Editor's Note: On Wednesday, September 12, UE's Political Action Director Chris Townsend debated Mallory Factor, author of a new anti-union book that's being heavily promoted in right-wing media and by big business groups. The debate took place, as Townsend likes to say, "deep behind enemy lines" - at the Washington headquarters of the ultra-conservative Cato Institute.
Below is Chris Townsend's review of Factor's book Shaddowbosses: Government Unions Control America and Rob Taxpayers Blind. We present this for your information; neither Townsend nor UE encourage anyone to buy this malicious book.
While outfits like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are busy spoonfeeding "conservative" lawmakers with pre-packaged union-busting legislation for them to dutifully vote into law in their state capitols, the labor-hating right wing occasionally feels the need for a book that gathers its anti-union propaganda. The purpose of of such books is to arm the far-right's politicians and pundits with anti-union talking points, and to give their visceral hatred of workers' organizations the appearance of a legitimate and intellectual point of view. The latest book-length attack on the labor movement is Shaddowbosses: Government Unions Control America and Rob Taxpayers Blind. Written by multimillionaire banking and finance tycoon Mallory Factor and his wife Elizabeth, this vicious volume is now being heavily promoted on many websites of the extreme right and union busters, and its venom is directed against public employees and their organizations.
Over the past 35 years the labor movement has been badly weakened, with private sector unions depleted by offshoring, plant closings, and the increasing difficulty of organizing in the face of fierce employer resistance and weak labor laws. So the real bosses - the ones who run corporations, and the politicians who serve them - have recently turned their heavy artillery on public sector unions.
But given what has happened to our country over the past few years - with the boundless greed of Wall Street and the banking industry crashing the economy in 2008 and dragging us into a hole from which we have not yet emerged, it takes some brass for a banker, of all people, to write a book attacking unions and public workers, and blaming us for the nation's problems!
The book begins with two pages of "Praise" - blubs from such luminaries of the right wing as former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. One of the people heaping praise on the authors declares that public sector workers and unions are "moochers" and "looters."
The Factors go to great lengths to demonize the public sector generally and unions specifically, weaving together a bizarre web of half-truths, outright lies, and sheer lunacy. For example, I learned from this book that President Obama sits in the Oval Office awaiting the latest directives from the labor leaders of America, and mostly he takes his orders from public sector union "bosses." I was likewise astonished to discover that unions control the entire government, including the states - even though big business and wealthy donors (including the book's authors) contribute 1,000 times more to candidates than unions do. The Factors single out teachers and their unions for special abuse, and in chapter after chapter they blame every conceivable problem in our country on unions and "union bosses." Ultimately this dynamic duo of anti-worker slander want public-sector unions banned, or at least weakened to the point of powerlessness. They dream of a world where public employees work for poverty wages, pay for their own healthcare, have no retirement, but are grateful for their newfound "freedom."
Shaddowbosses is a skilled and glossy attempt to modernize the union-busting propaganda of corporate bosses and politicians. Any UE member who has suffered through an employer's anti-union barrage during an organizing campaign will recognize this as nothing but an update of the union busters' playbook. What is new is that in this case the target is public employee unions.
Anti-union books have never been best-sellers, no matter how much money goes into marketing them. However many copies of Shadowbosses are sold, you can bet that 10 times that many will be handed out free, by corporate anti-union groups, to politicians willing and eager to do their bidding. After the past two years - and the battles of Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa, and other states - we've been put on notice that the enemies of unions are determined to destroy public sector unions, and ultimately all unions in America. Our job as union members and leaders is to stop them.
Shaddowbosses by Mallory and Elizabeth Factor, Center Street publishers, 336 pages, 2012.