my pissant two cents

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Richard Berman is a filthy liar

Columnist distorts truth, makes money by attacking unions and their leaders

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Tuesday, April 11, 2006

By Dave Saldana

Richard Berman's guest commentary ("The Private Sector: Power to the people? " April 4) raises a few interesting questions.

First, does Mr. Berman believe that American workers are stupid? He must, inasmuch as he asserts that they are unable to see the glaring truth that their bosses are so much better than unions. The 52 percent of working people who side with labor apparently lack capacity to understand that union workers are getting shorted, despite the fact that AFL-CIO research shows the average union worker's wages are 28 percent higher than nonunion workers', and non-union workers are five times less likely to have health insurance. (Source: AFL-CIO Voice@Work Campaign).




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Letters to the Business Editor: 4/11/06




In attacking card-check elections, Mr. Berman claims it is susceptible to "harassment and intimidation." But who exactly has the power to harass and intimidate? He claims 9,000 incidents of union violence or intimidation in the past 30 years. Yet in 1998 alone, 24,000 workers lost their jobs for exercising their right to form a union, according to Cornell University Professor Kate Bronfenbrenner. Her research shows that bosses illegally fire workers in 25 percent of union organizing campaigns, and nearly eight in 10 workers believe they're likely to be fired for trying to organize. Any worker who's tried to organize can tell you about bribes, spying and threats to fire workers or close the business. So precisely who, Mr. Berman, is coercing whom?

Mr. Berman points to 13,815 discrimination claims against unions since 2000. That seems like a lot, until you see that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received complaints of 114,935 discriminatory acts by private employers in 2005 alone, and that was a 5 percent decline from 2004. (Source: Washington Post 3/30/06).

He also claims that $400 million in fines have been paid in Labor Department racketeering investigations. What he fails to note is that, according to the DOL inspector general, the biggest fines were paid by corporations and their officers for defrauding unions (more than $100 million in a single instance), and the investigation includes nonunion workplaces. (Source: DOL Office of the Inspector General Semiannual Report to the Congress, pp.33-38, www.oig.dol.gov/public/semiannuals/54.pdf).

So the question for Mr. Berman is, by leaving out this information, is he merely being lazy or is he deliberately trying to mislead the reader?

Mr. Berman's resume suggests the more nefarious answer. A lobbyist for Big Tobacco, restaurants and bars (he attacked Mothers Against Drunk Drivers to press for an increase in the legal limit for driving under the influence), and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, he has opposed banning cancer-causing pesticides, increasing the minimum wage and the Americans with Disabilities Act. His favored tactic is to smear the opposition, once telling fast-food trade publication Chain Leader, "Our offensive strategy is to shoot the messenger."

It appears that Mr. Berman has never met a corporate cause too disgraceful to take its money.

Mr. Berman also is drawing the attention of the IRS. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint in November 2004 challenging the tax-exempt status of one of Mr. Berman's "Astroturf," or fake grass-roots, organizations. CREW says Mr. Berman takes corporate donations to form 501(c)(3) "educational" organizations, then hires himself as the executive director of the organization, and in that capacity hires his lobbying and public relations firm Berman & Co., thus funneling as much as 79 percent of the donations into his own pocket. In a business that is not known for its candor, Mr. Berman strains credibility. (Source: www.citizensforethics.org/filelibrary/BermanBrief.pdf).

There is no doubt that many unions could do much more to ensure that their organizations are truly democratic, providing their members with authority to decide the union's path and oversight of its officers' conduct. The facts, however, demonstrate conclusively that union members do better than their nonunion counterparts in wages, benefits and job security.

Mr. Berman is ill-equipped to address those facts, so he ignores them. If Mr. Berman's criticisms held any water, he wouldn't have to bend the truth, blur the facts and cook the data to support them.

It is not the working people of America who don't understand the relationship between labor and management, Mr. Berman. It's you. But fortunately for you, you're very well paid to be so badly informed.