Skip to content

That Full-page Union-bashing Ad in USA Today

June 12, 2014

Remember that five-story billboard in Times Square in December 2013 and the accompanying full-page ad in the New York Times blaming American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten for 2012 US PISA scores?

Both were the work of a union-busting “nonprofit,” the deceptively-named Center for Union Facts.

Well, on June 12, 2014, the same union-busting group posted this full-page ad celebrating the teacher tenure mis-ruling in California’s Vergara trial:



The Vergara trial amounts to nothing more than well-funded privatizers attempting to strip teachers of due porcess rights. Here is a summation of the case as posted by education historian Diane Ravitch:

The plaintiffs argued that poor and minority children suffered because they had ineffective teachers who could not be fired. Lawyers for the teachers unions maintained that the causes of low performance were poverty and inadequate school funding. The plaintiffs prevailed and promised to take their cause to other states with strong teacher job protections, like New Jersey and New York.

There will be appeals, and the battle will spread to other states. As due process is removed, it seems to be replaced by evaluations of “effectiveness” based on test scores.

The long-range question is whether the “reformers’” efforts to remove all job protections from teachers will affect the number of people who choose teaching as a career and how they will affect the nature of the profession over time.

For an excellent detailing of the Vergara trial, the decision, and varied responses, follow this link to Ravitch’s blog.

Teacher tenure” is due process, not a lifetime job guarantee. Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis explains as much in this eight-minute video:



This brings us back to that full-page USA Today ad bashing unions and encouraging the public to sue “to protect kids.”

Ironically, not only were none of the plaintiffs’ teachers documented as “ineffective”; some of these plaintiffs did not even attend schools where teachers had due process at all. As Ravitch notes:

I was curious to learn whether the plaintiffs in the Vergara trial actually had “grossly ineffective teachers.” The answer is “no, they did not.”

Not only did none of them have a “grossly ineffective” teacher, but some of the plaintiffs attended schools where there are no tenured teachers. Two of the plaintiffs attend charter schools, where there is no tenure or seniority, and as you will read below, “Beatriz and Elizabeth Vergara both attend a “Pilot School” in LAUSD that is free to let teachers go at the end of the school year for any reason, including ineffectiveness.

It turns out that the lawyers for the defense checked the records of the plaintiffs’ teachers, and this is what they found (filed as a post-trial brief in the case): (See pp. 5-6).

“Plaintiffs have not established that the statutes have ever caused them any harm or are likely to do so in the future. None of the nine named Plaintiffs established that he or she was assigned to an allegedly grossly ineffective teacher, or that he or she faces any immediate risk of future harm, as a result of the challenged statutes. The record contains no evidence that Plaintiffs Elliott, Liss, Campbell or Martinez were ever assigned a grossly ineffective teacher at all. Of the remaining five Plaintiffs, most of the teachers whom they identified as “bad” or “grossly ineffective” were excellent teachers. [Emphasis added.]


Of course, union-bashing Center for Union Facts had to kick the teaching profession when it was down by encouraging the spread of this utter absence of justice to other states.

But who is behind the so-called Center for Union Facts?

Rick Berman, and does he have a self-serving story. Here is a detailed excerpt I wrote as part of this December 2013 post:

CUF is a front for union bashing. This is what CUF does. CUF is not concerned “with” education; CUF is concerned “against” teachers unions. So, the issues it pretends to raise in its ads (not only in newspapers, but also on radio) are done in order to undermine collective bargaining.

Unions are certainly not the sole Berman target. Berman uses his front groups to attack anyone who stands in the way of his mystery funders’ profits.

Berman serves corporate America in shady fashion. Allow me to offer some Sourcewatch highlights:

Although Berman used to fly under the media radar, by now he is well-known and widely regarded as an industry shill, having been the subject of a 60 Minutespiece in 2007that dubbed him “Dr. Evil,” a public takedown on the Rachel Maddow Show, and years of research documenting his close ties to industries looking for a well paid hired gun to defend the indefensible. He has attacked respected scientists and scholars, food safety experts, and even Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

Despite this documented lack of credibility, Berman continues to work through a variety of research-for-hire front groups to remain relevant by creating a façade of academic respectability for extreme policies that many mainstream companies, scientists, and voters have rejected.

Berman has raised millions of dollars from companies, trade associations and individuals, but refuses to name them. According to the National Journal, the Employment Policies Institute was started “by a group of restaurant companies” that at the time (1995) got “95% of its budget from corporate sources—primarily restaurateurs and retailers.” Several years ago an unnamed former Berman employee revealed a list of Berman’s 2001-2002 corporate funders, including Coca-Cola, Cargill, Monsanto, Tyson Foods, Wendy’s, Outback Steakhouse and Applebee’s.

“We always have a knife in our teeth,” Berman has said, and his approach is “to shoot the messenger.” Restaurant industry spokespeople have praised his “outstanding work as an industry Doberman.” 60 Minutes called him “the booze and food industries’ weapon of mass destruction.”  …

Rick Berman conceived the idea of theGuest Choice Networkfront group to help advance the goals of Philip Morris‘ Accommodation Program while appearing to be more of a grass-roots-led effort. …

Berman is also counsel for the American Beverage Institutewhich also fronts for the tobacco industry. …

Berman formed a group called Beverage Retailers Against Drunk Driving” (BRADD), a pro-social drinking group, in response to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). …

For several years, Berman has been fighting efforts by the voter registration/community organizing group ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Nowto raise the minimum wage at the state and federal levels. To assist with his efforts, Berman created a Web site,, slamming the group. Contact information on directs readers to theEmployment Policies Institute,[23]a Bermanfront groupwhich shares the same address as Berman’s lobbying business, Berman & Company. …

As head of theCenter for Consumer Freedom(CCF), afront groupfor the restaurant, tobacco, and alcohol industries, Berman has specialized in the no-holds-barred intimidation tactics pioneered by Big Tobacco. …

In an October 9, 1989 commentary for Nation’s Restaurant News, Berman opposed the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act(“ADA”). He wrote, “The ADA in its present form will cost our industry untold millions in added construction and labor costs.”  [Emphasis added.]

So, this is the kind of ‘work” for which Berman is known.

The real story is on Berman’s nonprofit tax returns.

Berman Nonprofits Paying Berman

 In the last several months, I have read at least 100 nonprofit tax returns. Nothing I have seen equals what I am about to write for its obviousness in corporate profits being funneled through nonprofits.

This is the 2011 990 for Berman’s CUF. Berman is listed as CUF’s president and executive director.

In 2011, CUF’s total revenue was $3.24 million.

In 2011, CUF’s highest paid “independent contractor” was Richard Berman and Company, Inc., to the tune of $870,182.

This is the 2011 990 for Berman’s American Beverage Institute (ABI). Berman is listed as president and general counsel-director.

In 2011, ABI’s total revenue was $1.76 million.

In 2011, ABI’s only “independent contractor” was Richard Berman and Company, Inc., to the tune of $1.35 million.

This is the 2011 990 for the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF). Berman is listed as president and executive director.

In 2011, CCF’s total revenue was $1.4 million.

In 2011, CCF’s highest paid “independent contractor” was Richard Berman and Company, Inc., to the tune of $1.3 million.

This is the 2011 990 for Berman’s Employment Policies Institute Foundation (EPIF). Berman is listed as president and executive director.

In 2011, EPIF’s total revenue was $1.6 million.

In 2011, EPIF’s highest paid “independent contractor” was Richard Berman and Company, Inc., to the tune of $1.1 million.

There is a fifth nonprofit that Berman runs, the Enterprise Freedom Action Committee (aka the Employment Freedom Action Committee) (EFAC). It is listed as the co-sponsor with CUF of the Labor Pains blog used to blast both Weingarten and now Ravitch (in defense of Weingarten).

EFAC’s 990 notes that EFAC “advocate[s] on behalf of employee choice in the workplace, in particular related to issues of union organizing, job growth and health care options.”

EFAC was quiet in 2011. According to its 2011 990, it produced only $322 in revenue. However, EFAC’s total revenue for 20082009, and 2010 combined was $20.3 million, with most of it ($16 million) paid to Orion Precision Marketing Research (CT) for “media brokerage.”

Despite its virtually nonexistent revenue in 2011, Berman still managed to use EFAC to transfer nonprofit funds into his for-profit.

As the Charity Navigator notes,

During our analysis of this charity’s FYE 2011 Form 990, the document revealed that more than half of Enterprise Freedom Action Committee’s functional expenses were paid to its CEO Richard Berman’s for-profit management company, Berman and Company.  The document revealed that, out of total expenses of $136,000, $82,000 were paid to Berman and Company. See relevant pages from the organization’s 2011 Form 990 filing via PDF files “EFACpage10” and “EFACscheduleLpage2” for  more information. 

We find the practice of a charity contracting for management services with a business owned by that charity’s CEO atypical as compared to how other charities operate and have therefore issued this Donor Advisory.

Affiliated nonprofits also have Donor Advisories including: Center for Consumer FreedomAmerican Beverage InstituteEmployment Policies Institute Foundation and the Center for Union Facts.  [Emphasis added.]

If Berman (aka CUF, ABI, CCF, EPIF and EFAC) thinks that his accusing Weingarten and, in turn, Ravitch absolves him of his own “elephant,” he either has had a partial lobotamy or believes that the American public has had one.

Berman is hooking for corporate. Evidently it pays quite well.

Berman does not care for children. He serves himself by way of the corporate interests who pay him.

For Berman and the misnamed Center for Union Facts, the Vergara verdict is a convenience to be used. And buying full-page ads is nothing new for him.


Like my writing? Read my newly-released ed “reform” whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education


  1. christine permalink

    I don’t understand why this case proceeded. Seems plaintiffs lacked standing.

  2. Schneider’s comment is spot on. By the way, everyone who cares about preserving out public schools should read Mercedes Schneider’s new book, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education.– Edd Doerr (

  3. Dottie permalink

    When is a teacher going to sue their district for an ineffective principal? I had three principals who were ineffective, harrassing, bullying to teachers and students, etc. When are Unions going to go after the administrators? When are the Associations in “right to work” states going to help their teachers? I had to hire an attorney, who wrote a letter of complaint about my principal to the district. That’s as far as I could afford to go. I complained to my Association first. I received very little help. I later found out that this principal had received 12 complaints by teachers to district. It is time to turn the tables and for teachers to start suing districts for making us work in unworkable conditions.

    • Min permalink

      Sometimes there are no legal remedies for workers in right to work states. However, teachers can always organize and bring hands, feet, and voices to assist the Association in effecting change at the state and local level. Unfortunately, all too many teachers take a “just let me stay in my classroom and teach” attitude, until they get into trouble. Then they find out that their apathy and lack of involvement is shared by entirely too many of their colleagues, and, as a result, the Association is not strong. You want a vibrant, effective Association? Join. And persuade other people to join. Run for Association offices. Help set Association policy.

      But don’t slink into your school, hide behind your classroom door, avoid doing the hard work and heavy lifting of Association membership, and then complain that your Association couldn’t or wouldn’t do anything to help you.

      • Dottie permalink

        I didn’t slink into my school, hide behind my classroom door, or avoid assisting my Association. I went to meetings, offered my assistance, etc. I also worked in a difficult Title I school and hardly ever missed teaching even though I had health issues–cancer twice. How dare you attack me? I paid my dues. I might add that my particular district association often felt like a closed group, who had the people they wanted in place. I was fairly outspoken about what was happening, which got me a stacked class, no assistance with difficult students, and excessed to another school. When I asked my association for help, I was sent a person who had little knowledge of negotiation. The principal and his rep walked all over her. I finally spoke up and did a better job. I’m not ungrateful for her assistance; however, I think someone who knew how to handle things, should have come–like a lawyer. By the way, this principal had 12 complaints filed against him. I am retired now, and I go to a retired teachers group through state retirement. They do a great job defending our pension. When I asked them if we could become more involved with the issues that were undermining public education, I was told they didn’t do that. Well, wait until more force is used to hurt our pensions, which will come. Are they going to wish they had done more?

  4. cmzirkelbach permalink

    Not only is this an education issue, and workers rights issue, this is a women’s rights issue. Elementary school teachers are well over 75% female, and middle school and high school are well over 50% female. There is no way you would see a wholesale attack on a male dominated profession as we have seen with this constant attach on teachers. Every elected female politician should be up in arms about this if they truly care about women’s rights in this country.

  5. Threatened out West permalink

    A real winner, Berman is. I guess I won’t buy USA Today anymore. I know they need advertising revenue, but I guess they need that more than they need my money for the actual paper.

  6. jointherevolution permalink

    And why is the teacher’s union not running a rebuttal ad? Hmmmmm………..maybe the union has joined the other side. Teachers need to vote out current union leadership and take back control.

  7. I think it’s worth mentioning that the two major teacher unions are democratic organization where the members vote for their leaders from the local district chapter presidents—who are usually working teachers still in the classroom—then for state presidents and the national presidents. Elected reps from across the country often come together at annual conventions at the state and national levels to decide policy—just like each elected state legislature and the U.S. Congress does.

    In fact, at each school site in tens of thousands of schools across the nation local site reps are elected to serve at the local level. I was one once, and we met to discuss issues and vote on what to do. We didn’t always agree on issues and how to handle them, but, just like in state and federal elections, the majority vote decided the winner.

    Teachers are not dominated by one any political ideology and are not driven to earn profits for corporations or billionaires. The interest of most teachers is the children they teach.

    Public school teachers are mostly college educated, middle class Americans who live in or near the community where they teach. About a third are registered Republicans, half Democrats and the rest are independent voters.

    Rick Berman, however, works for corporate America run by hired CEOs and ruled over like fiefdoms out of the dark ages by oligarch billionaires like Bill Gates, the Walton family, the Koch brothers, Eli Broad, hedge fund billionaires and a few others that aren’t elected by anyone to anything. Their money buys them what they want.

  8. IrmaK permalink

    When are teachers, parents, and students going to sue teach for america, wendy kopp, michelle rhee, obama, duncan, and every single “broad jiffy lube superintendent school” graduate and every teach for america quickly certified, back-door “teacher?” That is the real question.

  9. Gerri K. Songer permalink

    Reblogged this on We Are More and commented:
    If you have any doubt regarding our need for unions, read, “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair.

  10. John permalink

    I can’t even read your blog. I’m using Firefox and Safari and neither one shows the complete column — the right side cuts of several word.

    • You can follow my blog and get email notifications.

    • Why don’t you add Google Chrome and even Explorer (Pardon my suggestion about Explorer but it does have a use now and then—-I use Firefox and Google Chrome the most)

      I have used all three: Explorer, Google Chrome and Firefox. I have buttons for them on my tool bar and sometimes I have three pages running, one from each, at the same time.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Mercedes Schneider on That Union-Hating Ad in USA Today | Diane Ravitch's blog
  2. Vergara Wasn’t About Tenure! It was About Making Fast Food Workers and Common Core Cheeseburgers
  3. Ed News June 13, 2014 Edition | tigersteach
  4. Educational Policy Information

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: