Thursday, February 24, 2011

Do States and Labor Unions Have Crisis Communications Plans?

I'm not a fan of labor unions but know they have a place in our culture -- as long as they don't get as powerful as the companies they claim to be resisting. (If you haven't seen F.I.S.T., watch the trailer at
"Wisconsin is just the tip of the iceberg. The Republican war on unions goes far beyond Gov. Scott Walker's attempt to end collective-bargaining rights for public employees in his state or Gov. John Kasich's effort to do the same in Ohio.

"For a more comprehensive view of the Republicans' war on unions, we need to focus on what Republicans in Washington did last week. In the House, Republicans passed, as part of their continuing resolution to fund the federal government through September, a provision that slashed the funding of the National Labor Relations Board by one-third. But the truly breathtaking measure was an amendment by Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., to defund the NLRB — closing it down altogether — until the fiscal year ends in September. The measure failed Thursday because 60 Republicans joined every Democrat present in voting no, but three-quarters of House Republicans — 176 of them, including Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Va., and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, Calif. — voted yes." (

And then there is George Will, who I typically disagree with unless he is writing about how great baseball is. "Hitherto, when this university town and seat of state government applauded itself as “the Athens of the Midwest,” the sobriquet suggested kinship with the cultural glories of ancient Greece. Now, however, Madison resembles contemporary Athens.

"This capital has been convulsed by government employees sowing disorder in order to repeal an election. A minority of the minority of Wisconsin residents who work for government (300,000 of them) are resisting changes to benefits that most of Wisconsin's 5.6 million residents resent financing. Serene at the center of this storm sits Republican Scott Walker, 43, in the governor's mansion library, beneath a portrait of Ronald Reagan. Walker has seen this movie before.

"As Milwaukee County executive, he had similar dustups with government workers unions, and when the dust settled, he was resoundingly re-elected, twice. If his desire to limit collective bargaining by such unions to salary issues makes him the 'Midwest Mussolini' — some protesters did not get the memo about the new civility — other supposed offenses include wanting state employees to contribute 5.8 percent of their pay to their pension plans (most pay less than 1 percent), which would still be less than the average in the private sector. He also wants them to pay 12.6 percent of the cost of their health care premiums — up from about 6 percent but still much less than the private sector average....

“'I am convinced,' he says, 'this is about money — but not the employees' money. It concerns union dues, which he wants the state to stop collecting for the unions, just as he wants annual votes by state employees on re-certifying the unions. He says many employees pay $500 to $600 annually in union dues — teachers pay up to $1,000. Given a choice, many might prefer to apply this money to health care premiums or retirement plans. And he thinks 'eventually' most will say about the dues collectors, 'What do we need this for?'" (

I'm not taking sides in the battle between government and unions in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio. But think about this: Do the unions have a crisis communications plan that lays out how they will communicate and with whom? Do the states have a plan on how to deal with unions when they shut down schools and other government organizations so they can protest at the capitol? The Institute for Crisis Management would tell everyone involved: You have to have a plan that includes stakeholders and messages.

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