[MetroActive News&Issues]

[ Metro Santa Cruz | MetroActive Central | Archives ]

In Deep With the Dolphin Group

[whitespace] short picture description
One of the many anti-UFW fliers circulating in Watsonville strawberry fields.

Reagan, Deukmejian and Lungren all have ties to UFW nemesis

By Mary Spicuzza

A LEADING CRITIC of the UFW is the Los Angeles-based Strawberry Workers and Farmers Alliance (SWFA). The organization is run out of the offices of The Dolphin Group, a 20-year-old public relations firm which has represented large corporate interests, including the California Table Grape Commission and tobacco companies; Philip Morris USA is one of their leading clients. It also manages numerous Republican election campaigns.

The Dolphin Group was founded in 1974 by Bill Roberts, a consultant for the Republican National Committee who has managed hundreds of California campaigns, including Ronald Reagan's 1966 and 1970 successful gubernatorial runs. Roberts also led George Deukmejian's 1982 gubernatorial campaign against Tom Bradley, until he was fired for comments to the press suggesting that hidden racial bias, undetected in the polls, would aid Deukmejian's campaign. Bradley, who died recently, was black.

SWFA spokesperson Gary Caloroso insists that the two-year-old SWFA is not anti-union or anti-UFW.

"We are simply pro-open market," Caloroso explains.

When the San Francisco Chronicle labeled the SWFA "anti-union," Caloroso demanded a retraction.

Yet Caloroso has been involved in numerous press conferences with members of anti-UFW groups like the AWC and anti-union growers.

In July 1997 Caloroso and the SWFA held a high-profile news conference just hours after Berkeley-based attorney James D. Laurenz Jr. filed a case on behalf of two women claiming to be ex-UFW organizers who alleged that "a senior union officer had directed them to provide sexual favors to farm workers" in exchange for union membership. Laurenz worked closely with César Chávez and Dolores Huerta in the '60s, but lately has nearly made a career of filing anti-UFW lawsuits.

Several months later, Laurenz quietly withdrew the suit

"Sexual harassment lawsuits are hard enough as it is. You can't win without credible witnesses," Lorenz told the San Jose Mercury News, declining to discuss the matter further.

Lorenz is now serving as the lawyer for Coastal Berry employees accused of beating pro-UFW workers, claiming any actions taken in the July 1 violence were "an exercise of their free speech."

The Dolphin Group also played an active role in the campaign against the UFW's grape boycott and César Chávez with another one of its accounts, the Grape Workers and Farmers Coalition. After years of insisting the GWFC was an organization made up of grape workers and farmers, coalition spokesperson Avan Ortega admitted under oath in April 1992 that his group had no officers or offices outside The Dolphin Group. He described himself as an "account executive" paid by The Dolphin Group to manage the account.

The Dolphin Group has been in the news more recently, managing Dan Lungren's gubernatorial campaign. Lungren's younger brother, Brian, joined the firm two years ago.

Dan Lungren has come under fire by anti-smoking activists for his ties to Dolphin and Philip Morris, which in 1994 poured $30 million into Proposition 188, an initiative aimed at weakening statewide smoking laws. Lungren has been hesitant to join other states in suing tobacco companies for tobacco-related public health costs. Now Lungren is actively lobbying for passage of the controversial "guest worker program," an industry-backed bill which the UFW has denounced.

[ Santa Cruz | MetroActive Central | Archives ]

From the October 15-21, 1998 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.

Foreclosures - Real Estate Investing
San Jose.com Real Estate