Hollywood Joins Union Bill Drive -- Too Late?

A new online ad promoting the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) has been posted by a coalition of Hollywood labor guilds and the reviews (all right, my reviews) are mixed -- both as to the spot and the chances that Congress will pass the legislation this year in anything but a watered-down form. EFCA, which has been the subject of intense lobbying by American unions, would allow workers at a company to form a union simply through a "card check" of employees. If a majority sign cards express a desire to form a union, then it's a done deal and the next step is the negotiation of a contract. This method would replace the the present system, which relies on what employers like to call a "secret ballot" method -- which, in fact, leaves workers at the mercy of company threats and misinformation campaigns prior to balloting.

The ad, written by Writers Guild members Tim Carvell and

Luvh, and produced by Artists for Workers Choice, features 47 actors, including Amy Brenneman, James Cromwell, Elliott Gould and Esai Morales, explaining EFCA. In the video, each actor delivers a sentence or simply one word from the text and is replaced by a shot of the next performer to continue the reading.

It's hard to imagine this being broadcast on TV. Little longer than three minutes, the spot is an eternity for the hummingbird-like attention spans of modern couch potatoes. And the format, featuring rapid cuts of talking heads that often repeat a previous line or word multiple times, is a little incongruous, as though the producers tried to apply rap-video aesthetics to a political speech.

Radio listeners to Dodger games have by now become familiar with an ad

campaign that at least is not confined to the Web. This one, paid for

by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, will have a game

announcer, such as Rick Monday,  read some neutral-sounding copy about

the goodness of baseball, military service, union jobs and the freedom to chose. There's no hard

sell involved, but then, there's no indication that "freedom to chose"

is code for EFCA, much less what EFCA is all about.

The other

question about these ad campaigns is, "Why now?" The passage of EFCA

was labor's number one priority going into 2009. Unions began the year

with an If Not Now, When? spirit, figuring, not unreasonably, that if

they couldn't get EFCA passed with Barack Obama in the White House and

a commanding Democratic Congressional majority, what hope would there

be of getting the job done in the future? Then the not-so-unthinkable

happened: Key Senators waffled and then caved, notably California's

Diane Feinstein and Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter. Without their

support, EFCA seems doomed for this year. Feinstein, ironically, has

been a promoter of EFCA incarnations in the past -- when there was no

chance of its passage. She is the only member of the California

Congressional delegation opposed to the current version of EFCA.

Even now, union members continue to hold vigils,

meet with Feinstein staffs throughout the state, and flood her office

with letters of support for the bill -- to absolutely no avail.

Feinstein's official position is that the economy is too fragile to

help the country's workers secure wage and medical benefits through the

unionization of private companies. Maybe what she needs is another

video -- perhaps call it The Miracle Worker.


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