Saturday, October 16, 2010

Caveat Lectores on Sartorial Correctness, Revisited

Recently, the Lector became aware of a possible issue with an allegation some firefighters were politicking while wearing their uniforms. There was an additional allegation the firefighters exhibited some “acting out behavior” toward an opposing candidate. No doubt, the complaint originated with an unfriendly elected official who believes that public employees should be forbidden from participating in the electoral process. Imagine that.

The allegations were probably untrue or at the very least overblown, but the scenario causes the Lector to reflect on some issues that should not have to be addressed at all but….

Wearing what might appear to be a firefighter uniform is not a good idea even if legal. The members should be out there assisting and supporting a candidate not announcing who they are. These days the only people who need to know the firefighters are working for a candidate are the insiders in the campaign. Leave the uniforms and Union T-shirts at home in most cases. I realize some people disagree with me on this, but I stand by my advice. We discuss political invisibility at length in my lobbying seminar.

Very few people vote for a candidate because some FF union tells them to. Public endorsements are warm and fuzzy to the members and loser candidates who want to wrap themselves in a fire fighter's turnout gear for a few votes but ineffective in today's political climate. Money and sweat equity are effective.

The members should be educated on how much they can hurt the cause by "acting out" their frustrations no matter how reasonable.

While I do get a charge out of "screwing around" with the unfriendly politicos, it is usually not a productive thing to do. I suspect the adverse party here has embellished what actually happened, but all must remember that you probably do not live in a community that supports unionism. Low profile and guerrilla warfare works far better than "in your face" activity. The reason public sector unions do so poorly in various adversarial situations is because they do not have enough "friendlies" to support them. Pissing off the ones who are the decision makers without putting them out of office is a guaranteed loser idea. You have to win them over or defeat them. Merely annoying them will serve no productive purpose.

The simple facts are that the public does not care about you or your welfare so long as you show up when they call.

PR means making the public respect and support you. Pissing off the general public and the politicians is counterproductive.

The above statement comes from a labor consultant with 36 years experience watching public employees screw up because they are human. Politics is not for humans.

The Lector addresses these and other important methods to gain success in The Survivor’s Guide to a Successful Public Sector Union.

Here is the Caveat Lectores Rant from nine months ago.

Today’s rant has been festering inside me for at least a quarter century. Now that I have a forum, here it comes. It has to do with the appearance union leaders make before the public. This is more than a little sensitive to some and will rile up those who do not agree with me but…..

Union leadership needs to move away from the notion that they always need to look and dress alike to show unity. That methodology works fine when you want to show unity and strength. It works fine when you want to rally the troops. Everybody wearing a union logo ball cap and shirt is fine for union meetings, conventions, picnics, charity events and generally any group outings for union members and where group unity is valued.

HOWEVER…. Stop looking like the Three Stooges, Village People or the Harlem Globetrotters when you go to public hearings, private hearings, private meetings, public meetings, negotiations, grievance meetings, political functions or any type of situation where you need to blend in. Wearing union garb is not as good an idea as it seems to many of my brothers and sisters. Here are some reasons why:

• Politicians, friend and foe, and management are not impressed with the union uniforms.

• If a politician does not know who you are without your showing him/her your union baseball cap, you are a loser in the lobbying profession. You must have a relationship that has already made you well known.

• Sadly, not all politicians are comfortable appearing in all public arenas with union folks. You must blend in the picture.

• Management, politicians, business people and the general public should not be able to tell the difference between labor and management by what you are wearing unless you are wearing better looking conservative clothes than them.

• Casual and poorly fitting or worn clothing of any kind is not appropriate in a professional setting.

• Business casual for union people should be nothing less than a collared shirt, trousers and possibly a blazer for the men. Women’s clothing should be similarly appropriate. I never wear a slit skirt or a “wife beater” to a business meeting and neither should you. By not understanding that fact, some people subtly place themselves in an inferior position they must later overcome.

• Not all settings require the same boring clothes, but make sure you can identify who you are trying to impress and dress at least as well as they do.

• Over dressing can be as damaging as under dressing. Good fashion judgment is a must.

• Your cause is what is important … not your comfort.

If you do not normally wear business clothes, buy at least one properly fitting blazer type jacket and a couple of broad cloth white or blue shirts that fit. Assume they will shrink and you will gain weight so buy them ½ size larger than you normally buy. Get two conservative ties that match the shirts.

There is more for me to say on this topic. I have already done enough to piss off some but have caused others to nod in agreement.

And Oh yes… Have a nice day?


Caveat Lectores by Jeff Carnes
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