The steps are one, the editorial or spotlight report slanting the facts; two, the follow-up news stories, three, the columnists then carrying the ball, and four, the Boston U.S. attorney getting involved.
The last time we saw this it involved a taxi cab owner who was a real mean guy who made his drivers earn every penny they made. A spotlight started it; news stories, columnists, and a raid by the U.S. attorney followed along in step.
The only problem with the last time it played there was no allegation the cab owner committed any crimes. As of yet it isn’t criminal to be a cheap old rich guy who treats his employees poorly. So why did Boston U.S. attorney conduct a raid? For that matter how did she get a search warrant to raid the taxi company with agents and cops running in with drawn guns where there was no crime? It all remains a big mystery. Was it done by the U.S. attorney just to please the demands of the newspaper with the spotlight?
Today, we are in the front row watching the first two parts of this four act play. The editorial to start it off came as a result of the indictment of five Teamsters. I’ll discuss the indictment later. The editorial says Mayor Walsh owes some answers to the public. I haven’t heard the public asking any questions. If it is then it is not the one the Globe is asking. But let us see what the Globe says the question is.
The Globe tells us some Teamsters Local 25 members were indicted for extortion. The Globe explains, “When the Teamsters learned the show’s producers had already hired nonunion crews, prosecutors say, they demanded jobs for their members.”
The editors concede: “By itself, advocacy is not a crime, it’s what unions do.” It says the prosecutors say the union members crossed the line by seeking jobs the employer did not want to provide and ‘then threatening violence’. It went on:“They slashed tires at a set in Milton and made verbal threats.” They were not: “aimed at unionizing the crew at “Top Chef,” but at getting money for themselves. It was, in other words, a shakedown.”
Those are the Globe’s words. Yes, tires were slashed but the indictment did not say the Teamsters did it. The word “shakedown” is an invention of the Globe. Using its rationale you could call every work action by a union a shakedown. The defendants were trying to get jobs for their members, not money for themselves.
The editors go on to say: “And City Hall, according to prosecutors, seemingly played a role in the scheme.” That role according to the indictment is that “a representative from the City of Boston called the Omni Parker House [and another place] to inform it that Local 25 was planning to picket” them if the filming took place at their locations. The editors noted “the effect of City Hall’s intervention was clear. The Teamsters, US Attorney Carmen Ortiz said Wednesday. “managed to chase a legitimate business out of the City of Boston and then harassed the cast and crew when they set up shop in Milton. This kind of conduct reflects poorly on our city and must be addressed for what it is — not union organizing, but criminal extortion.””
We are long familiar with Carmen Ortiz’s hyperbole. With Aaron Swartz: “Stealing is stealing.” Her justification of her attempt to steal the Caswell Motel. So when she is quoted you have to keep all that is mind. The union did not chase anyone out of Boston. Picketing is not criminal extortion.
The editors end by saying Mayor Walsh should be “getting to the bottom of who in his administration served as a messenger for an organization with a known criminal history — and why.” As expected, later in the day of the editorial a news story followed up. It spelled out the history of the union’s support of Mayor Walsh and other stories piled on.
Mayor Walsh had by then panicked. He hired a former federal prosecutor Kelly to investigate a non-criminal act. Kelly headed up the Public Corruption Union under Ortiz a little over a year ago. The natural question J.Q. Public will ask: “why did he need to lawyer himself up?”
Lawyer Kelly said: ““There are serious allegations involved here, . . . ” Serious allegations? Does he know something we do not know? Otherwise this is a tempest in the teapot of the editors. Advising a business it may be picketed is not serious nor a crime. But in hiring Kelly the mayor sure makes it look like something else is going on.
Kelly said: “I see my role as assisting in an internal review of this matter and assisting the city in its dealings with the federal authorities.” The mayor’s spokesperson said Kelly was hired to: “to facilitate any necessary cooperation between the city and the US attorney’s office.” Why are the federal authorities involved? Are we to believe they are already working on “step four” by investigating City Hall?
Is it the mayor is well aware of the one-two-three-four play and figures Kelly can stop four from happening? Is that how you save yourself by hiring a former federal prosecutor who worked with and is friends with the federal prosecutors who are handling the case? The whole idea feels a little icky. Makes something that looked pretty much like nothing now appear a little sordid.
Walsh should be ashamed of himself for his pusillanimity. The editorial is an exercise in nonsense. Walsh does not need to answer to anyone for what happened. Bringing in Kelly was a big mistake because it looks like he knows more than he’s telling.
What was done was what should have been done. A “representative from the City of Boston,” learned of planned picketing activity at two business locations in Boston and advised them of the plans. Wasn’t that the right thing to do? Should he or she let the two businesses walk into a situation where pickets would disrupt their businesses?
The editors statement that someone in Walsh’s administration was “a messenger for an organization with a known criminal history” is nonsense. The messenger was not helping out the Teamsters but was protecting two businesses. If anything, he or she was working against the union. I assume the union would have preferred to tie up downtown Boston than someplace in Milton.
The bottom line is this. Much has been made out of nothing. No one was injured or hurt. No real threats were made. The indictment noted the picketing Teamsters uttered: “profanities and racial and homophobic slurs.” That is no crime. It is reported the incident outside the Milton restaurant was isolated. There were no other problems while “Top Chef” filmed in and around Boston in May and June.
The real question I would think that the public should want answered is why Carmen Ortiz decided to include anything relating to the City Hall in the indictment. It had nothing to do with the conspiracy or attempt to extort. It was not criminal in any way. Is it because she and the Globe have conspired to “get Marty“? And they will get him if he acts like he is doing and lacks the courage to stand and fight for what is right.