New Business-Group Ad Has Racial Undertones, Union Alleges

Sam Stein, Huffington Post, November 4, 2009

A new ad from the Chamber of Commerce and its allies attacking Democratic-led efforts to pass health care legislation includes a storyline that union critics say is rife with racial undertones.

The spot, titled “Millions,” asserts that health reform could “wipe out even more jobs” than those lost so far. But it does so in a peculiar and perhaps controversial way.

The scenario of a distraught boss forced to fire an employee is illustrated by a white worker being summoned to the office as a black co-worker looks on.

An official with the AFL-CIO, who saw the ad air on Wednesday morning, argued that it was a perpetuation of the stereotype that minorities have a leg up on their colleagues because of affirmative-action policies. It gets at the heart of concerns raised by labor leaders like the AFL-CIO’s president, Richard Trumka, who fretted during the 2008 presidential campaign that Barack Obama’s candidacy would spur racial unrest within work forces.

“This is the same old right wing dog whistle politics,” said Eddie Vale, spokesman for the AFL-CIO. “They’re trying to use race and class to scare working people about a health care bill.”

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