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Business coalition launches anti-Franken, anti-union ad

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A business coalition launched a new television ad Monday criticizing DFL Senate candidate Al Franken for supporting legislation that would make it easier for workers to start unions.

The ad by the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace takes aim at the Employee Free Choice Act, which would certify a union as soon as a majority of workers at a plant signed cards authorizing it. Current law calls allows employers to demand a secret ballot election when their workers seek to organize a union.

Coalition spokeswoman Rhonda Bentz described it as major statewide buy to run through the first week of August, which the average Minnesotan will see 12 to 15 times during that time. Another ad on the issue, which does not mention any specific candidate, has already run for three weeks in the state and will continue to run through the first week in August. Bentz said that the average Minnesotan would see that one 12 to 15 times, too.

Bentz declined to say how much the group was spending on the ads, but said that the overall effort — including direct mail as well as TV, radio and Internet advertising — would run between $10 million and $20 million.

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The new ad begins with a cardboard cutout of Franken’s opponent, Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, as an announcer says, "Norm Coleman says keep the secret ballot for union organizing elections."

Then actor Vince Curatola, who played the mob boss Johnny "Sack" Sacramoni on "The Sopranos," appears, and, staying in character, says with a grin, "Guy’s a hero." As his grin disappears, Curatola deadpans, "I hate heroes," snaps his fingers, and two henchmen come in and take the cutout away.

"Al Franken, well, he sees it differently," the announcer says, as the henchmen carry in a a Franken cutout. "Franken says eliminate the secret ballot for workers."

"My pal Al," says Curatola. The announcer then urges people to call Franken and tell him "he’s wrong to end worker privacy."

Franken spokesman Andy Barr said that Franken, a member of four labor unions, is proud to support the Employee Free Choice Act, which is also known as the card check bill.

"EFCA doesn’t take away a worker’s right to a secret ballot — it prevents the corporations who bankroll Norm Coleman’s campaign from intimidating workers," Barr said.

The legislation, a top priority for organized labor, would toughen penalties against employers who violate worker rights during organizing drives and set up a binding arbitration process to prevent companies from thwarting a new union by bargaining in bad faith on an initial contract. It passed the House last year but was blocked in the Senate.

Democrats noted that three members of the coalition — the National Federation of Independent Business, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Burnsville (Minn.) Chamber of Commerce — are listed as "partners" on Coleman’s campaign web site.

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Coleman campaign spokesman Luke Friedrich said that the senator respects the rights of workers to organize, "but this bill takes away the legal rights of union employees to decide freely and privately whether or not to join a union ... Promising to take away working men and women’s right to a secret ballot will only further erode Al Franken’s support in Minnesota."

Bentz, the coalition spokeswoman, said the group is looking at running the ad in other states as well. Minnesota was selected, she said, because "All eyes are on Minnesota — it has a very high profile Senate race and it’s where the (Republican) convention is."

Another group opposed to the bill, the Employee Freedom Action Committee, plans full-page ads Thursday in the Star Tribune of Minneapolis and the Post-Bulletin of Rochester criticizing Franken’s stance on the bill. The group has run similar ads criticizing Democratic Senate candidates in Maine and Oregon and plans such ads in New Hampshire and Louisiana this week, said committee spokesman Tim Miller.

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The TV ad can be seen at: http://www.myprivateballot.com/

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