Operatives order members to oppose GOP

Expansive union effort to peel away votes

Jim Wasser, an electrician from Kankakee, Ill., stands defiantly, hands on hips, wearing a bright orange International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers T-shirt with a message from the AFL-CIO to 400,000 of its union members in key swing states. "John McCain? War hero? Absolutely," says Wasser, a Navy veteran who served in Vietnam with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). "Voice for working families? No way."

Worried about McCain's appeal among its members and even more worried about Sen. Barack Obama's difficulty attracting white, non-college-educated working-class voters, the AFL-CIO is spending $53.4 million to reach 13 million of its members and their families. The plan is to try to peel them away from McCain by persuading them to vote their economic interest, which they say would be hurt — not helped — by McCain.

As soon as he seemed to be closing in on the Republican nomination for president this winter, organized labor began polling its members and holding focus groups to find out what people thought about the Arizona senator.

"They had a lot of respect for his service to the country, but were unclear about his positions on unions and unclear about his positions in general," said Karen Ackerman, political director for the AFL-CIO. "They felt he was a maverick and took positions different from the Bush administration. They had a favorable view of him."

Support of Democrats

At the same time, McCain has spoken frequently about his desire to find support among "Reagan Democrats" — the white, blue-collar voters in industrial sections of the country who helped Ronald Reagan win the White House in 1980.

"He's probably in the best position of anybody since Reagan, just looking at his popularity, his favorable ratings," said Charles Black Jr., McCain's chief strategist, adding that McCain shares similar views on social issues and national security with many blue-collar workers.

Asked why working-class voters would support him, McCain said recently that he would offer them a safe and prosperous country, and noted he has sharp differences with Obama.

"I won't tell them that in small towns across America and in Pennsylvania that they are bitter and angry about their economic condition, so therefore they embrace religion and the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution of the United States," McCain said in a dig at controversial comments Obama made at a fundraiser in San Francisco. "I will never do that, because I know why they embrace their constitutional rights and I know why they embrace their religion because of the fundamentally good and decent people that are the reason why America is the pre-eminent nation in the world today."

'An American hero'

Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, which specializes in swing-state polling, called it smart politics by the AFL-CIO to give its members information that might turn them away from McCain.

"Many of these people were reluctant to vote for Obama in the primary; they were looking for an alternative and now McCain is the alternative," Brown said. "He's not a hard-line conservative; that's attractive. He's an American hero. These are people who respect the military and military service. He has kept his distance from a president who is incredibly unpopular with this group."

McCain was a Navy fighter pilot who was shot down over Hanoi and spent 51/2 years as a prisoner of war, frequently tortured by his captors.

Joe Rugola, the AFL-CIO president in Ohio and international vice president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, began talking to his members in March about McCain by knocking on doors, calling on the phone and distributing literature at work sites.

At the heart of his message: "Generally speaking, the senator has never met a trade deal he didn't love regardless of the impact on American workers and American families," Rugola said.

The union federation is using micro-targeting to determine which members are more interested in learning about health care or trade or the economy to ensure they get the information that will best convince them that McCain does not represent their interests. Labor officials are dogging McCain at his campaign events, raising questions about his policies. On Friday, following McCain's trade speech in Ottawa, Canada, the AFL-CIO organized a conference call for reporters with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) to criticize McCain's pro-trade stance.

The labor federation also created a Web site, mccainrevealed.org, to show where McCain stands on issues.

In particular, the AFL-CIO has focused attention on five key states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Union households comprise 25 percent to 35 percent of the vote in those states, which have the potential to decide the election.

Mike Podhorzer, the AFL-CIO's deputy political director, said, "McCain's got to get non-college, working-class voters to come his way. That is going to be the battleground. If he's successful, he has a chance to be president. If he's not, there's no path to victory for him. The union program is really part of putting up a firewall against that. The only way he gets the majorities in a place like Michigan is through ignorance."

Mailers include such messages as "John McCain wants to tax your health care" and "John McCain thinks NAFTA was a good idea."

So far, Ackerman and Podhorzer believe the program has been working. In February, 57 percent of their members had a positive view of McCain. In April, it dropped to just 33 percent, according to polling conducted for the labor federation.

The general board of the AFL-CIO is expected to vote soon on endorsing Obama. And eventually their campaign against McCain will include pro-Obama messages.

Wasser, who served with Kerry on his first swift boat in Vietnam, spoke out against attacks on Kerry's war record during the 2004 election. Today, he said, he wants to be sure his fellow union members know the truth about where McCain stands on the issues that matter to them.

"I want people to see that they have to look at the real John McCain and not at the war hero," Wasser said. "I respect his service to this country. I don't know how he endured what he did. That was a superhuman thing. But I can't take another four years of a George Bush term."


Labor Peace Act protects forced-labor unionism

Rocky Mountain State weighs worker-choice scheme

Unions might not enjoy the support of many Fort Collins residents, having been trounced in a special election almost two weeks ago. But state workers—and voters—still have plenty of union issues to consider this fall thanks to competing union-oriented ballot measures.

The Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance is weighing in, asking both sides to cease fire and take their proposals off the ballot.

At issue is Amendment 47, a right-to-work measure backed by conservative business leaders but opposed by the Denver Metro Area Chamber of Commerce, and a series of pro-union bills that oppose it.

A constitutional amendment, 47 would ban “union shop” arrangements, wherein all workers covered by collective bargaining contracts are required to contribute to the union that represents them.

The principle in such agreements is that workers are reaping the benefits of union representation, so they should have to contribute. But some business leaders think workers should not be forced to join organizations they may not support.

Pro- and anti-union groups have gone back and forth over various ballot measures, prompting some lawmakers to ask for a truce of sorts.

Already, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 withdrew two of four ballot proposals in an effort to calm the business groups.

The NCLA, the lobbying arm of the Greeley, Fort Collins and Loveland chambers of commerce, said in a resolution that both sides should take a breather.

The group supports the existing Colorado Labor Peace Act of 1943, which strikes a balance between labor and business interests. The group said “actions by the governor and legislature” emboldened organized labor groups to advocate changing it, which prompted right-to-work advocates to petition 47 onto the ballot.

“(The NCLA) calls on proponents of right-to-work to cease their effort to amend right-to-work into the state constitution; and also calls on labor leaders to cease their strategy of flooding the ballot with measures that will have a deleterious effect on the long-term economic well-being of Coloradans, and as a final point, calls on both parties to retract all initiatives immediately.”

That’s doubtful, but with many business groups beginning to weigh in against 47, you never know.

Even without all the ballot bustle, unions are already gaining a stronger foothold in Colorado.

About one-fourth of state workers will have union representation after voting to join a new union conglomerate called Colorado WINS, a compendium of the more familiar-sounding American Federation of Teachers, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Colorado Association of Public Employees-Service Employees International Union.

The workers were allowed to join because of an executive order Gov. Bill Ritter signed last November, which allowed recognition of state employee unions and a nonbinding form of collective bargaining.

So it’s already clear that unions will be one of this year’s big issues in Colorado, no matter the beating they recently took in Fort Collins.


McEntee's failed policies of the past

AFSCME's costly learning experience

OK, two-fer on Friday afternoon. First: the parent of the Washington Federation of State Employees has endorsed Sen. Barack Obama for president. If you recall, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees was an early and enthusiastic backer of Sen. Hillary Clinton, much to the chagrin of federation officials, who wanted to hold off. As the Washington Post reports:
It was the second straight election cycle in which AFSCME picked a loser. In 2004, it endorsed former Vermont governor Howard Dean. Now, Obama needs union president McEntee -- both to bring AFSCME's resources to bear and because of McEntee's influential role as the chairman of the AFL-CIO's political committee. AFSCME signaled it was on board this week.
It helped pay for a hard-hitting TV ad by the antiwar group MoveOn.org attacking Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), and AFSCME's political director had a four-hour meeting with the campaign.

And speaking of presidents and solidarity, every poli-sci freshman knows the story of President John Kennedy's gaff when he went to Berlin and roused the West Germans to fight on in the Cold War.

JFK inappropriately stuck the article "ein" in his “Ich bin ein Berliner.” This, as the story goes, turned his statement of solidarity with Berliners from “I am a Berliner” to “I am a jelly donut,” because a Berliner is a type of pastry.

But not really, reports the New York Times books blog. After a bit of research, the conclusion is that Kennedy's pronouncement was perfectly understandable.

"Some of my respondents in fact applauded Kennedy on his nuanced use of German, since for them the sentence without the indefinite article implies that the speaker is a native Berliner, while the sentence with 'ein' suggests either more recent residence in Berlin or even solidarity with its inhabitants," says the chair of Princeton's German Department.


Gov't-workers' funds pledged to oust Mayor

Even in political year, AFSCME has cash to spare

Several city employee union leaders decided Friday to support the recall campaign against Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, a dramatic development that transforms what had been a fledgling effort into one with a real shot of going before voters. Two organizers of the recall campaign, Anne Fischer and Chris Beatty, were invited to the regular Friday meeting of the presidents of the 18 American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees locals that represent City of Detroit employees.

"There was a consensus in the room that we will be supporting it," said Leamon Wilson, chairman of the group of presidents. "I think the locals will be looking to do whatever it takes to get the job accomplished."

That means critical resources, such as money and petition circulators, will be available to help gather the 57,328 signatures of registered Detroit voters required to put the recall on the ballot. Sixteen of the 18 presidents agreed to support the recall, Wilson said. There was no vote at the meeting.

Mayoral spokeswoman Denise Tolliver declined to comment, saying mayoral staffers "haven't seen a recall petition filed."

The last straw for AFSCME local presidents, most of whom already had reached a consensus to ask the mayor to resign, was Kilpatrick's threat of layoffs if the City Council rejects a proposed sale of the city's half of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, Wilson said.

"We're not going to be blackmailed and bullied," he said.

The recall effort began in April as the longest of long shots, launched by Detroiter Angelo Brown, a past filer of failed recall efforts who at first blush appeared to have no organizational support.

But in the last two months, a number of residents and community activists have volunteered to help the campaign. They opened offices on the east and west sides of the city and launched a Web site, www.recallkilpatrick.com. Still, until Friday, the group was a low-budget operation.

Recall leaders were elated that the unions would be joining the effort. "I'm ecstatic," Fischer said. "This adds a whole degree of momentum."

Beatty, the other presenter, is an uncle of Lou Beatty, the ex-husband of former Kilpatrick chief of staff Christine Beatty.

It was the text messages reported by the Free Press that Christine Beatty and Kilpatrick exchanged showing they lied under oath during a police whistle-blower trial that ignited the scandal.

Fischer said activists began gravitating to a recall because the council's effort to remove the mayor is likely to bog down, and they don't expect Gov. Jennifer Granholm to oust Kilpatrick despite the council's request that she do so.

The petition begun by Brown is valid until late October. However, organizers want to submit the signatures by Aug. 1, so it can be placed on the November ballot, avoiding a special election, Fischer said.


Teamsters buy time

Related video: "Teamsters delay privatization"

Rope-a-dope saves union-dues flow for now

They decided to not decide. Wishy-washy? Actually, smart. The move by the Collier County (FL) School Board to table a decision on privatizing the school system’s 250-member custodial crew gives time for a correct decision in whichever direction the chips may fall.

Superintendent Dennis Thompson is given time to bolster his case for the preferred contractor, which worked with him in Rockford, Ill., schools. The Teamsters Union is given more time to prove its insurance matrix if applied systemwide can save taxpayers nearly twice as much as the originally targeted $3 million by privatizing; further proposals for savings on actual day-to-day operations would be a plus. The community gets time, via an ad hoc committee, to dissect this and other aspects of the school system’s finances. Such a committee, which ought to include representatives from all walks of life, was in the works anyway with an eye toward a Nov. 4 referendum on using construction funds for operations, which include employees.

Thursday’s postponement until September assures board incumbents Kathleen Curatolo and Linda Abbott of a prime topic for public forums with their Aug. 26 election opponents. Knowledge of the inner workings of the school system and its finances, including reserves, will be put to the test.

Plus, with today’s custodial crews still aboard, our schools will get a good cleaning over the summer.

The board and the community lacked enough information to make a decision on solid ground. But come September, with all these different assignments being carried out, we ought to have all we need to know and then some, in time for the Oct. 1 budget deadline.

Good move, School Board.

And good move, community, for getting so involved and speaking up.


Labor-state's costly details exposed

Not bad work if you can get it

In April, Governor Deval Patrick (D-MA) signed legislation authorizing the secretary of transportation and public works to "promulgate regulations and recommend guidelines for the use of police details at public works sites." In doing so, he put the state on the cusp of ending the controversial practice of relying exclusively on uniformed police officers to direct traffic around work sites on public roadways.

Under the legislation, the secretary may recommend guidelines for hiring civilian flaggers to do this job, as commonly done throughout the rest of the country. In general, civilian flaggers cost less than police details and do the job just as well.

It would make sense for Massachusetts to take advantage of this cost saving. Despite claims to the contrary by the police unions, the practice of relying exclusively on uniformed police officers apparently does not make Massachusetts work sites any safer. The frequency with which workers on roadways are struck and killed by passing cars is no lower in Massachusetts than elsewhere.

To be sure, police union leaders are doing all they can to stop even a modest revision in the current practice. They convinced the Legislature to add language to the law that prohibits any change from interfering with local ordinances and collective bargaining agreements. And they are making the argument that the state would not save money, anyway, by opening up the job to civilian flaggers.

The reason, they say, is that the state would have to pay flaggers the "prevailing wage" on public works projects. The minimum pay for a Boston police officer working a detail is $36.30 per hour. The state prevailing wage for flaggers is currently posted at $37.45 per hour. Hence, no cost saving is possible - or so they argue.

Consider, though, what this means. Taking out fringe benefits, the posted prevailing wage for flaggers translates into an hourly wage of about $30 or an annual salary of $62,400. That's for a job that requires about eight hours of training. That's as much or more than we pay for workers, including nuclear technicians, school counselors, social workers, librarians, and firefighters, whose jobs require extensive schooling or training.

Would it really be necessary to pay so much for civilian flaggers were the state to use them rather than police details on public works projects? No.

The prevailing wage is determined by the state Labor Department from collective bargaining agreements between contractors and the unions. But, under current practices, there are few, if any, opportunities for private contractors to employ civilian flaggers. After all, the intent of the new law is to end the union monopoly that makes all such opportunities virtually nonexistent.

What matters, therefore, isn't the currently posted prevailing wage. What matters is the wage that civilian flaggers would be paid if the state opened up the job of directing traffic to competitive bidding.

Were the state to take this step, private firms could be formed for the purpose of bidding for the work. As flaggers employed by such firms took over the job of staffing work sites, the agreements between flaggers and their employers would provide a new basis for determining the prevailing wage. The wage would likely be less, not more, than the wage currently paid to police officers, for the simple reason that the newly formed private firms would have an incentive to do the job for less. Competition would do what it always does, i.e, benefit the consumer by reducing price.

One suspects that police union leaders understand this logic all too well. Otherwise, why would they be resisting change so fiercely?

Maine has a prevailing wage law. In the Portland area, the prevailing wage for flaggers is $14.76 per hour, including benefits. That - not some bloated wage extracted by a union monopoly from timid, local politicians - should be what Massachusetts taxpayers and rate payers have to pay. Governor Patrick already understands as much. How interesting it will be if he stays the course and thereby shows courage of a kind that his Republican predecessors were never able to summon when it came to the same issue.

- David G. Tuerck is executive director of the Beacon Hill Institute and chairman and professor of economics at Suffolk University.


AT&T workers sue union over disclosure

Union members allege willful, malicious motive

Several former and current AT&T workers are suing a union for allegedly violating a state law by sharing their personal information without consent. In a complaint filed June 11 in Gaston County (NC) Superior Court, 16 people claim that between Sept. 5 and Nov. 7, Communication Workers of America and two of its affiliates, District 3 and Local 3602, illegally posted their personal information, including their Social Security numbers, in a public area at an AT&T facility in Burlington.

By posting the information, the complaint claims, union officials engaged in unfair and deceptive practices while violating the identity theft protection act and the complainant's right to privacy. The complaint also said that the union's actions were intentional, willful and malicious, and that they caused damages to the complainants.

Among the complainants listed in the suit are Jason Fisher, Carolyn Bogs, Everett Jenkins and Timothy Jenkins, all of Alamance County. Eleven other complainants are from Gaston, Guilford, Randolph, Mecklenburg, Stanley, Caldwell and Forsyth counties, while one is from South Carolina.

The complaint was filed on their behalf by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides free legal aid to employees who claim to be targets of union abuse.

According to the complaint, all 16 were at some point represented by the union and its affiliates but they were not union members. Only one complainant is currently working for AT&T.

Foundation attorneys are seeking a jury trial and punitive damages.

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., Communications Workers of America is a union that represents workers in several states including North Carolina.

A call to Noah Savant, vice president of Communication Workers of America's District 3, was not returned.


Supreme Court deals blow to union subsidy

California's pro-union favoritism ruled unconstitutional

The U.S. Supreme Court on June 19 overturned a California law that prevented employers who get state funds from launching anti-union campaigns with those funds. In Chamber of Commerce vs. Brown, the Court ruled 7-2 that the law conflicted with federal labor law, which permitted employer "free speech."

The state law, Assembly Bill 1889, passed in 2000, said state funds may not be used to "assist, promote or deter union organizing." The first law in the United States of its kind, it was immediately attacked by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the country’s largest pro-business lobby. AB 1889 had been pushed by labor unions in order to remove obstacles from organizing in areas like health care and education.

The Court’s ruling is another government-dealt blow to the union movement. It gives publicly funded corporations the green light to bust unions using taxpayer dollars.

Art Pulaski, secretary-treasurer of the California Labor Federation, told the Los Angeles Times, "Our unions don't use state funds to help workers gain a voice at work, so employers shouldn't use them to prevent workers from organizing for improved wages, benefits and working conditions."

The Supreme Court has never made a significant pro-labor ruling. It has never been an "objective" or "impartial" check on the legislative and executive branches of the government, or over state laws. The Court was created to serve as the main tribunal for protecting capitalist interests. Since the mid-1930s, when comprehensive labor laws were passed in the United States, the union protections enshrined in those laws have been steadily eroded by courts and the executive branch.

In this case, Justice John Paul Stevens said labor law has maintained a level playing field for unions and bosses. The court ruled that labor laws favor "uninhibited, robust and wide-open debate" between unions and bosses and "create a zone free from all regulations" by the government.

By treating the million- or billion-dollar corporations and labor unions with false parity, the recent decision helps the capitalists in their general assault on organized labor.

There is no such thing as "open debate" between workers and bosses. There is no such thing as "free speech" for workers. Corporations own and control workers’ ability to work—they can hire and fire most workers at will. The so-called debate is decided by corporate dictate. On nearly every issue, only corporations really have the right to "free speech" at the workplace.

Corporations can use any and all resources at their disposal to break up worker organization—they can spend millions in vicious anti-union campaigns of lies; hold on-the-job meetings telling workers how "bad" the union is; subcontract work to non-union employers; relocate plants to rural areas or out of the country; and much more.

But unions are severely limited by law in what actions they can take to organize workplaces. Striking for higher wages is considered illegal. Sit-down strikes are illegal. Walkouts over benefit cuts are illegal. Solidarity strikes are illegal. This does not mean unions have not and should not use these actions; it simply means that the law often functions as a straightjacket for union militancy.

Legal and legislative struggles, like working to pass AB 1899 or other laws that help unions, can help pave a clearer path to organizing unions. But all such gains are temporary under capitalism. Fighting within the confines of the legal system is never enough. The legal struggle can only be one part of an overall militant strategy for victory because the bourgeois legal system always will ultimately favor the capitalists and their interests.

The best way to win better wages and benefits is by concerted, organized action and mass mobilization of the workers. Workers have shown time and again that they are not afraid to fight capitalist greed. A fight back strategy is needed.


Gov't sues for restoration of decertified union

NLRB vacancies prolong workplace uncertainty

A federal judge will hear arguments on Friday on whether to temporarily reinstate a union that was disbanded last year at Narricot Industries in Boykins. Attorneys for the National Labor Relations Board and the International Textiles Group, which owns Narricot, will argue the merits of a motion to restore the union before District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith at 10 a.m. in Norfolk's Eastern District Court.

The government filed for a temporary injunction in April seeking to require the company to restore its relationship with the International Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners until the labor board in Washington, D.C., can rule on the legality of the company's September decision to withdraw recognition of the union.

That ruling could be substantially delayed, because three of five seats on the board have been vacant since last year and are unlikely to be filled easily during the campaign season.

An administrative law judge has ruled that the company illegally interfered with what should have been an employee-led effort to expel the union from the company. A vote by 60 percent of the employees to pull out of the union was improperly influenced by company officials, the government alleges.

The company has since refused to negotiate with union representatives and has made changes to pay and benefits structures without their consultation. The labor board, represented by Patricia Timmins, the acting regional director, responded by seeking the emergency court action sought in Friday's hearing.


Out-of-state unionist apologizes

Arizona worker's observations about worker-choice offended some Michigan readers

As a result of the emotional, raucous and argumentative exchanges to my recently published letter questioning the wage arguments being used against the proposed right to work ballot proposal in Michigan, I would like to say "I am sorry."

Unfortunately I did not foresee being labeled a right-winged zealot by friends and acquaintances in the labor movement. I did not foresee being accused of being a member of the Heritage Foundation or Cato Institute. And I did not foresee these same folks telling me to butt out of Michigan politics. I am sorry, but I was only expressing my observations from a Right to Work state.

My 12 years in Saginaw were spent trying to make the city and state a better place to live, raise a family and eventually retire. All of that work was through my former union, the United Auto Workers. I met my wonderful wife in Saginaw and have become close to our extended family with deep roots in Michigan. Moving to Arizona was difficult, and we still are making the transition. We miss family and friends every day.

I wish Michigan, its residents and unions no harm and wish you well in attempts to shake off the economic effects of globalization. Change is difficult. Nobody likes it. But change is what is needed on both sides of the globalization debate.

Mark Kraych, Chandler, AZ


New pro-union Gov. acts to revive dues

Labor-state pols look to gov't workers

An advisory council for state employee labor issues created in 2001 and abolished in 2003 has been re-established by Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and will resume its work July 1.

Personnel Cabinet Legal Services Executive Director Dan Egbers told the Interim Joint Committee on Labor and Industry on Friday that the Governor's Employee Advisory Council, re-established by an executive order from the governor, will include more state agency representation, but will retain its original purpose: to give non-supervisory, classified state employees access to the governor. It will also continue to allow employees to voluntarily choose labor organizations to represent them on the council and have dues deducted from their state paychecks for participation in those unions.

No employee will be required to join or pay dues to a GEAC organization, Egbers said in a news release. He also said there was no such requirement during the last incarnation of the council.

Some labor groups that represented state employees on the council before it was abolished by Gov. Ernie Fletcher in 2003 included the United Auto Workers, Teamsters, Kentucky State Police Professional Association and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The council was created by executive order of former Gov. Paul Patton in 2001.


Meet the pro-union Antipreneurs

They're against advertising, corporate America, and globalization

Bill Goldsmith has always been a maverick. As a radio disc jockey and program director in the 1970s and '80s, he loved creating his own mixes of modern rock and introducing listeners to cutting-edge musicians. But in the '90s, as large corporations bought up the stations he worked for, Goldsmith began to feel increasingly choked by the demands of commercial radio. Programming was becoming too formulaic; he was given less leeway. Working in radio just wasn't fun anymore.

In 2000, with the rise of the Internet and streaming media, Goldsmith had an idea: Why not start his own station, one that would buck the constraints of corporate radio with innovative programming and no ads? Today, Radioparadise.com, which broadcasts an eclectic mix of modern, classic, and alternative rock, is commercial-free. It's supported entirely by donations from its listeners, 15,000 of whom are logged onto the site at any given time. Goldsmith's company, based in Paradise, Calif., has three employees and about $1 million in annual revenues. Rebecca Goldsmith, Bill's wife, is the CFO and new music reviewer. Says Bill: "I hate advertising. There is this kind of organic sense of community that develops here that could not happen if this radio station's sole reason for existence was to increase shareholder value for a large corporation."

Meet the antipreneurs. Goldsmith is one of perhaps a few thousand business owners who have won both notice and profits by being overtly or covertly anti-big business and anti-advertising. Antipreneurs frequently choose each other as suppliers because they share similar philosophies. Their marketing strategy is targeted toward consumers who have grown cynical about buying products and services from larger companies, whose methods they deem irresponsible. "Cynical consumers perceive that most of the marketplace is bad, lacking in integrity, or not trustworthy, except for a few [often small or local] companies," says Amanda Helm, a professor of marketing at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. "But once they find a company they can trust, they are very motivated to stick with [it]."

Antipreneurs are quick to differentiate their efforts to reform capitalism from social entrepreneurs' attempts to harness business for philanthropic ends. "What appeals to people about us is that this is a positive vision of how the marketplace can and should work," says Adam Neiman, president and CEO of No Sweat Apparel, a five- employee, $1 million Boston company that sells clothes produced in union factories. Neiman says the company's mission is to improve conditions for workers in the garment industry, in part by paying them a living wage and ensuring that they have union representation.

Antipreneurs walk a fine ideological line: They are pro-business and want their companies to grow, but they're against big business. They engage in global commerce while disdaining the machinations of globalization. They profit from the free market, but they criticize it, too.

So how do they get away with it? They wear their contrarian politics on their sleeves and seek customers who do the same. Often those are the so-called dark greens and very dark greens, who marketing experts say are borderline obsessed with environmental issues and feel the need to preach about their lifestyle. In addition, some 37% of people age 18 to 30 prefer to use brands that are socially conscious, with more than three-quarters of that group citing fair labor practices and two-thirds listing environmental factors as chief concerns, according to New York youth marketing company Alloy Media & Marketing (ALOY). Alloy says the youth market has nearly $200 billion in buying power.

Antipreneurs attempt to reach their potential customers without traditional advertising. What advertising they do is likely to be ironic, in-your-face, or highly political. In all cases, it reinforces the importance of buying from small companies that produce with sustainability in mind and use ethical labor practices. One consequence of this highly charged political stance is that antipreneurs face the wrath of passionate customers if they underdeliver or merely appear to.


Although some credit The New York Times media columnist Rob Walker with coining the term "antipreneur," Vancouver-based Kalle Lasn gives the movement much of its ideological weight. Lasn is co-founder of the magazine Adbusters, which analyzes the effects and pervasiveness of advertising by large corporations. He advocates "culture jamming," which he describes as the interruption of unconscious consumer behavior that favors buying over producing. One of culture jamming's techniques is the deconstruction of large companies' ad campaigns to expose what antipreneurs believe is their hypocrisy.

Lasn doesn't stop with advertising. "If you want to change the world, you have to change capitalism into a more grassroots phenomenon, and that means pulling down the megacorporations," he says, speaking with hints of his native Estonian. In the past decade, he says, "A whole new wave of small business is really strutting its stuff in a powerful way around the world, and it includes everything from ethical principles in running business to fair trade to a large and growing movement of people who just want to buy local." Lasn says this movement is gaining strength as people become exasperated with what he calls the traditional "complaint-based" politics of the left—whining lots and doing little. Antipreneurs, he says, actually make a difference by promoting products that have a low impact on the environment or are fairly produced.

Lasn is himself an antipreneur. In 2003 he took on sneaker manufacturer Nike (NKE) and its labor practices in Asia by launching Blackspot Shoes. One shoe is even called the "Unswoosher," a deliberate swipe at the Nike logo. Blackspot's logo is, naturally, a large white spot. "This is in the spirit of playful resistance that culture jamming is all about," Lasn says. "Why not befuddle a few people and force them, through cognitive dissonance, to figure out the contradiction? It's good for them."

Marketing experts see things a bit differently. "No logo is still a logo, and one your social-cultural tribe will recognize," says Michal Strahilevitz, a professor of marketing at Golden Gate University in San Francisco. "It has the same effect of the Nike Swoosh, but it is the logo of a different tribe." This also explains why apparel is such fertile territory for antipreneurs: Antipreneurs appeal to consumers who want to buy products with a kind of reverse conspicuous consumption in mind. "It works better if it is publicly consumed, as that way others know you are an ethical consumer," she says. "You get points for being seen."

To date, Lasn's 13-person company has sold about 30,000 pairs of the $100 shoes, which are made in a union factory in Portugal. Lasn advertises only in his own magazine, although he says he's planning to run an MTV (VIA) spot with the tagline "Rethink Capitalism" within the next year or so.

Lasn has certainly made an impact on other antipreneurs, such as David Wampler, founder and sole proprietor of Simple Living Network in Trout Lake, Wash. The Web company, with $200,000 in annual revenues, is an online bazaar of products and services—information on green living, T-shirts, CDs—offered by small, anticorporate businesses. "I found inspiration in [Lasn's] work and appreciate the approach he is taking and the message he is trying to deliver," Wampler says. His goal is not to get rich so much as to run a business that supports an "outwardly simple and inwardly rich" life. Wampler says he has "purposely chosen to operate as a for-profit corporation in order to model sustainable small business practices."

Antipreneurs do pay careful attention to how their products are presented. Moo Shoes, a $1.2 million New York vegan shoe store with five employees, has made its shop a community hub for information about the vegan lifestyle and about animal cruelty. This spring, Moo Shoes hosted Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, a national agency for stray and abused pets. Best Friends set up pens and cages in the store with about 20 homeless dogs and cats. Customers learned about the agency and the strays, and two cats were placed in city homes. "We care about animals, and getting animals homes is important to us, though not directly related to the shoes," says Moo Shoes co-founder Sara Kubersky.

The store sells footwear that is produced by a tiny universe of manufacturers that use vegan materials and adhere to fair labor practices. Moo Shoes also manufactures its own vegan shoes, called Novaca (Spanish for "no cow"), in Portugal. The company does do some advertising, primarily in publications such as VegNews and Vegetarian Times. One ad depicts a lone cow sitting near a barn saying "Save My Skin: Buying leather directly supports factory farms and slaughterhouses, where, every year, millions of animals are killed for their skins. Think. Before you buy."

Of course, antipreneurs aren't the only ones to have figured out that appearing not to advertise, or running nontraditional ads, can be just as effective as more conventional campaigns. Big companies have caught on, too. "The hot trend within promotions is to try to create an impression that your product is more countercultural," says the University of Wisconsin's Helm. Nissan ran billboards painted by graffiti artist JCDecaux to launch its new Qashqai mini-sport-utility vehicle last winter. Nissan (NSANY) and Blackspot, says Samantha Skey, executive vice-president of strategic marketing at Alloy, "are going after the same customer."

Here, antipreneurs have an inherent advantage. "When you have a smaller company committed to a certain type of social responsibility [from its] inception, one that is really and truly founded on building business around sustainability or fair labor, that [philosophy] is inherent in the DNA of the company," says Skey. "Consumers pick up on it."

Or as Erica Kubersky, co-founder of Moo Shoes, says: "Consumers know more these days than they used to. If you are not doing this from personal conviction, you will never convey the same message."

The other approach, taken by No Sweat Apparel, is to do no advertising. Like Goldsmith, Neiman, president and CEO of the eight-year-old company, depends on word of mouth to spread the gospel of his goods. Using ads to sell a product "really puts a huge amount of pressure on wages," says Neiman, estimating that advertising would add about 20% to his costs. He says his workers in the seven union factories that supply him, located in places as far-flung as Argentina, South Africa, and the West Bank, all get paid a living wage.

No Sweat makes the most of its logo, which features the World War II icon Rosie the Riveter. The brand has a following among the indie music crowd, so Neiman gives emerging bands a banner with Rosie tricked out as a punk rocker, complete with piercings, metal bracelets, and tattoos. The bands often display the banner at concerts. "We call her the dominatrix of labor," says Neiman, with a laugh. "What we are doing is a little tongue-in-cheek, trying to provoke a reaction."


Still, since image is crucial to their ability to sell, these companies must deliver on their message in ways other businesses may not have to. In 2006, another union was trying to take over the already-unionized factory Neiman used in Indonesia. This union eventually audited Neiman's factory, and Lasn posted some unflattering details from the audit on Adbusters' Web site this April. It didn't help that Neiman and Lasn were making similar shoes. But the audit wasn't news to Neiman, who says he posted the same details on his own company's Web site before Lasn got involved. "We got blindsided by a segment of the anti-sweatshop community that objects to market-based solutions altogether," he says. In the end, he had to sever ties with the factory he'd been using.

No matter how countercultural he might sound, Neiman still wants to grow his business, like most other entrepreneurs. "This model is scalable," he says. "We can source from as many union shops as are out there, and we can keep growing and expanding rapidly." Sara Kubersky wants to open Moo Shoes stores in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., in the next two to three years. "It would be great to have one in every city," she says. Goldsmith doesn't think his noncommercial ethos means he's sacrificing revenue—quite the contrary. "I firmly believe we are making more money with our anti-advertising stance than we would if we solicited as much advertising as possible," he says. He wouldn't mind if Radioparadise.com grew to four to five times its current size. As long as he can set the playlist, and the priorities, himself.


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