The Heritage Foundation Spreads Lies on YouTube About the Employee Free Choice Act

factoryThe Heritage Foundation posted a paid advertisement yesterday on YouTube’s homepage claiming that in the debate over the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) workers only hear “the union organizer’s side.” The infomercial tells viewers that worker enthusiasm for union membership drops off from the time of the initial card check to the time of electing a union, but it leaves out the tactics management uses to scare and cajole workers not to join a union in the first place. The Heritage Foundation deployed 21st Century “new media” technology to make its case for a return to 19th Century labor practices.

The YouTube spot comes complete with re-enactments, dramatizations, and testimonials about “dishonest” people who harass innocent workers to join unions. At one point viewers can see someone banging on the front door of a modest suburban home demanding the worker sign on. The passage of EFCA, the Heritage video states, “will allow union organizers to deceive, harass, and threaten workers into signing these cards to form a Union.”

“The Employee Free Choice Act,” the Heritage Foundation video continues, “would replace secret ballot organizing elections with publicly signed union cards.” How many times can anti-union organizations, corporations, and individuals get away with repeating this tired old lie? EFCA simply ads the card check to the secret ballot election as another option for workers.

And then the video’s alarming conclusion: “Card Check is not a fact-based process it’s an emotional process.” The ad trivializes worker grievances as if the only reason why any worker would ever want to join a union is based on petty “emotional” problems with co-workers or management. In an era of wholesale violations of existing labor law, from retail to mines to food production, this portrayal of workers’ concerns in the workplace as largely imaginary is insulting and cold-hearted. Very 19th Century.

Millions of non-unionized workers in this country each day hear bosses, managers, or “labor relations consultants” screaming at them not to join a union, promising them that they’ll be fired if they join, or that they’ll be passed up for promotion if they join, or that they’ll suffer the wrath of their employers and co-workers if they join, or that they aren’t being “team players” if they join, or that they’ll lose their “special favors” if they join, or that they’re threatening the wellbeing of their families and their fellow workers’ families because if the union is formed the company is going to shut its doors and move to a non-union location, and so on, and on, and on.

The people at the Heritage Foundation know exactly what they’re doing. They frame the EFCA issue based on bald-faced lies. Business-financed “think tanks” like Heritage propagandize workers against their own interests in psychologically sophisticated ways, often pulling on their heartstrings and framing their anti-union stance as “common sense.” The Heritage Foundation’s YouTube infomercial is as blatant and dishonest as any propaganda ever to come from a totalitarian government.

With the economy in shambles we need to increase the buying power of workers. We must put upward pressure on wages to spur and sustain consumption. The Employee Free Choice Act is one way to stimulate consumption for the long-term health of the American economy. President Barack Obama’s economic platform will have little chance for success without this vital labor reform that will help increase union membership and with it the real wages of millions of American workers. The Employee Free Choice Act is our era’s Wagner Act.

Wages have been stagnant or declining now for the past 30 years and the buying power of the average American worker has plummeted. Meanwhile, the average CEO now makes about 450 times the average entry-level worker. The income and wealth disparities between the super rich and the working middle class are at levels not seen since the Gilded Age. The Heritage Foundation might ask itself just what “heritage” it is defending? The “heritage” of children in factories, twelve-hour workdays, Pinkertons and scabs?

It’s insulting to see the CNBC moneygrubbers and other corporate shills wondering aloud why consumers aren’t spending or why they racked up so much debt. They will never acknowledge the fact that this occurred because of stagnant or declining real wages for most workers and that it is the direct result of the assault on union membership we’ve endured for 30 years.

joseph-palmero.gifThe right to organize independent labor unions and to collectively bargain is what built the American middle class. The Heritage Foundation would like to take away that right. On EFCA, Heritage’s YouTube infomercial shows that corporate America has reached the point of hyperventilation. This labor reform will help put money in the pockets of millions of ordinary working Americans. Why else would the corporate response be so shrill? It’s time to fight back and honor the struggles of our grandparents and great grandparents for the eight-hour day, the weekend, overtime pay, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, and health and safety in the work place. It’s time to take labor relations into 21st Century.

by Joseph Palermo

Joseph Palermo is Associate Professor of American History at CSU, Sacramento. He’s the author of two books on Robert F. Kennedy: In His Own Right (2001) and RFK (2008).

Originally published by The Huffington Post. Reprinted with permission from the author.


  1. wake up says

    My dont we leave a lot of things out of this Union puff piece.

    Unions kill company at an alarming rate ( steel, Car, Construction) they force the over payment of workers through strong arm tactics. Why should we have to pay someone 50 dollars an hour to put lug nuts on a tire? because of union thugs and back room deals. That’s why the American car is a joke now.
    Unions have destroyed the public schools, we pay more and union people suck most of the money out b4 it gets to the children, then they spout “revised” history, give everyone the answers to the test so no one feels bad and fails. And grade in purple because red is so mean. And we wonder why all we have now is entitled brats, who want things given to them instead of working for them.
    How about the fact that a large percentage of States and Cities are going bankrupt due to … Union Pensions! I have to pay for the worthless 350 pound scumbag, working at DMV, as he checks his facebook page instead of actually working. Who is tearing Greece apart right now? Lazy union workers who want to retire at 50 at live a life of leisure till there 90. Only its bankrupting the country.
    The Unions had a place when people were chaining kids to machines to work 12 hour days. We have more than enough regulation now to protect the worker from the evil Owners. The unions are just a money making scheme, to enslave stupid, lazy people. I am not one of many i am an individual. And if i work hard i will succeed and i have.
    I can almost go for Unions for Police(my father was a sheriff and hated the unions)Fireman, air traffic controllers, where live is endangered and their is no competition to the job. But these unions only make deals with the city,to act like a martyr every time budget cuts come out. Do not insult my intelligence and tell me that the first and only thing we can cut is Police, Fire, and Teachers. They only prance these unions up there to get pickets on the street and force the budget cuts out. Now were are going bankrupt as a city, as a state, and as a country, and unions have a huge part in it. Its funny how the Unions love to get the lil red radicals out of college, spouting their Commie crap. a whole new generation of Useless Idiots, sporting the union label.

    You sicken me, but the US is waking up to the lies, for decades you scums have slithered in the backgrounds spreading progressive poison. now the lights are being turned on and the corrupt will be rooted out. enjoy the last few months of power. The progressives wasted all their capital and will have nothing to show for it come 2012. The public has switched and they are against all you want. We will piece by piece dismantle the framework you have spent decades assembling. We will get our schools back, we will show the people how you want to enslave them with debt and handouts, instead of being free men and women. If you truly want socialism get the heck out of this country there tons of socialist countries going bankrupt that you can go to. get the hell out.

  2. Sapin says

    Thank you for this very interesting post. Indeed, wages have stagnated in most Western countries since the last 30 years. Maybe it would help to explain why it is so. Going back to the post World War 2 era, the reconstruction of Europe is at the root of the phenomenal growth period experienced by North American economies during the 1950s and 60s. But then, by the end of the 60s, European and Japanese firms had become competitive again. This increased competition on the global level slowed down growth, and profits started to stagnate. To keep level of profits, certain rather drastic solutions were designed (in American business financed think-tanks, among others: to cut down on wages (relocation of production to lower wage countries, ferocious attacks on unions), and to open new areas to capital (privatization of public services, deregulation) . That was the whole point of the neoliberal policies enacted since the 1980s, and that managed to keep Western economies growing. And the result is what we see now, an economic crisis of overproduction (the root of the credit crisis), because people can't afford to buy the stuff produced by companies (especially cars…).

    Now, as we see in this post, people like the folks from Heritage, who fell to this neoliberal ideology in the first place and can't think beyond it now, are trying to keep pushing things in this same direction that brought forth this crisis. This is plain ridiculous of course.

    But then, how efficent can be seemingly progressive solutions aiming to increase the purchasing power of workers? We must not forget that the production of goods and services comes from somewhere (natural resources), has effects on ecosystems (pollution, CO2 emission), and ends up somewhere (mostly in garbage dumps). As it is becoming obvious these days, resources and absorbtion capcity of ecosystems are quite limited, and these limits are close to being reached. Hence, is increased consumption really a viable solution?

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