Back in 2008, Big Labor placed all its bets on Barack Obama, spending millions and millions on getting him elected. And it was not out of the goodness of their hearts — it was an investment. The unions had been seeing more and more of their clout eroded, and Obama made them the best promises to get some of that back.
So, how’s that working out for ya?
Well, the president of the SEIU (the Service Employees International Union, or the “Purple Thugs”) has pretty much a standing invite to the White House, and is among the top visitors. Apart from that, not so great.
Big Labor sunk a lot of effort into getting their guy, Craig Becker, confirmed by the Senate to the National Labor Relations Board, the watchdog agency for union-employer relations. They’re the ones that oversee union elections, investigate abuses by both unions and employers, and in general are the “cops” for that occasionally-fractious relationship.
Well, Becker, currently counsel to the aforementioned SEIU, got hung up in Congress. It seems that some of the Senators thought that his previous positions — including arguing in court that certain workers simply aren’t smart enough to know their own best interests, and ought to only choose which union represents them instead of whether or not a union should represent them — were a bit one-sided for such a powerful position.
That position put me in mind of this exchange from the episode “I, Mudd” from the original Star Trek, between con man Harry Mudd and Mr. Spock:
“Worse than that; do you know what the penalty for fraud is on Deneb V?”
“The guilty party has his choice; death by electrocution, death by gas, death by phaser, death by hanging-”
“Mr. Spock – the key word in your entire peroration was… d-death.”
Substitute “union” for “death,” and you get the idea:
“Workers, congratulations! It’s time for the union elections! You get to decide if you’re going to be fleeced by the SEIU, the Teamsters, the AFL-CIO, the IBEW, AFSCME, the NEA the UAW, or fill in the blank.”
“Hey, where’s the ‘none of the above’ option?”
“Stupid proles, you NEED a union to protect you! Now shut up and vote!”
It’s understandable why the unions would be looking for the government for help. After all, that’s becoming their base. Just in the last year, the majority of union members were not found in the private sector, but working for the government at some level.
Oh, they’ve had some victories. At the federal level, their allies in DC helped them pull off a major coup. Excessive union expenses have been the bane of domestic auto makers for decades, and those — plus a host of other problems — led to the federal government buying out Chrysler and GM last year. When the dust settled, the UAW found itself owning sizable chunks of both companies. Further, when the Obama administration started talking about new taxes on big banks to recoup TARP money, they pointedly excluded certain big banks who had not paid back the TARP money from the fee — including the banks owned by GM and Chrysler.
And, in an astonishing coincidence, GM and Chrysler’s new owners in DC have been all over Toyota (and its largely non-union American work force) over safety issues and recalls.
In Wausau, they got an 86-year-old volunteer crossing guard fired so they could give that job to a union worker. And in Michigan, they forced union “membership” (with dues forcibly withheld by the state) on 40,000 day care providers with a nice little stealth move by pet legislators. This led to some rather intriguing situations for some sole proprietorships, where they were being told by a union that they (the worker) needed the union’s help in properly negotiating with management (again, them). One can easily visualize some stay-at-home mother who runs a small day care out of her home going on strike against herself, picketing her own home, and calling on her union brethren to help her publicize how badly she’s treating herself.
They’re still holding out for their Holy Grail, though — Card Check, as enshrined in the Orwellian-named “Employee Free Choice Act.”
Card check is one step in the organizing of a union. Under current law, if 30% of the employees of a company sign a card in favor of union representation, the NLRB (see above) then organizes a secret ballot election by the employees, overseeing it to make certain there is no intimidation from either side. If the threshold of 50% is exceeded, then the employer can voluntarily waive the election and just recognize the union outright. But if they protest, the election still goes on.
The EFCA (I just can’t bring myself to repeat the lie of the title) changes that. If the union organizers can reach that 50%, by hook or by crook, then only the NLRB could insist on an election — and then only if they have good reason.
One wonders what people like Mr. Becker — who has challenged employees’ rights to not be members of a union at all — would consider “improper” union recruiting tactics.
When an organization finds itself hemorrhaging members the way unions are, there are two approaches to take to stave off extinction: a thorough self-scrutiny to find out what they’re doing wrong and fixing it, or exceptional chicanery to coerce and con new people into signing up.
It’s becoming clear which path Big Labor is taking. They bought this presidency, dammit, spending roughly nine figures on getting him into office. They want a return on their investment — and that return will be coming out of our pockets.