This Week in Labor: Breitbart Smears Labor Educators

Lindsay Beyerstein

Andrew Breitbart, America's most talented video magician.

At the end of each week, Working In These Times rounds up labor news we’ve missed during the past week, with a focus on new and ongoing campaigns and protests. For all our other headlines from this week, go here. —Jeremy Gantz, Working ITT editor

—Two labor educators from Missouri are the targets of Andrew Breitbart’s latest right-wing hoax. This week, Breitbart released two seven-minute videos that appear to show the instructors endorsing union violence. As Labor Notes reports, their words have been condensed from more than 18 hours of classroom video and spliced together to make it sound as if the instructors are advocating violence when in fact they are teaching students about the bloody history of the U.S. labor movement.

University officials who have reviewed the unedited footage told the Kansas City Star that the videos are obviously bogus.

This isn’t what you’d call a slick hoax. Writing at Labor Notes, Jane Slaughter and Mischa Gaus observe that one instructor appears to seamlessly change his shirt between sentences.

Breitbart has a history of using misleading videos to discredit his political enemeis. Former USDA official Shirley Sherrod is suing Breitbart for posting a 2:38 video clip of a talk Sherrod gave to NAACP members. The fragment appears to show Sherrod, an African American, admitting to discriminating against white farmers.

Sherrod was forced to resign under pressure from the Obama administration. The full 43-minute video established that Sherrod was actually talking about how she overcame her misgivings and helped the couple saved their farm. Hers was a story of reconciliation, not discrimination. 

—Five housekeepers at the HEI Hilton Long Beach say they were fired after three of them complained to management about working conditions. Some of the housekeepers had also participated in an ongoing state investigation of the hotel’s employment practices.

The hotel claims that the workers were not fired, but rather that the hotel ceased contracting with the temp agency that placed the housekeepers. At a press conference on Wednesday, the housekeepers demanded to be reinstated as full-time employees.

UNITE-HERE Local 11 has been trying to organize the housekeepers at this hotel since 2009.

—This week, Florida Department of Corrections Officers and members of the Teamsters Union delivered thousands of postcards to state Sen. Mike Haridopolos, urging him to oppose pending state legislations that would privatize prisons. Gov. Rick Scott wants to eliminate 1,690 FDOC jobs and cut the department’s budget by $82.4 million. Teamsters International Vice President Ken Wood says prison privatization is bad public policy that won’t save money or make the public safer.

—Happy birthday, SEIU. This month marks the 90th anniversary of the Service Employees International Union (née the Building Service Employees International Union). The union has grown from 200 founding members in 1921 to more than 2.2 million members today.

Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times’ City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (http://​www​.hill​man​foun​da​tion​.org/​h​i​l​l​m​a​nblog), a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.
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