The Eye became curious about those anti-union ads that have been showing up on local TV lately, so we Googled around a bit to find out who or what was behind them.
Viewers of the ads are told to go to unionfacts.com for more information. Unionfacts.com is the creation of the Center for Union Facts. And the executive director of the Center for Union Facts is a guy named Rick Berman, a Washington lawyer/lobbyist who has represented the tobacco industry, the liquor industry and the pesticide industry, among other clients.
Basically, Berman is a highly paid hit man for corporate interests, allowing them to strike at their enemies without getting their own hands dirty. According to SourceWatch, Berman's lobbying firm, Berman & Co., "sponsors many front groups that defend his corporate clients' interests by attacking their critics, allowing his paying clients to remain out of public view."
In April 2007, CBS 60 Minutes did a piece on Berman that reported he has "come up with a clever system of non-profit educational entities. Companies can make charitable donations to these groups, which have names like Center for Consumer Freedom and Center for Union Facts. They are neutral sounding but 'educating' with a particular point of view, all perfectly legal."
Dr. Michael Jacobson, head of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, was interviewed for the 60 Minutes piece and didn't have any kind words for Berman. "He's a one-man goon squad for any company that's willing to hire him," Jacobson said. "Berman is against every single measure, no matter how sensible. He'd have no restrictions on tobacco advertising, junk foods galore in schools. No minimum wage. He wants to leave corporate America unfettered of any regulations that protect the public's health."
The anti-union ads are funny, clever, skillfully produced and obviously cost quite a few bucks, but the public probably will never know who paid for them. In keeping with Berman's standard policy, the Center for Union Facts refused to tell SourceWatch who it gets its money from.
However, according to the 60 Minutes story, "a partial list of Berman's clients was leaked to the media some years back. Names included Coca-Cola, Tyson Chicken, Outback Steakhouse and Wendy's."