America just got rickrolled.
There we were last week, innocently partaking in the annual testosterone-fest that is the Super Bowl, when we were treated to an ad featuring a group of supposed auto mechanics lamenting that they never voted for the union they’re in. But look closely. One of these “mechanics” is sporting a gold watch, manicured hands, and a brand new shirt. That’s because he’s not a mechanic, or even an actor.
He’s Washington lobbyist Rick Berman.
Berman is a gun-for-hire—nicknamed Dr. Evil—who specializes in creating nonprofit front groups to push corporate interests. His clients have included the likes of Phillip Morris, Coca Cola, and Tyson’s Foods. But you wouldn’t know it hearing the names of the organizations he starts. The Employment Policies Institute? They fight minimum wage increases. The American Beverage Institute? They go after Mothers Against Drunk Driving. And the gem of an organization linked to the Super Bowl ad is the Center for Union Facts.
Like other Berman fronts, the Center for Union Facts lists no staff on its website. But it does offer up a lot of false information about labor unions, using distorted statistics to paint their staffers as a bunch of corrupt thugs out to steal workers’ hard-earned money. No mention is made of the better wages and benefits union members receive relative to their non-union counterparts, nor of the far more pervasive acts of corporate corruption and coercion that go on in American workplaces. Without a union, workers are left to fend for themselves against employers with unchecked power.
So Rick Berman is not quite the salt-of-the-earth mechanic that Super Bowl fans were supposed to find relatable while being fed anti-union propaganda. Indeed, he appears to be a master of the bait and switch: He creates fake nonprofits to lure Americans to corporate propaganda, and occasionally he shows up posing as an ordinary American in those groups’ ads.