Right-wing Union-bashers Trying To Turn Ordinary, Legal Organizing Tactics Into 'Thuggery'

Ever notice how conservatives love to preach to everyone else about the virtues of responsibility and accountability, but really, really hate it whenever anyone holds them accountable? When they get called out for destroying the economy, they

Ever notice how conservatives love to preach to everyone else about the virtues of responsibility and accountability, but really, really hate it whenever anyone holds them accountable?

When they get called out for destroying the economy, they shift the blame to minority lending. When their underlying racism comes bubbling up and people point it out, they run to shout "bloody shirt" and turn the victims into demagoging perpetrators, declaring that liberals are the real racists. When it's pointed out that they coddle far-right extremists within their ranks, they claim they're just being smeared. When some far-right extremist indulges in some act of extreme violence inspired by their insane rhetoric, they claim that mean liberals are just trying to silence them by pointing out the connection.

And when organized labor tries to hold corporate CEOs and banking executives responsible for the economic havoc they have wreaked on working people, they call it "thuggery."

Michelle Malkin was on Fox earlier this week promoting the anti-unionists' latest smear campaign against SEIU, claiming that a union members' handbook they just discovered -- even though it has been generally available for a long time, and certainly was not a secret -- somehow coaches union "thugs" in various tactics of "intimidation."

They trotted out footage of that protest held by the SEIU in May 2010 where they went to the home of Bank of America lobbyist Greg Baer to ask him to speak with some of the people whose homes were being foreclosed upon. Malkin and the Fox host tried to make this out to be some unspeakable horror, claiming that Baer's teenage son was alone in the house and had to hide in the bathroom.

In reality, Baer himself was out on the lawn of the house, mingling with the protesters:

Not surprisingly, neither of them talked with us. In fact, Gregory Baer from Bank of America initially tried to blend in with the crowd and, instead, let a family member answer the door. When one of his neighbors pointed him out to us, he announced he "didn't have time for [us]," and went inside.

Police at both events described the proceedings as entirely peaceful and cordial. That, of course, didn't stop Nina Easton, Baer's next-door neighbor, from describing them in her Fortune column as "a mob." That might have some thing to do with the fact that Easton's own husband has close business ties with Bank of America. (We're also acutely aware of Easton's deep compassion for the unemployed.)

Malkin was actually just teeing off a Vincent Cernuccio column in the Moonie Times, claiming that the handbook they "uncovered" gives union members all kinds of tips for thuggish behavior.

SEIU is in federal court defending itself against charges of racketeering and extortion filed by one of its unionizing targets, the catering company Sodexo Inc.Sodexo's court discovery recently revealed an SEIU “Contract Campaign Manual” on “Pressuring the Employer.” Union pressure is nothing new, but what SEIU recommends is not limited to organizing drives and strikes. Rather, the pressure takes the form of a so-called corporate campaign, whereby the union allies itself with outside third parties to raise intimidation to a new level.

SEIU’s manual details how “outside pressure can involve jeopardizing relationships between the employer and lenders, investors, stockholders, customers, clients, patients, tenants, politicians, or others on whom the employer depends for funds.” The union advises using legal and regulatory pressure to “threaten the employer with costly action by government agencies or the courts.”

It details the use of community groups to “damage an employer’s public image and ties with community leaders and organizations.” SEIU recommends going after company officials personally. Not mincing words, SEIU states, “It may be a violation of blackmail and extortion laws to threaten management officials with release of ‘dirt’ about them if they don’t settle a contract. But there is no law against union members who are angry at their employer deciding to uncover and publicize factual information about individual managers.”

The “dirt” includes charges such as “racism, sexism, exploitation of immigrants or proposals that would take money out of the community for the benefits of distant stockholders.” SEIU recommends “[l]eafleting outside meetings where [targeted managers] are speaking, their homes, or events sponsored by community organizations they are tied to are some ways to make sure their friends, neighbors, and associates are aware of the controversy.”

Putting this into practice, in May SEIU drove 14 busloads of protesters to the quiet suburban home of Bank of America’s deputy general counsel, Greg Baer. Fortune magazine’s Washington bureau chief, Nina Easton, Mr. Baer’s neighbor, reported on the “hordes of invaders” shouting into bullhorns and waving signs. Ms. Easton wrote that “a more apt description of this assemblage would be ‘mob.’ Intimidation was the whole point of this exercise.”

Only Mr. Baer’s teenage son was home. Terrified, he locked himself in the bathroom, pleading with Ms. Easton, “When are they going to leave?”

Obviously, lying without compunction is simply these folks' bread and butter.

You see, it absolutely terrifies right-wingers that the captains of industry who underwrite their paychecks might be held to account for their misdeeds. The very idea that corporate CEOS might be held accountable for breaking environmental laws, or labor laws, or creating unsafe working conditions, or any of the other many issues that unions wind up confronting them about -- well, that just completely freaks the lot of them out.

So the prospect that unions might actually support whistleblowers who will bring down the weight of the law -- not to mention public disapproval -- on them for their unethical and illegal activities is instead transformed, in their depiction, into a campaign of union "thuggery" and "intimidation".

Well, you can read Chapter 4 of the manual -- the section that has them all worked up in a tizzy -- for yourself here (application/msword - 808.5 KB).

As you can see, it actually just outlines ordinary organizing tactics, including work stoppages, strikes, and whistlebowling activity -- all perfectly legal tactics, and which have nothing whatsoever to do with "thuggery". Yes, CEOs might find these tactics "intimidating" -- as well they should.

Mind you, a Tea Partier showing up at a health-care town hall with a gun strapped to his waist is not intimidating in the least. That's just standing up for your Second Amendment rights.

Those First Amendment rights, meanwhile, are evidently too much for them -- and their shills in the media -- to handle.

About David Neiwert

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