Local Union Wants Better PR From Christmas Lights



Say nice things about the lights, then say nice things about unions.
  • Say nice things about the lights, then say nice things about unions.

When you haven’t had a paycheck for a year and a half, Christmas cheer tends not to be your friend.
So it went last week when the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers sought a hand from its members, hundreds of whom have not had work for more than a year. It seems Local 38 needs help setting up the annual Christmas light display on Public Square. It’s an opportunity to commune with one’s brethren, to keep spirits high through trying times. And what was that other part?

“We also can always use the POSITIVE Public Relations Advertisement that can be reaped from an endeavor such as this,” Local 38’s letter to members read. “There is enough negative press about Organized Labor we deal with constantly, and this will go a long way to change that perception with the public.”

Indeed, underhanded high jinks from local union heads have helped forge the compelling drama that is our county corruption scandal.

Even Local 38 has its share of intrigue: The group is run by Walter O’Malley, the brother of disgraced former county Recorder Pat O’Malley, who was once the college roommate of Prosecutor Bill Mason. Critics say the union benefited from Mason’s investigation of a non-union contractor in 2006. All charges were dismissed, but the non-union shop was barred from bidding on public jobs — clearing the way for union companies to bid only amongst themselves.

Equally festive: Cash-strapped union members who pay into Local 38’s “Action Line” are given preferential treatment in exchange for their “donations” to various campaigns — including $18K to Mason’s campaign over the last decade, says one union source, who asked not to be named.

To borrow a phrase from noted orator and convicted felon Frank Russo: “My motto is everybody helps everybody out.”

Or, to paraphrase one out-of-work electrical worker: You know where you can hang your Christmas lights, boys.

“I think the Action Line members and the scabs that they organized will get by without my help,” he says.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at news@clevescene.com.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.