Las Vegas Sun

April 17, 2014

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Watch out teachers, Rick Berman is back

Rick Berman, a Washington lobbyist and adman who has attacked Mothers Against Drunk Driving, tobacco opponents and advocates of healthier food, unveiled a multi-market, $1 million ad campaign today aimed at discrediting teachers unions, painting them as impediments to education reform.

The campaign includes full-page ads in The New York Times and USA Today, in addition to a Web site with information on about two dozen school districts. The site also features a "10 Worst Union-Protected Teachers Contest," in which Berman's group, the Center for Union Facts, will offer $10,000 apiece to nominees who quit teaching.

My colleague, Patrick Coolican, and I wrote about Berman and his fledgling teachers campaign last fall, after he revealed his plans at the Conservative Leadership Conference in Sparks. At the time, Las Vegas and Reno seemed to be prime targets given the Nevada State Education Association's drive to bolster support for an increase in the gaming tax for schools and teacher salary increases.

Neither city is on Berman's list — yet.

As usual, Berman is not disclosing his group’s donors.

The reason: As we pointed out last fall, the teachers union campaign is part of a larger effort to, as Berman puts it, "reintroduce the labor movement to the American public." Large, mainstream companies can fund him without having to associate their brand names with his sharp-elbowed approach.

Most importantly, the teachers union campaign comes as a newly resurgent labor movement works to put a Democrat in the White House. If labor succeeds, it will push measures that will make organizing easier. Wal-Mart and other large retailers and service industries could suddenly become union.

"The cost of losing is huge," Berman said last fall. "It will change politics in this country forever."

And not to the liking of Berman and his donors.

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