Have you heard those commercials on several Pittsburgh AM radio stations from a group calling itself “The Center For Union Facts” that attack the United Food & Commercial Workers’ union, which represents clerks at several area Giant Eagle stores, and which is trying to organize Wal-Marts?
According to a 2006 story in USA Today, they’re the product of a “sleazy” and “sophomoric” lobbyist who has also attacked Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine. Rick Berman is described as a “secretive” lawyer who doesn’t release lists of his clients, but they are suspected to include major retailers, restaurant chains and tobacco companies.
A liberal political magazine, The American Prospect, says Berman spent much of the 1990s and early 2000s “waging “a never-ending public-relations assault on doctors, health advocates, scientists, food researchers, and just about anyone else who highlights the health downsides of eating junk food or being obese.”
One left-wing group, the Center for Media and Democracy, says Berman’s current anti-union project began last year with a $3 million TV ad campaign in which actors portraying union members complained about their unions’ alleged wastefulness and discrimination. Recent newspaper ads have compared union leaders to the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin and the president of Iran. (More from The Wall Street Journal.)
There’s no word yet on why Berman has decided to grace Pittsburgh with his talents; unionized Giant Eagle workers peacefully approved a contract with the supermarket chain several weeks ago. And we haven’t heard any reports that Wal-Mart workers in Western Pennsylvania are planning to unionize, though the UFCW did stage an anti-Wal-Mart rally last year.
Still, Berman’s spots (which are as subtle as a fist to the face) are at least a respite from ads for Enhansulin and male-potency tablets.
(Full disclosure: The writer is a longtime member of UAW Local 1981.)