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WSJ Uses “Reporting” to Print Free Political Advertising for Anonymous Anti-Labor Group

When you see this WSJ headline, "Illinois Scandal Spotlights SEIU’s Use of Political Tactics," attached to a story in the Journal’s "news" section, you’d expect there to be some actual reporting and not just an excuse to repeat anonmyous, unproven or fact-free allegations and innuendo. But this is the new WSJ.

Instead, what we get from this article by "reporters" Kris Maher and David Kesmodel is just another excuse to front for an anonymous anti-labor group whose spokesperson admits that its political agenda is to air hit pieces on the SEIU in order to undermine support for the Employee Free Choice Act.

The dishonesty starts with the fact that the merits of providing workers with another option for organizing — the heart of the EFCA — have nothing to do with anything in the article. The anti-EFCA forces, including the Journal owners, just want you to think there’s a connection to some scandal. With that in mind, here’s the dishonest set up for this ad masquerading as "reporting."

The Service Employees International Union has grown quickly over the past few years by organizing home-health-care workers, often with the help of state governors and lawmakers who received generous campaign donations and other union support.

Using political influence in this way isn’t illegal, and businesses that often oppose unions use similar strategies.

But the scandal involving Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has put a harsh spotlight on the SEIU’s methods just as it is seeking broad support for federal legislation that would make it easier for workers of all types to unionize.

Got that? Right from the opening sentence we assume this is about a union’s questionable contributions inducing politicians like Blago to take unjustified actions favorable to the union, and that warrants a "harsh spotlight." Of course, everybody does it and it’s not illegal, the second sentences says, but this particular union is linked to a "scandal" involving Blogojevich, so you can guess the rest. Without a single fact of actual wrongdoing, the impression is planted, the deed is done. Mission accomplished.

In the article, we learn that the workers SEIU organizes are not always protected by federal law, so they may require state authority to organize. That would make it logical for unions to seek such state authority, but in this article, efforts to do so are always linked to campaign contributions (and the Blogo scandal), as though unions contributing to governors who favor union organizing is inherently suspect, while corporate contributions to those who support the opposite outcome are not.

The rest of the article is just throwing in anonymous charges, wrapped around insinuations of wrongdoing, never explicit, using such phrases as:

— "union’s heavy engagement in politics"

— who are SEIU members? = "many are state subsidized" — uh, no they aren’t; their employers/organizations receive part funding from the state.

— SEIU’s tactics have attracted growing criticism" . . . yes, from anti-union corporate groups

— [Unnamed] "critics say . . . "

— "leaders cut too many deals with politicans and companies" — but there are no facts to support any illegal deals with politicians, and "deals" with "companies" would be called "collective bargaining agreements" everywhere else.

— The "Illinois situation fuels a perception. . ."

— "an atmosphere that lacks transparency."

The article is just free political advertising, echoing the dark insinuations made by the anonymous "Center for Union Facts" — or is it the equally secret and misnamed "Americans for Job Security" — anonymous organization(s) that refuse to reveal their corporate contributors.

SEIU’s response to the anti-union, anti-EFCA ads is here.

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John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley