[H/t to Dave for the video.]
Fox's Neil Cavuto had a fellow named Rick Berman of the "Employee Freedom Action Committee" on his program yesterday blaming the auto workers' unions for the demise of the auto industry. Berman natters on at length about the legacy costs for American automakers (neglecting to mention that the legacy we're talking about here originates with a workforce that made these corporations the giants they are today) and trots out a thick union contract to complain about how onerous it is for these corporations to deal with unions.
Cavuto, of all people, tries to be "fair and balanced":
Cavuto: All right, but it's also managers who don't turn fast enough, or see the benefits of more fuel-efficient cars, or to be able to move as quickly as their Japanese or Korean counterparts.
Berman: Yeah, but you have to understand again that you've got -- in that big contract I've shown you, you've got the UAW with veto power over which cars are made in which plants for what period of time. Now you tell me of another business that has to deal with a union and the union makes those decisions and can veto whether or not you start producing a fuel-efficient car.
This is -- not to put too fine a point on it -- a load of bollocks. The decisions on developing corporate lines and following technological trends at the Big Three have never been influenced to any great extent by labor-related restrictions but instead have always been about maximizing profits under the vision of corporate management. See Who Killed the Electric Car? for a clear portrait of this.
Berman goes on to make clear he wants to see a "prepackaged Chapter 11 bankruptcy" that would completely wipe out all existing union contracts and start everyone over at Square One. If you worked for GM for the last 20 years, well, tough luck.
What goes unmentioned in this interview -- and the ultimate target of Berman's campaign -- is that he's looking to attack not just autoworkers' unions but the entire labor movement. Bashing the UAW is just a way of laying the groundwork for a much broader attack on unions in general -- and in particular, on the Employee Free Choice Act.
Who is Rick Berman? He's a former legal eagle for the National Chamber of Commerce (the longtime nemesis of the labor movement) who has gone on to forge a lucrative career setting up all kinds of "nonprofit" organizations that rake in thousands of dollars from corporate interests, as NPR reported awhile back:
Berman's firm also runs the American Beverage Institute, which argues that drunk driving is over-hyped; the Center for Consumer Freedom, which argues that the obesity "epidemic" and mad cow disease, among other things, are over-hyped; and the Employment Policies Institute, which advocates against minimum wage increases. The Center for Consumer Freedom also runs the Web site Activistcash.com.
SourceWatch has more, noting that Berman steadfastly refuses to say who finances his organizations. There's also a discussion of Berman's current campaign:
In August 2008, the group's "political arm," the Employee Freedom Action Committee, ramped up its campaign agains the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). It launched a $30 million campaign, including radio, television, print and online ads and "a substantial grassroots organizing effort." The group's anti-EFCA ads were slated to run in Maine, New Hampshire, Mississippi, Kentucky, Louisiana, Colorado, Oregon and Minnesota. At the same time, the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, which is comprised of "virtually hundreds of businesses, chambers of commerce and trade associations," was also spending millions to defeat the bill. "The folks behind the ad campaign fear that if Sen. Barack Obama, an Employee Free Choice Act sponsor, is elected president and power shifts to the Democrats in the Senate, the bill will become law," according to a New Hampshire paper.
That's exactly right -- and it's exactly why people like Berman are out there doing everything they possibly can to destroy the unions before the EFCA ever passes.
Howie Klein has a great piece on what the EFCA is really all about, including an incredibly insightful excerpt from Barbara Erhenstein. And then he wraps up by explaining that the chances of its passage grow stronger every hour:
Good news though-- all the Democrats elected in the Senate are likely to be EFCA supporters, as are almost all the new Democratic House members-- we'll have to see about the 2 right-wingers from Alabama the DCCC wasted so many millions of dollars electing-- and, more importantly, one of the sponsors of the Senate bill is Barack H. Obama. The House already passed the bill 241 to 185 on March 1, 2007. On June 26 the Republicans managed to filibuster the bill to death, 48 Republicans joining in that effort. The only Republican joining the Democrats to end the filibuster was Arlen Specter (R-PA). Tim Johnson (D-SD), a co-sponsor, was in the hospital and couldn't vote. Several of the anti-working families Republicans who joined the filibuster were defeated-- or have retired and been replaced-- by Democrats: Wayne Allard (CO), Elizabeth Dole (NC), Pete Domenici (NM), Gordon Smith (OR), Ted Stevens (AK), John Sununu (NH) and John Warner (VA). If the vote were to take place today there is every indication that it would be 59- 40. That's one short of passage-- and that's why the recount in Minnesota and the re-run in Georgia are both so important.
No wonder clowns like Rick Berman are out there trying to bash unions with everything they've got. They can see that big tsunami bearing down on them -- and after 28 years of having it all their way, they want to believe they can outrun that tide.