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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Chamber airs radio ad warning of 'bully tactics' as teachers protest outside legislator offices

3

March

Warning of "Wisconsin-style" protests and union bosses, the Florida Chamber of Commerce hit the Orlando radio airwaves today with a 60-second radio ad Thursday urging folks to thank three Republican "for standing up to government unions and their bully tactics.''

According to the ad, recorded by chamber president Mark Wilson, “We’ve see the images on television: government unions from around America staging protests in Wisconsin. They're not fighting for ordinary citizens, but grappling for power and money. Unfortunately, Florida is next on the union bosses hit list. They're busing protestors to Central Florida right now to harass your courageous representatives."

The problem is, the ad is wrong. A small group of teachers protesting pending legislation aimed at limiting their pay and benefits protests at the offices of Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Heathrow, Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, and Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Oviedo. "They were local protests done by the local Seminole county union,'' said Mark Pudlow of the Florida Education Association. "There’s nobody been bused in.''

The chamber, which does not disclose which corporate donors finance its operations, paid for the ad, said Edie Ousley, chamber spokesperson.

Rich Templin of the AFL-CIO said his organization knew nothing about the protests either and view the ads ad part of the national campaign to "make people afraid of working men and women in the labor unions."

He expects there will be more teachers and union workers protesting outside the offices of legislators who support some of the bills targeted at weakening workers rights this legislative session, he said, just as several Tea Party groups plan a rally in Tallahassee on Tuesday to urge legislators to make deep cuts in the state budget.

"Is this what we've come to?'' Templin asked. "You can't gather before an elected official's office without being called a thug? I don't think the Chamber is going to be calling the Tea Party members bullies when they gather in Tallahassee next week."

When asked about the discrepancy over whether protestors were "bused in," Ousley said: "We may have a difference of opinion...The bottom line is no one should be surprised there is union activity...No one should be surprised that we're tracking it. We've been watching this for weeks. Mark Wilson has been tracking this and getting nightly updates. We're going to see it increase in the coming days,'' she said, adding that they can't reveal their secret sources. "If I were to go beyond that, I would be dishonoring the chamber."

[Last modified: Thursday, March 3, 2011 6:33pm]

    

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