Role in the Anti-Union Network
The Public Service Research Foundation (PSRF) and the Public Service
Research Council (PSRC) have campaigned against the right of teachers
and other public sector employees to form unions and engage in collective bargaining for over three decades. While relatively small in size and funding compared to other groups, the organizations play a significant role by developing anti-union ammunition, which is distributed and advanced throughout the anti-union network.
The Foundation’s claim to fame was leading “the campaign for public support” of President Reagan’s “handling of the PATCO strike,”1
whereby Reagan permanently replaced the air traffic controllers who
were on strike in 1981. Labor historians mark this event as a radical departure from the U.S. government’s recognition of collective bargaining as a public good,
moving toward an aggressively combative stance against workers’
rights. The unparalleled act of firing 13,000 workers consequently
legitimized unionbusting and helped the burgeoning field of
union-avoidance consultants to explode into a muti-million dollar
David Denholm is the longtime president of both organizations,3 and is known for his extremist views on unions. In addition to being featured regularly in right-wing media, Denholm owns the website, www.unionfreeamerica.com.4 The website provides tips on getting rid of a union at your worksite, urges readers to pressure Congress to oppose the Employee Free Choice Act, and sells anti-union stickers and t-shirts.
Denholm has taken some shocking positions, as for instance when he joined with other conservatives in honoring the notorious Roberto D’Aubuisson. D’Aubisson was linked to the murder of thousands in El Salvador, including union leaders, priests, politicians, and teachers.5
PSRC is a spin-off of the National Right to Work Committee.
Former National Right to Work Committee President Reed Larson worked
closely with Denholm when the latter took over the PSRC in 1974,
helping him select board members and launch a PSRC subsidiary,
Americans Against Union Control of Government (AAUCG).6
In 1977, PSRC spun off a 501(c)(3) tax deductible arm, the Public
Service Research Foundation (PSRF). PSRC also has a political action
committee, Public Service PAC.
Feeding the Anti-Union Network Information Machine
Sponsoring polls and spinning results
- Recently, the PSRF garnered media attention by commissioning two
Zogby polls, one in 2004 and another in 2005, apparently intended to
show that workers aren’t interested in forming unions.7 To the contrary, both polls found that over 60 percent of American workers approve of unions.8
- In spite of the poll’s pro-union findings, PSRF still fed the results to the anti-union network. Groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Senate Republican Policy Committee, and the National Institute for Labor Relations Research, an arm of the National Right to Work Committee, selectively quoted from the poll to infer that workers don’t want unions, omitting the pro-union findings.9
Through its quarterly journal Government Union Review, PSRF publishes anti-union articles on a wide range of subjects, from union dues collection to prevailing wage laws and privatization. Much like right-wing zealot David Horowitz’s campaign against supposed ‘liberal bias’ on college campuses, PSRF started the journal to help scholars challenge the bias it believes is persistent in academic journals on labor relations. The publication has featured the views of dozens of anti-union ideologues, including:
- Robert P. Hunter, director of labor policy for the anti-union
Mackinac Center of Michigan and a Reagan appointee to the National
Labor Relations Board.
- Charles W. Baird, a professor at California State University at Hayward who currently plays a leadership role in the “astroturf” group Working Families for Wal-Mart, and who has been involved in the lobbying and litigation efforts of the National Right to Work organizations.10
- The late Russell Kirk, known as the “father of modern conservatism,” and a founder of the National Review.11
- Myron Lieberman, Chairman of the anti-union Education Policy
Institute, who wrote a handbook for the American Legislative Exchange
Council (ALEC) which details “model legislation” that would weaken
public employees’ unions.12
That Denholm is often quoted in mainstream business media should not
distort the fact that he and his organizations espouse extremist views
- Denholm doesn’t just want to restrict unions and workers’ rights –
his aim is to do away with them altogether. Denholm indicated what he
considers to be the grand prize for the right: the new Bush Supreme
Court overturning the National Labor Relations Act,13 the law giving workers the right to form or join a union and collectively bargain.
- Denholm joined former National Right to Work president Reed Larson
and other conservatives in 1984 to honor the notorious Roberto
D’Aubuisson. The plaque they presented to D’Aubuisson, who was linked
to the murder of thousands in El Salvador, including union leaders,
priests, politicians, and teachers,14 had the audacity to declare his efforts as “an inspiration to freedom-loving people everywhere.”15