Times, when Bret Jacobson wrote a screed about Hilda Solis’ choice as Labor Secretary.
Solis regularly sides with organized labor’s demands, including the biggest of them all: union leaders’ desperate campaign to boost their membership by getting rid of secret ballot elections. That privacy allows millions of American workers to vote their conscience when deciding whether to start paying dues to a union boss. Consequently, it’s easy to see why union bosses prefer “card check” — a dubious method that requires employees to sign a legally binding card stating their preference in a way that would allow anyone to know if they are pro-union or not.
The fight over card check has already been a precarious affair. And this week, with the announcement of Obama’s pick of Solis, the situation got even stickier. Solis has a hypocritical history of demanding secret ballots for herself but not for working Americans.
I don’t think I have to go too much further with Jacobson’s propaganda. As I’ve argued elsewhere, what he calls a “secret ballot” is actually a flawed system of union elections that needs to be fixed. If labor elections were legitimate, there wouldn’t be the need for legislation. Instead, think of it as your “secret ballot” Presidential election marred by: mandatory pro-McCain training sessions held across the country, mandatory meetings where “Obama is a Muslim” propaganda is foregrounded, threats to take away your job if you vote for Obama, and threats to close your workplace entirely if Obama wins. There is nothing democratic about these one-sided farces characterized by intimidation and harassment. That’s why we need a new system for determining whether workers want to collectively bargain, and majority signup is simply the best practice out there.
But that’s not my biggest beef with Jacobson’s argument. It’s that, at the bottom of his editorial, the LA Times credits him by writing “Bret Jacobson is founder and president of Maverick Strategies LLC, a research and communications firm serving business and free-market think tanks.” What they don’t say is that he has a long history of union-busting, partnering with the man who is leading efforts to fight the Employee Free Choice Act. Matt Browner Hamlin discloses the lack of disclosure:
Here’s what the highly-informative BretJacobson.com has to say:
“Prior to founding Maverick Strategies, Bret co-founded the Center for Union Facts, overseeing that organization’s research activities, guiding its communications, launching its new-media capabilities, and helping plan its strategic national advertising and earned-media campaigns.”
And just for those not paying attention at home, here’s Sourcewatch:
“The Center for Union Facts is a secretive front group for individuals and industries opposed to union activities. It is part of lobbyist Rick Berman’s family of front groups including the Employment Policies Institute. The domain name www.unionfacts.com was registered to Berman & Co. in May 2005.” […]
In short, the Center for Union Facts is the key organization in Big Business efforts to stop the progress of labor in America, most notably through fighting against the Employee Free Choice Act. One of their co-founders, Bret Jacobson, was given license to push the Center’s anti-union, anti-worker agenda in an op-ed against the nominee for Labor Secretary, while the Times failed to disclose the only informative part of his biography. He’s the founder of a research firm? What is that supposed to tell the Times’ readers? Pretty much every person I know who works in politics does some level of consulting. The most important piece of Jacobson’s biography – his professional connection to one of the biggest anti-union groups in America – is left out of a column that specifically pushes the Center’s agenda. In an AP article three days ago, a spokesman for the Center attacked President-elect Obama’s pick of Solis for Labor Secretary (though, amazingly, the AP cited the Center as “a group critical of organized labor”).
Matt works for the SEIU. There, I just disclosed that. Congratulations to me for having more integrity than the Los Angeles Times!
The Employee Free Choice Act is a national issue. But when you have a corporate-run media (the LA Times editorial board has a history of anti-worker pontificating) combined with a nearly invisible political class so that Californians have no base of knowledge about their government, the ease with which propagandists can place their beliefs into what little political media exists is frankly breathtaking. There is plenty of blame to go around in California’s current crisis, but the lack of any responsible (or even present) certainly contributes to it.