It’s been less than one month since I took office, and I’m already delivering on my platform by growing union membership and job site representation. But you would never know it by slanderous opinion pieces being passed off as investigative journalism. A 3,300 word diatribe has been held as the holy grail of insider information by many media outlets instead of the dumpster fire of journalistic misfeasance it represents.
To say that reporting on my actual platform has been sparse would be an understatement. My 10-point plan has been published on my website since 2018, but has yet to be discussed without the accompanying irreverence.
Despite the countless epithets, I continue to make meaningful connections where it counts, with Local 1000’s represented employees. These include my in-person, impromptu meetings across the state, along with my Wednesday night Zoom calls (entitled “Local 1000 Listens to You”), a sea change of leadership contact for 100K state employees that has been noticeably absent for years.
Transparency, one of my 10-points, is breathing life into a union that spent nearly a decade shut off from its members. Already, we’re rebuilding the job steward base that was gutted under the previous administration. I also promised to open voting to all represented state employees, which has been labeled heresy by old-school practitioners still clinging to the status quo.
For decades the general acceptance has been that unions will survive through politics. This smoke-and-mirrors lie continues to be published unquestioned while corporate money far outweighs labor’s paltry donations. My logic is simple: a labor union will thrive, not just survive, if it’s perceived to provide value. Local 1000 is stronger if 97% of represented employees are engaged members at 0.75% dues, instead of the 15% who pay dues and know when to vote.
Unfortunately, local and national media have only been interested in worn out talking points and insinuation. For instance, one theme that continues to resurface is my appearance on Fox News. The duplicitous use of Fox News is thrown out to chum the waters for readers who subscribe to one particular camp. If you follow this line of hypocrisy, then the label of Fox News automatically makes me a messenger for the corporatocracy, a tool of the Koch Brothers Inc. or the Freedom Foundation, etc. Yet, none of this has ever been substantiated or even attempted to point to an instance where I have endorsed such right-wing group think. Nor has any reporting mentioned that cable news outlets like CNN or MSNBC have never tried to contact me.
Sensationalism sells as one myth being continually perpetuated stems from the election vote totals. The media likes to focus on the number of votes cast — 7,880. The number by itself is meaningless without any context, but the approved messaging would have the reader believe only a small
fraction of the 100K employees we represent bothered to vote. This is true. Only a small fraction of the 56K dues paying membership did vote, just like in the previous elections (7,230 total votes in 2018 and 4,475 total votes in 2015), all organized under the previous administration. This places the 2021 total at the top in terms of voter turnout. A centrist approach might have mentioned this fact.
Despite all the opinion-based fear mongering, I am neither a demagogue nor a corporate tool intent on destroying the union. I am a throw-back union reformer who has the status quo in fear, and I am waking up a long apathetic membership through old-fashioned personal contact.
To those that have taken the time to truly listen to me, they are finding a genuine leader and a strong advocate for growing a union that has been hemorrhaging members since 2008. The loyalist grip that once shut out its membership is waning. More and more, state employees are finding they can engage with an organization under a new leadership that understands its representation role.
Richard Louis Brown
SEIU Local 1000