I just employed the “question mark headline”, which is a tactic that is especially common in online media (especially blogs) to level an allegation (often at the behest of a pressure group) without having to actually prove the allegation. It’s a variant on that epitome of the loaded question, “When did you stop beating your wife?”

It was on display this week in the headline of the latest Voice of OC story on the Honda Center:

“Is Honda Center Defying Law on Retaining Employees?”

What the VOC has done here is take an accusation made by UNITE-HERE Local 11 second-in-command Ada Briceno and turn it into the headline — therefore giving readers the idea that this may well be true and placing on the Honda Center the burden of guilt to prove they are not violating the law (leaving aside the arbitrary, tyrannical nature of the law).

The VOC did the same thing on May 16, again in response to allegations from UNITE-HERE Local 11 (and the OC Labor Federation), publishing a story headlined:

“Honda Center Layoffs Could Mean Tax Credits For Company” [emphasis added]

Notice the escape hatch phrase “could mean” – which achieves the same effect as writing it “Will Honda Center Layoffs Mean Tax Credits for Company?”

As it turns out, that charge from UNITE-HERE and the OCLF was totally false. One would think that would engender a certain skepticism by the Voice of OC regarding incendiary claims from UNITE-HERE. But as this week’s article makes clear, one would be wrong.

What are we to make of the VOC reporting on this issue? In the May 16 story, VC reporter Nick Gerda writes in his lead paragraph:

“By following through with plans to lay off more than 400 food service workers and then replace them, the Honda Center’s management company will qualify for job creation tax credits that could be worth millions of dollars, according to Anaheim city officials.”

This is false from beginning to end. The Honda Center isn’t laying off anyone. It would be impossible because those food service workers (and UNITE-HERE Local 11 members) are employees of Aramark, not Anaheim Arena Management (which operates the Honda Center). Any of those workers who are laid off are being laid off by Aramark, not AAM. This obvious fact is repeatedly overlooked in media coverage of this issue. AAM has chosen to stop using Aramark and bring food service in-house.

AAM arguably could qualify for those job creation tax credits since their food service workers would new hires, but that is irrelevant since the availability of those credits was never a factor in AAM’s decision.  AAM  had no intention of applying for the credits; that was an unsubstantiated allegation by UNITE-HERE that was echoed in the VOC (as well as by credulous gadflies).

When even the basic facts of the issue aren’t grasped, what does that say about the remainder of the reporting on this matter?

Personally, I think this could be remedied to an extent by a more aggressive public relations effort by AAM. UNITE-HERE has established it is willing to say anything in an effort to win the fight in the arena of public opinion. AAM’s advantage is the vigorous communication of the facts would suffice.

AAM has a good story to tell:

  • The truth is Honda Center patrons were dissatisfied with the quality of service being provided by Aramark employees a fact that has been ignored in the media).
  • The truth is the Honda Center offered to interview all applicants – and only about half of applicants took up that offer.
  • The truth is that by bringing food service in-house, the Honda Center is creating more jobs that pay more on average.

What has gone unexamined (other than on this blog) is that for UNITE-HERE Local 11, this is fight about their bottom-line. As with any business, fewer customers translates into reduced revenues. The loss of approximately 500 dues-paying members puts a serious hit on UNITE-HERE’s revenue stream, and separate payments on a per-hour/per-employee basis injures the finances of the union’s expensive heath plan.

Regarding the tyrannical ‘retention” law signed by Governor brown at the behest of UNITE-HERE and its legislative allies like Assembly Speaker Perez, none of the media coverage examines the implications of the state singling out a private enterprise and coercing it into hiring people who never even its employees.

For all the rhetoric from militant unions like UNITE-HERE about “justice,” it is ironic they would push through a law that is so manifestly unjust.