Michael Moore, a hypocritical union buster

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While liberals cheer left-wing documentary filmmaker Michael Moore for his remarks on Saturday in Wisconsin, the supposed pro-union filmmaker still has much to explain about his own union busting history. 

The Roger and Me filmmaker weighed in on the fight in the Wisconsin state legislature over limiting collective bargaining power for the state’s public union employees. Predictably, the wealthy documentarian did his best to sound like a populist man of the people: 

“America is not broke. Contrary to what those in power would like you to believe so that you’ll give up your pension, cut your wages and settle for the life your great grandparents had. America is not broke. Not by a long shot. The country is awash in wealth and cash. It’s just that it is not in your hands.”

“It has been transferred in the greatest heist in American history from the workers and consumers to the banks and portfolios of the uber-rich. Right now this afternoon just 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined. Let me say that again, and please someone in the mainstream media, just repeat this fact once. We’re not greedy. We’ll be happy to hear it just once. 400 obscenely wealthy individuals, 400 little Mubaraks, most of whom benefited in some way from the multi-trillion dollar taxpayer bailout of 2008 now have more cash, stock, and property than the assets of 155 million Americans combined.”

For all of Mr. Moore’s pro-union bravado, writers who worked for him on the NBC television show TV Nation described the film director as more of  a selfish union busting boss than anything else. The New Yorker interviewed former staff writers of Mr. Moore’s in 2004 who painted a picture of a merciless individual who is only acting out the role of a liberal savior for his fans in the public but behaves much differently in private: (bolding is mine)

But, as the staff of Mother Jones had discovered, Moore wasn’t the ideal boss. Little by little, he began to alienate people. He disliked sharing credit with his writers. He would often come in late. He didn’t yell at people: if someone said something he didn’t like, he wouldn’t argue; he would simply not invite that person to the next meeting, or the person would be fired. 

The article describes two writers who worked on Mr. Moore’s television show TV Nation who learned that Mr. Moore did not want them joining the Writers Guild.

One day during production on the first season of the show, Moore called two of his writers into his office. It was, for both of them, their first job in television, and they had been hired with the title of associate producer. They were not members of the Writers’ Guild, the powerful union for writers in movies and TV, and thus were not receiving health benefits, and would not qualify later for a percentage of video and rerun sales. “Michael said, ‘I’m getting a lot of heat from the union to call you guys writers and pay you under the union rules,’ ” Eric Zicklin, one of the associate producers, says. “ ‘I don’t have the budget for that. But if they keep coming down on me that’ll mean I’ll only be able to afford one of you and the other one’s gotta go.’ ”

Soon more employees who supported Mr. Moore in his political crusade became disillusioned with their former boss:

One by one, his employees stopped believing in the Cause. The job became just a job, and Moore became just another boss in a business that had an almost limitless tolerance for bad behavior. But, because they had once believed in him, their disappointment was painful. “I have let go of Michael,” the former “TV Nation” employee says, in the shakily resolute tone of a reforming alcoholic. “I have not seen one of his products, his movies, his TV shows, his books. I’m sure they’re all good. I’m sure they’re spreading the message and enraging all the right people. But I can’t accept him as a political person. I can’t buy into this thing of Michael Moore is on your side—it’s like trying to believe that Justin Timberlake is a soulful guy. It’s a media product: he’s just selling me something. For the preservation of my own soul I have to consider him as just an entertainer, because otherwise he’s a huge asshole. If you consider him an entertainer, then his acting like a selfish, self-absorbed, pouty, deeply conflicted, easily wounded child is run-of-the-mill, standard behavior. But if he’s a political force, then he’s a jerk and a hypocrite and he didn’t treat us right and he was false in all of his dealings.”

“I thought he was great on the Academy Awards,” Chris Kelly, who worked on “TV Nation” and “Canadian Bacon,” says. “I thought that was a great thing to say. But I can’t go to his movies and I can’t hold his books for very long. When he started writing his column in The Nation, I cancelled my subscription. He broke my heart. That’s what he does to people.”

Mr. Moore responded that TV Nation was a union show and he did not remember the meeting with the writers. It should be noted that presently, the filmmaker claims on his website, “My production company has signed union contracts with five unions (and soon to be a 6th). All my full-time employees have full medical and dental insurance with NO DEDUCTIBLE. So, yes, I’m biased.”:

Moore appeared to have surmised (incorrectly) that the two writers had been appealing to the union behind his back. (Moore says that he doesn’t remember this and that he insisted that “TV Nation” be a union show.) “He wanted to let us know that this would hurt us if it continued,” Zicklin says. “We were scared out of our minds. It was like a theme from ‘Roger & Me.’ ” Of course, no one would have thought twice about a meeting like that with any other boss—but this was Michael Moore. 

However, this is not the only time Michael Moore has been called out for his hypocrisy on the union issue and claimed he only used union labor. In October of 2009, ABC News reported Mr. Moore hired non-union workers for union jobs on his film Capitalism: A Love Story: (bolding is mine)

Michael Moore used some non-union crewmembers when union workers were available in the production of his latest film “Capitalism: A Love Story,” a documentary that argues the capitalist system allows for greedy corporations to exploit working-class people.

“For all of the different jobs on the movie that could have used union labor, he used union labor, except for one job, the stagehands, represented by IATSE,” said a labor source unauthorized to talk about Moore’s decision not to hire members of The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.

In a statement issued to ABCNews.com, Moore’s agent, Ari Emanuel, said the filmmaker wished the union included more documentary crew people — but he did not deny that IATSE members were snubbed in favor of non-union employees.

The irony of it all was the film focused on a six-day sit in by over 200 workers  of Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago. How fitting that Mr. Moore’s agent is Ari Emanuel, brother of former Obama White House Chief of Staff and now mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel. [Ari] Emanuel told ABC News:

“Nothing would make Michael happier than for documentary filmmaking to get its due respect, and to have unions pursue the documentary film crews with the same energy they give to bringing feature crews into their membership and making it a viable option for them,” he said.

“This is a Writer’s Guild, Screen Actors Guild and Directors Guild film, as all of Michael’s films are. He is a proud, dues-paying member of all three of these unions,” said Emanuel.

Yet the controversy over the film’s use of non-labor workers heated up so much, that the American Federation of Teachers refused free movie tickets from Mr. Moore. In fact, ABC News points out that the non-union workers did not receive health insurance.

How any union loving liberal could possibly take Mr. Moore seriously at this point remains a mystery. The film director appears to enjoy acting in a role not meant for any movie but for his pro-union activist minions who continue to buy the show he is putting on about himself.

 

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About the Author
Kerry Picket

Kerry Picket

Kerry Picket, a former Opinion Blogger/Editor of The Watercooler, was associate producer for the Media Research Center, a content producer for Robin Quivers of "The Howard Stern Show" on Sirius satellite radio and a production assistant and copy writer at MTV.

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