UPDATED: Union Leaders Write to Hillary About Her Union Busting Strategist
by TarHeel, Tue Jun 05, 2007 at 05:45:32 AM EDT
It's been covered by a couple of writers already, but the history of Hillary's Chief Pollster and Campaign strategist is very troubling for anyone who cares about ethics and Unions.
Here in the Nation
Well the Unions are finally catching on.
The presidents of two large labor unions have written to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to complain that Mark Penn, her pollster and chief strategist, is chief executive of a public relations firm that is helping a company fight a unionization drive.
In the letter sent Friday, which a labor official released yesterday, James P. Hoffa, president of the Teamsters, and Bruce Raynor, president of Unite Here, wrote that they did not want to see Mrs. Clinton or the Democratic Party embarrassed by the anti-union activities of Mr. Penn's firm, Burson-Marsteller, one of the nation's leading public relations companies.
"If Hillary is pro-worker and pro-union, she will certainly take steps to rein in Mr. Penn," Mr. Hoffa said in an interview. "He cannot serve two masters, working for a pro-union candidate and working for anti-union companies."
They said the public relations firm's "activities in the effort to undermine workers' right to organize at Cintas, a campaign our unions are involved in, is particularly disheartening." Four years ago, the two unions began a major drive to unionize 17,000 workers at the Cintas Corporation, the nation's largest uniform rental company. Cintas, helped by Burson-Marsteller, has responded with a vigorous -- and thus far successful -- effort to resist unionization.
Mr. Hoffa and Mr. Raynor, whose union represents apparel, hotel and restaurant workers, noted that they had learned of Burson-Marsteller's anti-union activities in an article last week in The Nation magazine. Their action comes as Mrs. Clinton prepares to speak at an A.F.L.-C.I.O. forum on Saturday in Detroit.
Mr. Penn did polling for Bill Clinton when he was president and has long been a top adviser to Mrs. Clinton. Thirty years ago, Mr. Penn founded a prominent polling firm, now known as Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates. In December 2005, he was named chief executive of Burson-Marsteller.
Mr. Raynor said, "She ought to send a clear message to this guy Penn that she is unhappy about this union-busting stuff and that he shouldn't be associated with it."
Because it's not sexy enough I doubt the mainstream media will talk much about things like PAC contributions etc... The ethical part - that I never realized at the time - was during the justice departments investigation into Microsoft - Microsoft was Penn's biggest client while simultaneously mark penn was Bill Clinton's chief pollster.
A labor official told me that he expects Hillary to sit down with the two union heads and "placate us a little bit. But I don't think she'll cut Penn lose. He's her Rove." Penn may eventually be forced take a formal leave of absence from Burson-Marsteller, a step he has thus far resisted. That might erase the political liability Penn has become for Hillary's campaign, but it hardly diminishes the underlying implications of his presence as her top strategist, the anti-union work Burson-Marsteller continues to do and the likelihood that if Hillary is elected Penn and his clients will greatly benefit, further blurring the distinction between the corporate and political world.