Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Houston Chronicle Runs Anti-Union Lobbyist Letter to the Editor

Rick Berman is a nasty man and a liar. He was a corporate lawyer for large corporations until he found he could make a great living setting up front groups to be nasty for companies and lie for them. Those that paid his million dollar fees.

One of the companies that paid him was Uniroyal, the company that produced Alar(tm), a pesticide used on apples. It was generating a lot of bad PR because scientists said it caused cancer. Through one of his front groups, then the Guest Choice Network (currently the Center for Consumer Freedom), Berman published a newsletter that minimized the risks of Alar to children. In the newsletter it stated, "According to the Environmental Protection Agency, one would have to eat 50,000 pounds of apples a day over a lifetime to contract cancer from Alar." EPA spokeswoman Denise Kearns responded: "To my knowledge, EPA never issued that kind of statement." Later Berman was forced to admit that the source of his information was Uniroyal and not the EPA. Alar was later banned due to cancer risks as scientists warned. Information from SourceWatch and more here and here.

Recently he started a new group to go after unions. He won't reveal who is funded this "Center For Union Facts" though Wal-Mart or people connected to it are suspected. It may include very rich conservatives that hate unions and the support they give to regular workers and progressive causes. It may include some anti-union restaurant groups. Wal-Mart has admitted to a close relationship with the group but denies the company is funding it. Wal-Mart is not required to reveal its financial support. The recent activities of CFUF have been general union bashing though advertisements and PR work. The ads resemble the worst of bad political campaign smears but I already said that Berman and his groups are nasty and liars.

Bret Jacobson, senior research analyst at the Center for Union Facts and one of their few employees, has been functioning as a PR spokesperson. He told Cybercast News Service he viewed a new alliance between the United Steel Workers and the Sierra Club as a sign of desperation for both groups. He also took the occasion to repeatedly bash the USW to the extreme conservative news group and its readers.

Upon the settlement of the Houston janitor's strike the Houston Chronicle printed a Letter to the Editor from Bret Jacobson. The letter was a generalized smear of the SEIU and the settlement it won for the workers and revealed little knowledge of the facts. The strike only last a few weeks and the members were not required to strike if it created hardships. Despite this Jacobson, or his boss, claims that "it will take a long time for the 1,700 striking janitors to earn enough in their slightly higher salaries to make up for missing weeks worth of pay." A quick calculation reveals that workers who struck will win back all the lost wages in a very few months while the wages go up for three years with annual large percentage increases and the settlement also includes many other benefits. Many of the workers were only working 4 hours a night for $5.15 an hour. The additional hours and the wage increase mean that janitors who make $5.15 an hour will see their income more than double by the end of 2008.

I am surprised that the Houston Chronicle accept a non-local letter from a professional paid to write lies and nasty smears. Do you think the Chronicle should be told that is outrageous?

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