Sunday, November 8, 2009

Caveat Lectores on Political Action

Today’s rant will apply to almost any group vying for public approval, acceptance and success but is directed to public employees and their unions.

Leaders of any public sector employee organization claim to preach the virtues of having “good politics;” however, they must be failing because public sector workers are firmly in the cross hairs of attack from all sorts of political enemies. Why hard working public employees would come under attack makes little sense except when one recognizes that the middle class, private sector employee has been reduced to irrelevance. Now it is time to destroy public sector employment, as well. Sorry about your luck.

The political mantra is well known to many but unheeded by just as many. “Get your politics in order and things will not be so bad. Ignore this reality and things will fall apart.” Times are bad for government and somebody has to pay for the misfeasance, nonfeasance and malfeasance of management and politicians. Since the tax payers do not like to pay taxes, who is left to pick up the tab left on the table by a public that wants service but does not want to pay the bill for the service? Public employees are all that is left.

It makes good news copy to demonize public employees such as administrative workers, waste water workers, parks workers and librarians, firefighters, police, teachers. Add any job title and, if that worker is paid by government, they are assumed superfluous, lazy and overpaid. Some few may be as entirely awful as is said about them, but all are lumped together to the detriment of all.

Could public sector workers deserve the abuse? If so, is it because many are too self-absorbed to do what is necessary to correct their bad image and get involved in the political process that either rewards or punishes them? Public employees work for the public. The tax payer is the ultimate boss. Politicians and management are the tools hired (elected) by the boss to get things done. As with any job, an employee must impress the boss with the value the employee brings to the job or things get ugly. Any public employee who feels all he or she must do to gain success is to merely do the job is naïve to the point of certain failure in today’s economy. Wake up or sink like the Titanic.

The common refrain I hear when I preach the necessity of public relations, political action and effective lobbying is: “…we try to get them involved but they just won’t listen.” Then the excuses for failure begin to roll off the union leader’s tongue. It makes me want to puke.

I fully recognize that many who read this will think I am talking about them specifically, but these are generalized statements that just happen to apply generally. If the shoe is uncomfortable, you need to change shoes or accept failure.

Here is what I have consistently observed in my four decades of involvement.

· Public employees and their unions who are actively involved in public relations, political action and effective lobbying are more successful than the losers who do otherwise. How much more specific can I get? Apparently some feel secure in failure.

· The per capita costs in legal fees are less for those who invest their resources into public relations, political action and effective lobbying. Having me or another attorney or advisor give assistance on how to do it right is much less costly than legal battles that never add a truly positive consequence. The most gained from litigation is getting back to where you should have been.

· Public relations are necessary to build a good public opinion of the workers and build support when times are good as well as bad.

· Anonymous, invisible people are easier to ignore or vilify than those who are visible and admired. Police, fire and education start off with a leg up in that department, but that is no excuse for other employee groups to hide in the shadows and complain because they do not get the attention they think they deserve.

· Brilliant PR campaigns in effect for years have brought some workers into the spotlight, and even then some within these groups fail because they do not execute the entire program.

· Political action relates to getting involved in elections. I did not say winning elections. Of course, you want to win any race but just being in the race has an advantage that is understated in terms of importance.

· The real, long term winners in politics are the one with resolve and staying power. Even when you help a loser, the winner will take heed if they know you made a credible effort and will be back for more next time.

· Public relations and political action will not mean much if the follow through of lobbying is not consistently in effect.

· Lobbying may have some negative connotations but government cannot operate effectively without some form of information getting to the elected officials other than Fox News. We call these information providers lobbyists. Become one or fail.

· Effective, day in-day out lobbying of all the decision makers, their hangers on and staff is absolutely essential for success.

Without these three functions ably accomplished, the group to which you belong needs to print new T-shirts with LOSER printed on the front and back. You can wear it with pride in a job poorly done.

And Oh yes, have a nice day.


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