Ad ruffles labor unionist's feathers

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Local union representatives are hitting back at a national nonprofit agency that has been running targeted television advertisements, including some in Maine markets, slamming labor practices.

Jack McKay, president of the Eastern Maine Labor Council, said the Center for Union Facts of Washington, D.C., claims to support workers’ rights but "everything they do undermines workers."

"The biggest thing, I think, is that these ads are deceitful and they misrepresent what unions are asking for," McKay said Friday of the ads, which ran on local NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates in recent weeks but have since stopped. "Truthfully, they know what we want and they are deliberately misrepresenting that."

One of the ads in question portrays children voting in a class election and then depicts union bosses hijacking the process.

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The ad campaign is centered on the Employee Free Choice Act, a piece of legislation that has been supported by the U.S. House but has yet to make it through the Senate. Union supporters and many Democrats are in favor of the bill, but Republicans have generally opposed it.

The Center for Union Facts claims the Employee Free Choice Act would strip workers of their right to vote privately when forming a union.

McKay said unions have always conducted their elections in the open and will continue to do so.

The reason the ads have flooded the Maine market is because of the contested Senate race between Sen. Susan Collins and U.S. Rep. Tom Allen, who have differing views on the Employee Free Choice Act.

McKay said the ads are particularly outrageous because the Center for Union Facts is little more than a nonprofit arm of Berman Associates, a powerful Washington lobbying firm. McKay said its founder, Richard Berman, has represented interests of the tobacco and fast food industries.

Center for Union Facts managing director J. Justin Wilson issued the following statement regarding the group’s advertising campaign in Maine:

"Union bosses are the ones with a long history of corruption, deception, and mismanagement. Given that, we think Mainers should be especially concerned with their deceitful attempt to eliminate workers’ fundamental right to a private-ballot election when unionizing."

McKay said his first instinct was to ignore the ads, but he wants the public to have both sides.

"It was important for us to come out and denounce these ads because they received so much air time," he said. "And I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of them."


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