Pundits spar over Labor Day, the right to work, and unions

NewsTalk's Bruce DePuyt with Greg Mourad and Brad Bauman. (Photo: NewsChannel 8)

ARLINGTON, Va. (WJLA) – With Labor Day come and gone and back-to-work routines replacing plans for the beach, Tuesday’s edition of NewsTalk on NewsChannel 8 offered a retrospective of sorts on the state of labor in this nation.

The Summer of Love it wasn’t.

In one corner you had AFL-CIO representative Brad Bauman; in the other, National Right to Work Committee representative Greg Mourad.

Predictably, verbal fisticuffs quickly ensued, with host Bruce DePuyt as the referee.

Mourad’s basic message: You guys are thugs doing the bidding for unscrupulous union bosses.

Bauman’s basic message: You guys are liars doing the bidding for greedy multi-millionaires.

Bauman contended that studies cited by Mourad are bogus because they’re funded by the uber-rich and highly conservative Koch brothers, among others.

Asked whether this was true, Mourad pointed to, well, vandalism.

“I will not talk about who gives us our money, and I’ll tell you why,” he said. “Because if we were to talk about who gives us our money, bricks would go through windows, tires would get slashed, job sites would get vandalized.

"That’s the sort of tactics that are common with the AFL-CIO and many of its subsidiaries.”

Mourad then referred to Philadelphia, where workers in the commuter rail industry spent the summer embroiled in a contract dispute.

“(That’s where) the union brass were actually praising, at union meetings, what they called the ‘night crew’ of folks who were going around slashing tires, burned a church, did all kinds of things to shut down non-union opposition,” he said. “This is common.”

Any arrests or convictions?

“Against the thugs themselves?,” he said. “Yes.”

In Philly?

“I’m not sure of the details of the Philadelphia case but often the thugs do get prosecuted,” Mourad said. “What doesn’t get prosecuted is the union organizers, the union bosses that send the thugs out.”

Bauman begged to differ.

“Everything that he said is just patently (a) falsehood. I couldn’t in a million years think that this is actually where the interview would go,” he said. “These are baseless accusations and absolutely crazy.

“Throughout the entire history of, not just the AFL-CIO, but organized labor as a whole, organized labor has stood up for the middle class. It helped build the middle class in this country. And to make these allegations, especially when you know that you’re not willing to sit here and you’re not willing to defend the people who give you money, and you’re not willing to defend the people who are going to fund the research that you continuously go forth and cite is misleading to the American people.”

And back and forth it went, with dueling labor statistics and on and on.

A caller, Lacey on Line 2, asked Mourad whether teachers and firefighters, traditional union members are condoning violence.

“No, not at all,” he said. “I am, however, saying that often the union officials condone violence as a tactic. And it’s usually not the firefighters and the teachers so much as some of the other, maybe the private-sector unions. I can’t recall any cases of firefighters or teachers doing (that).”

In their closing arguments, both gentlemen touched on the meaning of “right to work.”

From Nourad: “At base level, it simply means the right to work at a job without being required to pay dues to a union as a condition of employment.”

From Bauman: “It was an absolute brilliant turn of phrase that unfortunately hides a very misleading concept, which is, you know, we’re going to make sure that people work for less and are less safe in their workplace at the expense of greater profits for millionaires and billionaires.”