State unions turn to radio in battle for workers Heavy advertising began in September, recently has been intensifying

November 16, 1996|By Debbie M. Price | Debbie M. Price,SUN STAFF

Maryland state workers "don't get the pay and respect our lTC work deserves, but this November we have a chance to change all that," intones one radio advertisement.

"Can your union leaders look you in the eye and say they'll fight for your rights if the state proposes layoffs?" asks another radio commercial.

Dueling radio ads by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the Maryland Classified Employees Association (MCEA) spell out the campaign each has undertaken to represent state workers.

Neither union will say exactly how much money it is spending on advertising.

W. Frank Masters, executive director of MCEA, says his organization will spend at least $200,000 on communications expenses, including radio spots on 12 stations, mailings and related overtime.

Joe Lawrence, public affairs representative for AFSCME Maryland, won't discuss specifics of the campaign except to say that radio plays a "minor role" in the organization's overall strategy.

Ads began in September

The ads started running in September and have intensified in recent weeks, timed to coincide with the mailing of ballots Nov. 8 and yesterday.

MCEA has hired the Reeves Agency of Baltimore to develop its campaign, which portrays the union as the David to AFSCME's Goliath.

"MCEA has been here successfully representing the best interests of state employees for over 60 years," says Rebecca H. Reeves, president of the firm. "And now the biggest union of all wants to sweep down and take control."

The AFSCME radio spots focus on the union's representation of more than half a million government employees nationwide. AFSCME, which also represents more than 20,000 city, county and school board employees in Maryland, is casting itself as "the only union on the ballot that has ever negotiated a state employee contract," Lawrence says.

Media advertising popular

Radio and other media advertising campaigns are not new to union organizing and, in fact, are becoming an increasingly popular tool, says Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell University.

However, Bronfenbrenner notes that such campaigns are not the most effective way to gain votes.

"Radio spots won't win a campaign," she says. "They only work if done in conjunction with personal contact."

Pub Date: 11/16/96

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