Many moons ago, the executive board of my union endorsed a presidential candidate. Some of us – reporters, editors, sales people and administration types – were ticked off.
First, nobody on the board bothered to ask us. Had they polled the membership, I suspect a slim majority would have approved of the endorsement, but they didn’t even do that!
Secondly, we felt that as journalists who are supposed to be impartial, it was not a smart move.
Cut to the chase: We went through the tortuous process of raising money (journalists while principled are also tight with a buck) and getting signatures opposing the endorsement. The money was for advertisements we planned to run in The Washington Post and The Washington Star. It took a long time to get enough money and to validate the signatures which were to run with the ad. We wanted the public to know that the union’s executive board didn’t necessarily speak for all of us.
Four years later the union did the same thing. The board, again, endorsed a presidential candidate. I think we did our thing again. That is, raise money for newspaper ads saying we didn’t endorse candidates.
For the record, both candidates my union endorsed, lost.
The only winners were the advertising departments of the two papers who gladly took our protest ad.
For the past 30 years or so, federal and postal unions have frequently endorsed candidates for President. That was the subject of a column last week which you can read by clicking here.
In the column we asked feds if they thought such endorsements are a good thing. None of those responding (as of close of business Friday) said yes.
Here is what some people did say:
It seems to me that when a Federal Employee union endorses the candidate for one party over that of another and the unendorsed candidate wins, the union puts the people it represents on thin ice. In that light, it would be far better for the unions to cultivate the sort of level playing field that would enhance their ability to deal on even terms with all sides, whoever wins.
I know, I know, all the candidates will promise to take Federal employees’ best interests to heart, whatever the unions do. But after thirty-five years in Federal service, I see things differently. “The question is”, said Alice (as I recall), “whether words can mean so many things.”
“The question”, replied Tweedledum, “is who is to be the master, that is all.”
I enjoy your column. Thanks for all you do. Bill
And Dave C. adds:
Without even reading the column, I have VERY strong feelings against federal labor unions endorsing candidates. To me, it is entirely inappropriate for them to do so. They need to maintain impartiality in their legitimate dealings/negotiations with whatever administration is in power at a given time in history, and they risk “losing the ear” of someone against whom they campaigned. I thought our Civil Service corps is supposed to keep at least a veneer of neutrality, and for a union representing them to pick one party over another violates, at least to my way of seeing it, this philosophy.
It’s back!! You might be surprised to learn that December is “Learn a Foreign Language Month”. According to the Census Bureau, one-in-five people over age 5 in the U.S. speak a language other than English at home. Even with the head start, I still think it’s gonna take longer than a month to learn a whole new language.