Surfing the RisingTide of Public Service Unions

New York Times, Wednesday, April 13, 2011: Business Day

Countering the Siege, by Steven Greenhouse

Washington–“Perhaps more than any other American, Gerald W. McEntee has surfed the rising tide of public sector unions to success and power.  As leader of the largest union of state and local government workers for three decades, he has amassed enormous political influence and a huge campaign war chest that he has not hesitated to use to advance his union’s interests.

But now, with public sector unions under attack in deficit-plagued states and cities nation wide (particularly in Wisconsin and Ohio), Mr. McEntee faces the biggest challenge of his career–avoiding a wipeout.”

Interesting surfing metaphors: “surfed the rising tide” and “avoiding a wipeout” in “the battle”  between governors and unions.  Usually, in surfing, one waits for the big or rising waves and surfs them just before the wave peaks, perhaps pushing to catch the crest on a rising wave rather than on the tide.  Perhaps the tide is a factor, I don’t know, but it is a good metaphor.  One doesn’t want a wipeout in politics, especially in politics, or when riding a surfboard as the board can fly into the air and hit the surfer.

There are war metaphors in this article: the headline, “Countering the Siege”; then one in the first paragraph: campaign war chest that he has not hesitated to use to advance his union’s interests. This could be Ulysses S. Grant advancing, but using General McClellan’s war chest.

Here’s another in a subsequent passage, not quoted above:  “Still combative at Age 76, Mr. McEntee has pushed away talk of retirement and plunged into battle to defend his union…”

And another: “In what is largely a decentralized union, Mr. McEntee is doing his utmost to serve as national field marshal, stategist and megaphone for the counterattack.”

I usually only talk about sports metaphors, but this article is so interesting with its battle metaphors, published on the day after the 150th anniversary of the beginning of “The Civil War”, as the war is now called, and probably written on the 12th of May, the day of the siege of Fort Sumter in South Carolina.

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