While Super Bowl XLVI will be remembered for its dramatic ending, the issue of workers’ rights and union representation also surrounded the National Football League’s biggest game. A labor dispute nearly cost the NFL its 2011–12 season, and in the days before the game, Indiana passed an anti-union “right to work” law that led to union and Occupy protests at Indianapolis’ Super Bowl festivities throughout the week.
But despite fears from sports columnists and right-wing blogs that the protesters would “ruin the Super Bowl,” the only visible advocacy for some of the game’s viewers came in the form of a misleading anti-union attack ad from a corporate front group. The Center For Union Facts, an organization that has run newspaper ads comparing unions to Kim Jong-il’s authoritarian North Korean regime and endorsed an editorial comparing unions to Nazis, produced and paid for the 40-second ad, which ran in the Washington DC television market just before halftime ended. Watch it:
The ad’s claim that just 10 percent of current union members voted to form the union may be true, but it is incredibly misleading. Federal law mandates that more than 50 percent of a company’s workforce must vote in favor of the formation of a union. Most current union members, however, join unions that were formed years before and know that the union exists when they take the job.
The ad’s implication that the Employee Rights Act would put money in workers’ pockets is also misleading. According to the Economic Policy Institute, right-to-work laws cost workers up to $1,500 a year and also lead to reduced pensions and health care coverage.
Super Bowl broadcasters have traditionally banned ads that advocate for political causes. Year after year, though, it seems that ban doesn’t extend to misleading anti-union ads paid for by corporate front-groups that don’t disclose their donors.
Lee Fang at RepublicReport.org reports that Rick Berman, president and executive director of the Center For Union Facts, was one of the actors in the misleading ad, a report Berman’s company confirmed.
Berman, a multimillionaire lobbyist, owns Berman and Company, a prominent Washington lobbying shop that has crafted “grassroots” campaigns for big corporations. According to its 990 tax form, the Center For Union Facts paid Berman and Company $591,315 for “management services” in 2009.