The proposed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) would eliminate secret ballots in union elections, making it easier for unions to organize at companies.
EFCA earlier this year won approval in the US House and a majority of votes in the Senate.
With the risk that another Senate vote might put EFCA advocates over the top, the business-backed Center for Union Facts (CUF) stepped in with a campaign supporting a cloture vote to end the Senate's consideration of the legislation.
A creation of Berman & Co. president Rick Berman, the CUF sought through media outreach and advertising to portray in a satirical way what it calls the EFCA's undemocratic nature. Complementing direct media outreach was an ad push, which was deliberatively provocative in comparing union leaders to foreign dictators and Italian mobsters.
Media outreach focused on national and inside-the-Beltway publications like Roll Call and The Hill. Web site www.unionfacts.com listed the salaries of union officials and other information. Berman & Co. distributed campaign-related mugs and wristbands to the media and congressional staff. The ads ran on cable news and in newspapers. In one, a grade school bully with an Italian accent dominates a class election, saying, "There isn't going to be any secret vote." Print ads compared statements by union bosses to those by dictators like Idi Amin of Uganda.
The effort generated significant Web site traffic, and the political response, including a YouTube-posted speech in which Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) angrily read an ad and then tore it up, prompted AP and Wall Street Journal stories. Most important, the Senate voted to end consideration of the EFCA. "I think our efforts played a vital role in that," Berman says.
Democratic gains in the Senate could give the EFCA new life, prompting renewed outreach by the CUF.
PR team: Center for Union Facts (Washington) and Berman & Co. (Washington)
Campaign: Campaign against the Employee Free Choice Act
Duration: June 2007
Budget: Nearly $1 million