Over supper recently, a private sector union lobbyist and I discussed union workers in the US illegally. When I asked him if by representing laborers regardless of immigration status his union wasn’t undermining American workers, his corporate response was that employers, not unions, are responsible for ensuring immigration status. This smacks of Sen. Uvalde Lindsey’s (D, AR) comment to me that the senator doesn’t trust lobbyists who “are technically accurate but not fully forthright.” On the one hand, I appreciate, being in a purple right-to-work state, his union’s dilemma securing dues-paying members. On the other hand, telling lawmakers that employers are to blame for the union’s reaping of benefits, i.e., new members, is politically just plain unseemly.
Our profession demands scrupulous honesty, that is, no spinning, no games, “the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.” Our job to make it easier for lawmakers to say “yes” to us and harder to say “no” is undermined when they have to parse our words. And the harder it gets, the less they will do it.
There is always going to be a “next time” and a new bill. A next time speaking to lawmakers, a next time selling to staff, a next time testifying in committee. Life has to be difficult enough being a union in his state; but the tinge of a disingenuous, nakedly self-serving, and “not fully forthright” position will be a long-term handicap to getting votes from “on the fence” lawmakers resulting in 5-4 losing votes they could have won.
Managing our managers, clients or organization heads, and the messages we are paid to advance is foundational to our long-term well-being as lobbyists and that of our principals. Position statements that would confound an unbiased person undermine both.