A new anti-union group backed by U.S. businesses began a multimillion-dollar campaign Monday attacking the organized labor movement as corrupt and outdated.
The Center for Union Facts took out full-page advertisements in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, and put a 15-foot dinosaur outside the Washington headquarters of the AFL-CIO, the largest U.S. labor federation.
“The way unions are presently structured is often anachronistic,” said lobbyist Rick Berman, who started the group. “They don’t want to recognize that the world has moved on. Management isn’t treating employees like they were in the 1930s or ‘40s. Unions don’t have anything to sell anymore.”
Berman said he has raised about $2.5 million from companies, trade organizations and individuals, who he declined to identify. Berman has run similar types of campaigns to defend his lobbying clients in the food, tobacco, beverage and restaurant industries. Those campaigns included criticism of studies linking diet to obesity, and drunk-driving laws that he sees as ineffective.
Berman’s latest campaign comes as labor groups have scored recent victories in getting companies to pay higher wages and provide more healthcare benefits. In Maryland last month, labor groups won passage of a law that will require Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and other big companies to fund workers’ healthcare.
“It’s no accident that this new group is forming at a time when the AFL-CIO is launching efforts for healthcare measures in 30 states,” AFL-CIO spokeswoman Lane Windham said.
The AFL-CIO, which represents 53 U.S. unions, said the anti-union group was funded partly by the Chamber of Commerce at the state level.
Randel Johnson, vice president for labor, immigration and employee benefits at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, says he sits on an advisory panel for the new group, though the chamber’s national office hasn’t given any funds. He said he didn’t know whether state chambers had donated money.
Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retailer and a target of attacks from union-supported groups such as Wal-Mart Watch and Wake-Up Wal-Mart, isn’t backing the new group and never heard of the organization before Monday, said Sarah Clark, spokeswoman for the Bentonville, Ark.-based company.