Jewelry maker Alex & Ani was smart to steer a path well clear of the mud-fight between unions and a Providence talk show host.
The unions had demanded that companies yank their ads from WPRO after crude remarks by radio host John DePetro.
“We have no dog in this fight. We don’t understand why we are involved,” company CEO Giovanni Feroce replied — and declined to cease advertising.
Had Alex & Ani done otherwise, it would have played right into an age-old tactic.
The union picked this fight when it dispatched t-shirt wearing teachers to a Gina Raimondo fundraiser. Although her work may ultimately salvage their pensions from ruin (Don’t believe it can happen? Look at Detroit, Woonsocket ..), the teachers’ union and others have objected loudly to her efforts to rein in benefits to a point that they stand a chance of surviving. They have been relentless in their pursuit of the general treasurer, accusing her of all sorts of wild misdeeds.
This time they chanted, among other things, “Gina’s a crook, she cooked the books.” It was rude, unprofessional and untrue — and provoked precisely the reaction union leaders sought.
DePetro, (naturally — he’s a radio talk show host), went way over the top with his return volley, calling them parasites, cockroaches and much worse.
At which point, the union became positively giddy in its indignation over this affront to the “sisterhood.” Suddenly the battle wasn’t about clinging to gold-plated benefits that taxpayers can’t afford; it was about our daughters, our mothers, the downtrodden …
We’ve seen this before —in Tiverton for instance.
During a contract standoff a few years ago, a state union leader stood outside the Tiverton superintendent of schools office shouting abuse through a bullhorn and giving him the finger. The intent, of course, was to goad the superintendent into rash reply. Instead, the superintendent snapped a picture.
Later, this same union leader was out on the picket lines where signs read, “It’s all about respect.”
The insults, the trash talk, the feigned outrage — they’re all a sideshow.
The real issue remains providing pensions and benefits that won’t collapse under their own weight.
That is the last place union leadership wants the focus.