Workers trained to coerce, intimidate business owners for their support; ignored some requests
The unions bankrolling and supporting Proposal 2 have touted the business support they said they've received. But some of the businesses on their list were added despite telling the unions "no" and other business owners said they were added without their knowledge or after being misled.
A key to the tactics used by the "Protect Working Families" supporters who were sent out to recruit businesses can be found in a recruiting "took kit" that Proposal 2 supporters provide after interested parties submit an email address to download the kit.
The nine-page document told recruiters to visit businesses they patronized and find businesses owned by retired union members. If there was no union connection, recruiters were to remind the businesses how many union customers "spend their wages at businesses like theirs." Recruiters also were told to mention the free advertising their business would get when its name was added to the website list. For extra emphasis, the business was told it could post the "Protect Working Families" sticker on the front door, which implied that the business welcomed union members.
Recruiters apparently approached shops and businesses that were small, knew little about the proposal and better, that operated in a place with a large union customer base.
The Proposal 2 website listed 597 businesses as "Main Street" supporters. The list had been larger until the candy franchise company, Kilwins, asked that its name and corporate logo be removed. According to Kilwins company officials, the Grand Rapids franchise owner explicitly told the recruiter "no" when he came into the shop seeking Proposal 2 support.
Kilwins was not alone.
"He caught me flat-footed," said Mike Rocco, the owner of Firenze Computer in Center Line.
Rocco said he was busy and distracted the day a Proposal 2 business recruiter visited his shop. He said he signed on because he was given the impression it was a pro-family issue.
"How can anyone be against families?" he asked.
He said he is sorry he did. He has since learned Proposal 2 will change the constitution, something he is against.
Another business owner, a financial planner who asked that his name not be used, thinks recruiters targeted his business because his clients are union members. He said he was asked several times by union customers to sign up on the website as a supporter.
The business owner declined, but his business ended up on the list anyway. He is debating about having it taken down but fears there will be customer backlash if he does.
Two other companies were unaware they were on the list. Fuddruckers, listed as Rivertown Fuddruckers, said it does not support political causes. Officials from the restaurant said they were looking into the matter.
The owner of Metro Custom Cables in Shelby Township also said he didn't know he had been added to the list.
"I wish I could say I'm surprised by this but I'm not," said Michigan Chamber of Commerce President Richard Studley.
"The union backers who have bankrolled this campaign, from Day 1, have done everything they can not to be factual," he said.
He points out that the Proposal 2 website fails to display the proposal as it will appear on the ballot, and the campaign changed its name from "Protect Our Jobs" to "Protect Working Families."