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Travis Rowley: The Real Michael Downey Just Stood Up

Friday, November 11, 2011


In 2002 radical Muslim activist Anjem Choudary, while on camera during an interview that was to be widely publicized, answered his Western critics: “We were the first, as you may remember,…[to say] that the actions of flying planes full of innocent civilians into buildings is not legitimate.”

Months later Choudary was stripped of his “moderate Muslim” cloak when he was caught on tape praising the 9/11 hijackers for “[reviving] the obligation of jihad worldwide” and referring to them as the “Magnificent Nineteen.” It was difficult at the time to discover a more clear-cut example of Taqiyya, the Islamic teaching that instructs, “When it is possible to achieve…[a praiseworthy] aim by lying but not by telling the truth, it is permissible to lie if attaining the goal is permissible…, and obligatory to lie if the goal is obligatory.”

The Labor Religion

The labor mentality is not unlike religious fervor. And unions operate from a radical ethic – based on the presupposition that unions represent an oppressed class of people – that authorizes dishonest and thuggish political tactics.

It was difficult not to be reminded of Choudary’s deception while watching Michael Downey, the president of Council 94 of AFSCME, defend Rhode Island’s public unions this week on A Lively Experiment (RI-PBS).

Those who are familiar with Downey know him as a prolific labor organizer, a veteran unionist who has made a living injecting emotion into political controversies. Downey is talented in the art of infecting the rank-and-file with sentiments of class warfare, expressing phony outrage over “fist pumps,” and teaching union workers to view themselves as societal victims who, of course, need Downey to protect them from capitalist phantoms – “corporate greed” and “rich people.”

Most recently Downey informed union workers, “It doesn’t surprise me…[Chafee and Raimondo] would stand with other rich people…who want to strip us of our pensions!”

Downey was asked on A Lively Experiment if he agreed with the statements made by president of the Cranston Firefighters Paul Valletta Jr., particularly his suggestion that Treasurer Gina Raimondo had “cooked the books” in order to exaggerate the pension problem and advance her political career. Prim, proper, and extremely polite, Downey responded by saying that he “did not agree with that,” and that he “would never use the term ‘cooked the books’…I have more respect than that.”

Yes, Downey is quite the gentleman.

But it must have perplexed anyone unfamiliar with the propaganda mastery of Ocean State labor leaders to witness Downey’s speech at the State House just several days later. Receiving the most generous ovation at Tuesday night’s union rally, Downey stepped to the microphone and revealed his true colors by doing his best Paul Valletta impersonation: “You know, they’re looking for ideas to solve the unfunded liability. I suggest to you after I read the money that the Treasurer is raking in, maybe she could do it with her political aspirations! She seems to draw in a lot of money! Maybe she can fund it herself! After all, she’s the one that played around with the numbers to put [us in] the shape we’re in!”

The union mob frenzied to the point of needing an exorcism after Downey satisfied their appetite for hateful rhetoric, class warfare, and reminders of their victim status.

Brainwashing State Employees

Public union bosses keep insisting that “a promise made should be a promise kept.” Remaining consistently disingenuous, however, Downey began his speech by saying, “They say they’re gonna share the pain equally! Well they’re gonna share the pain equally by keeping COLAs for people making one hundred thousand dollars! If you call that shared pain, they don’t know what pain is!”

So much for solidarity! The union rabble responds so advantageously to class envy that labor leaders are beginning to infuse class warfare between state employees.

Entirely misrepresenting Raimondo’s pension reform proposal, Downey threw higher-paid state workers under the bus on A Lively Experiment as well: “The only things that have been changed, quite honestly, are on the backs of the lowest paid state employees. State Police stay the same. The judges stay the same.” Just more misinformation for the union masses.

Downey will tell any lie, and abandon any principle, to sustain his labor kingdom. This isn’t about “keeping promises.” As usual, for the Left, there are no principles but power.

More Lies

Perhaps the most egregious lie that labor leaders are telling is represented by their expressions of astonishment at every mention of the state’s pension crisis. Downey and Company have known about the poor health of these funds for decades, a fact that former Council 94 boss Ron Gizzarelli confirmed several weeks ago on the Dan Yorke Show.

Yet, union bosses can’t seem to recall their years of dedicated opposition to any politician who chose not to ignore the state’s broken pension system – a political objective that resulted with the entire RI Democratic Party being owned by union interests. When Republican Governor Don Carcieri tried to right the pension system in 2003, Executive Director of the NEARI Bob Walsh summed up the unions’ longstanding position: “This is really not a negotiable issue for us.”

Eight years later, Central Falls retirees were watching their pensions be slashed in half.

Not that Walsh cares. Amazingly, Central Falls’ public workers still showed up to support the union cause on Tuesday night.

Union Oblivion

What explains the oblivion of unionized workers? Lies.

When Downey was asked on A Lively Experiment about labor’s relationship with compliant politicians, he responded, “If there was any truth to that…you would find one with my name on it. I’ve never proposed any legislation before the State House to do with pensions.”

Downey’s response was pure deceit. Public union bosses have never had to propose legislation. All they ever had to do was support the campaigns of union-Democrats, ensuring that a labor hack would exist on both sides of the bargaining table.

The irony is that, by their recent excoriation of Governor Chafee, labor leaders have actually been highlighting the very political reality that they are trying so hard to conceal. Chafee is the latest in a long line of politicians who devoted himself to union interests in order to get elected. And Bob Walsh confirmed this political coziness by objecting to Chafee’s sudden support for Raimondo’s proposal: “I can assure you we received promises [from Chafee] in writing.”

Exactly. The unions have been receiving promises for decades.

But this didn’t stop Downey from telling Tuesday’s crowd, “The unions didn’t create this pension! The politicians did!” And on the Helen Glover Show he insisted, “This is the General Assembly. They made this pension. They put this together.”

There is nothing left to call these statements but lies.

If the unions manage to block Raimondo’s proposal, several years from now – when all of Rhode Island resembles Central Falls and all public employee pensions are undergoing drastic cuts – Michael Downey will be stepping to the microphone once again, blaming rich people and politicians for creating the mess.

And the union mob will cheer.

Travis Rowley (TravisRowley.com) is chairman of the RI Young Republicans and a consultant for the Barry Hinckley Campaign for US Senate.


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These union leaders are so desperate these days that they're lying with every breath. They're watching their power slip away as less and less people are buying in to their distortions, and standing up to their thugs. Downey should just resign. Call it a day.

Comment #1 by Drew M on 2011 11 11

Well said, Mr. Rowley. Democrats are against the unions on this issue. The Independent governor is, too. And so are the Republicans, of course. That's how extreme the union movement has become here in RI. And as Mr. Downey has illustrated, they have become extremely unethical as well.

Comment #2 by William Suffik on 2011 11 11

Michael Downey is among the biggest reasons this state is falling apart. These guys are so caught up in their hatred and greed that I'm convinced they think they're working for a great cause. Their cause is destructive and immoral. great article.

Comment #3 by Kevin O'Connor on 2011 11 11

Thank God for Travis Rowley. When ever I think this state can step up to a level of conversation that is non-political and devoid of the vitriol that reeks of "holier-than-thou" conservative nonsense, good old Travis pokes his head above the bunker. I enjoy reading his rants against the democratic principles upheld by law and Supreme Court decisions. There is nothing like the warm wind of fascism to make you appreciate democratic ideals. Keep talking Travis, it makes it easy to take sides.

Comment #4 by Joseph Fazio on 2011 11 11

JOSEPH FAZIO -....Looks like we have another non-response to another Rowley article. Fazio, all we see from you is sarcasm and non-arguments. Calling rowley's article "nonsense" and "rants" and "warm wind of fascism" doesn't just magically make it so. You actually have to tell us WHY.

Keep talking, Fazio, it makes it easier to discern who's winning the debate.

Comment #5 by Bryan Sullivan on 2011 11 11

Fazio's comment is representative of a recurring theme below all of travis rowley's columns....hardly ANYBODY ever confronts rowley's arguments. Quick, somebody let us know that rowley's father was a state cop!

Fazio, stop wasting everyone's time. Downey, have you resigned yet?

Comment #6 by Drew M on 2011 11 11

The union people in this state deserve better leadership than they get. But the again, so do the rest of us, what with the Governot and all.

Comment #7 by Michael Trenn on 2011 11 12

Yes, I beleive that ploiticains have lied to Rhode Islanders and have foisted this pension problem upon us. But a great majority of those politicains were/are union people or in the pocket of the unions. So it is technically correct that Micheal Downey has never proposed any legisilation, but his cronies have done the dirty work for him and the unions. This state has been in the clutches of Democrats and the unions for decades. We are now seeing the results of one party rule. Hopefully the new deal going through the legislature will work. Will the unions oppose even this newly changed version? And will Rhode Island tax payers decide that one of the other 49 states may be a better place to live and to do business?
Jim "Seamus" Dunn

Comment #8 by James Dunn on 2011 11 12

"Most recently Downey informed union workers, 'It doesn’t surprise me … [Chafee and Raimondo] would stand with other rich people … who want to strip us of our pensions!' ”
I don't get it.
What rich people? How about some names.
And if "they" are already rich, why meddle with other peoples' finances?
"Stripping" people of pensions is silly and has been suggested by no one. Modifications surely are needed; it's not 1972 anymore.
Absent modifications, before long, There Will Be No Money.
Amazingly, that likelihood goes ignored in the Land of Central Falls.

Comment #9 by E.J. Dunn on 2011 11 12

Look on the bright side Beaver, Downey is protecting the pension that your dad stole from the people!!

Comment #10 by Travis Yowley on 2011 11 12

And YOWLEY wins!....the biggest LOSER award....told you someone would mention the irrelevant fact that rowlye's day was a state cop. This can only be seen as an attempt to discredit rowley, rather than argue against him. The LIBERAL way!! All this YOWLEY guy ever does is use sarcasm and mockery (in fact, his fake-name is entirely sarcasm). Total loser.

Comment #11 by Drew M on 2011 11 12

@Drew M - Not to mention that YOWLEY's comment is completely wrong. Downey, in this instance, and as Rowley mentioned, is NOT "protecting" state police pensions. He's playing "class warfare between state employees." He's throwing judges and state cops "under the bus."

Comment #12 by Bryan Sullivan on 2011 11 12

And, actually, Yowley is betraying state police too, by saying that state police "stole their pensions from the people." I'm sure the state police would be interested to know exactly how their supposedly staunch "champions of the working class" truly feel about them and the deals that THEY have bargained with the state.

Like Rowley said, "So much for solidarity!" What a bunch of two-faced clowns.

Comment #13 by Bryan Sullivan on 2011 11 12

If all the world's a stage, why don't more people rehearse?

Comment #14 by E.J. Dunn on 2011 11 13

Man you guys fall for it all the time!!

Comment #15 by Travis Yowley on 2011 11 13

Wow. What a loser.

Comment #16 by Drew M on 2011 11 14

Cheers, for a great commentary by Travis Rowley. The union leaders have resorted to gnashing and gnawing, like wild animals backed in to a corner by name calling, and stabbing their own brethren in the back as they are realize their strongholds are slowly being whittled away. I can’t help but watch with awe how they are rising up to their own demise. What’s really interesting to see, is that a woman with an awesome resume, is causing the empire to crumble and bring it to its knees.

Comment #17 by Marcia O'Connor on 2011 11 14

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