America just got rickrolled.

There we were last week, innocently partaking in the annual testosterone-fest that is the Super Bowl, when we were treated to an ad featuring a group of supposed auto mechanics lamenting that they never voted for the union they’re in. But look closely. One of these “mechanics” is sporting a gold watch, manicured hands, and a brand new shirt. That’s because he’s not a mechanic, or even an actor.

He’s Washington lobbyist Rick Berman.

Berman is a gun-for-hire—nicknamed Dr. Evil—who specializes in creating nonprofit front groups to push corporate interests. His clients have included the likes of Phillip Morris, Coca Cola, and Tyson’s Foods. But you wouldn’t know it hearing the names of the organizations he starts. The Employment Policies Institute? They fight minimum wage increases. The American Beverage Institute? They go after Mothers Against Drunk Driving. And the gem of an organization linked to the Super Bowl ad is the Center for Union Facts.

Like other Berman fronts, the Center for Union Facts lists no staff on its website. But it does offer up a lot of false information about labor unions, using distorted statistics to paint their staffers as a bunch of corrupt thugs out to steal workers’ hard-earned money. No mention is made of the better wages and benefits union members receive relative to their non-union counterparts, nor of the far more pervasive acts of corporate corruption and coercion that go on in American workplaces. Without a union, workers are left to fend for themselves against employers with unchecked power.

So Rick Berman is not quite the salt-of-the-earth mechanic that Super Bowl fans were supposed to find relatable while being fed anti-union propaganda. Indeed, he appears to be a master of the bait and switch: He creates fake nonprofits to lure Americans to corporate propaganda, and occasionally he shows up posing as an ordinary American in those groups’ ads.

Americans who want the real facts on unions—fakery-free—will have to go somewhere other than the Center for Union Facts to find them.

Robert Greenwald

Robert Greenwald

Robert Greenwald is a producer, director and political activist. Greenwald is the founder and president of Brave New Films, a new media company that uses moving images to educate, influence, and empower viewers to take action around issues that matter. Under Greenwald's direction, Brave New Films has produced a series of short political videos, including the Fox Attacks and Real McCain campaigns. One of the more notable Real McCain videos focused on McCain's Mansions; after Brave New Films produced this video, McCain notoriously said he was not sure how many houses he owned and a media firestorm ensued. In total, Brave New Film's short videos have been viewed over 40 million times in the past two years, inspired hundreds of thousands of people to take action and forced pressing issues into the mainstream media. (http://bravenewfilms.org/)

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