In reality, of course, there is plenty that unions can do short of the ultimate sanction - withdrawing their members' labour - that can change public perception of them. One only has to look at Amicus-AEEU's PR work around the time of the GlaxoSmithKline shareholder revolt to see that.
The challenge then, for newly appointed T&G campaigns and comms director Andrew Murray is to help general-secretary Tony Woodley win support in the outside world, as well as internally.
As Woodley has been described as a member of the 'awkward squad', this is some task. But if the T&G boss is to avoid the public opinion fate of fellow hate-figures such as the RMT and the Fire Brigades Union leaders, that must be the focus of Murray's work.