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Ivan Osorio and William Kovacs - Labor Unions and the Democratic Party

Ivan Osorio and William Kovacs - Labor Unions and the Democratic Party

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Published by: Competitive Enterprise Institute on Jul 12, 2011
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July 2011
Labor Unions and the DemocraticParty
Page 1
Labor Notes
Page 8 
Labor Unions and the Democratic Party
Growing Rifts in the Coalition
Recently AFL-CIO President  Richard Trumka compared recent effortsto curb union power to a “wrecking ball.” He warned, “If leaders aren’t blocking the wrecking ball and advancing working  families’ interests, working people will not  support them. This is where our focus will be—now, in 2012 and beyond.” Of course,“Working familiesinterests” is union-speak  for union interests just as “working people”is a code word for labor unions. And 2012 isa reference to the upcoming elections. What is interesting is where Trumka directed histhreats—at Democrats.
FL-CIO President RichardTrumka has been issuing in-creasingly explicit warnings tothe Democratic Party: Shape up or organizedlabor will ship out. It’s not news when the president of the 11-million member labor federation savages Republican policies and politicians. But when the chief of Big Labor criticizes Democrats, however obliquely, people take notice. In a May 20 speech atthe National Press Club, Trumka warnedDemocrats metaphorically: He said “lead-ers” must block “the wrecking ball” or theywill lose union support.Less than a month later, in a June 7 speechto a nurses group, Trumka was far moreexplicit. He repeated the “wrecking ball”metaphor and reminded Democrats thatunions are “an independent labor move-ment” whose “goal is not to help parties andcandidates...For too long, we have been leftafter Election Day holding a canceled check waving it about — ‘Remember us? Remem-
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka addresses the National Press Club, May 20, 2011
 ber us? Remember us?’ — asking someoneto pay a little attention to us. Well, I don’tknow about you, but I’ve had a snootful of that [expletive deleted].”
By Ivan Osorio and Trey Kovacs
Labor WatchJuly 2011
Page 2 
Matt Patterson
Terrence Scanlon
1513 16th Street, NWWashington, DC 20036-1480
(202) 483-6900
Labor Watch
is published by CapitalResearch Center, a non-partisan educationand research organization classified by theIRS as a 501(c)(3) public charity. Reprintsare available for $2.50 prepaid to CapitalResearch Center.
Trumka is voicing organized labor’s frustra-tion with Democrats over their inability—or unwillingness—to give unions just abouteverything they want. After contributing re-cord sums to Democratic candidates in 2008,unions had every reason to expect that their demands would be met. In 2009 they wereelated when Barack Obama was sworn intooffice and both houses of Congress cameunder the control of Democratic majorities.So what happened to the so-called EmployeeFree Choice Act (EFCA), which would al-low unions to circumvent the secret ballotand use card check organizing (“sign thecard here and you’re in”) to overcome theattrition of union membership? In March2009, President Obama had announced to100 top union leaders, “We will pass theEmployee Free Choice Act.” Yet the billwent nowhere.Labor bosses also expected to see union par-tisans appointed to the National Labor Rela-tions Board (NLRB). But in March 2011,Obama had to settle for a recess appointmentof radical union lawyer Craig Becker to the NLRB after Senate Republicans filibusteredhis nomination—and for good reason. In hiswritings, Becker, a former associate coun-sel to the Service Employees InternationalUnion, said employers should play no rolein the unionization process and suggestedthat the NLRB could enact card check on itsown. Republican gains in the Senate reducethe likelihood of more terrible appointments,and Republican control of the House of Rep-resentatives means there is little hope thatorganized labor can make major legislativegains before the 2012 election.Union officials have yet another reason to be frustrated. Across America, state and lo-cal elected officials are trying to close huge budget deficits, and they are taking aim atlabor costs. Public sector union officialscould have foreseen that if Republicancandidates were successful they would tryto curb or end union collective bargaining privileges. After Republicans won big in2010 they quickly introduced bills to limitthese privileges, starting with a proposal byGovernor Scott Walker and newly-electedRepublican majorities in the Wisconsin statelegislature to curtail collective bargainingfor state employees. (Control of both housesof the Wisconsin legislature switched fromDemocratic to Republican for the first timesince 1938). Big Labor mobilized all itsforces to protest Walker’s budget proposal,and it did the same in Ohio where Repub-lican John Kasich was elected governor and Republicans won control of the statelegislature.
Unions and Democrats
Surprisingly, however, union leaders faceanother more troubling (for them) and unex- pected challenge: Democrats elected to stateoffices are trying to rein in union compensa-tion in the public sector. In Massachusetts, of all places, they are even working to restrictcollective bargaining privileges.To gain some measure of control over their runaway public finances, Democrat-con-trolled states are acknowledging that theywill have to make tough decisions that BigLabor will hate. Despite accepting millionsof dollars in union campaign contributions,some Democratic officeholders are ignor-ing Big Labor’s demands. They are seeking budget cuts and union concessions.“Public unions have a symbiotic relation-ship with the Democratic Party,“ observesManhattan Institute senior fellow DanielDiSalvo. “They provide essential campaigndollars and boots on the ground to Demo-cratic candidates. … Therefore, most effortsto alter collective bargaining rules, to givegovernment managers greater autonomy toinnovate, or to reduce the costs of compensa-tion, are likely to come from Republicans.”
July 2011Labor Watch
Page 3
However, DiSalvo has noticed that larger changes are taking place. Writing in
TheWashington Examiner 
, he argues that, “[T]here are outside forces that may make reforminevitable. Global competition and techno-logical innovation will demand it. That is if the huge unfunded liabilities for pensionsand health care don’t catch up with state andlocal governments first.”State budget problems have spiraled out of control since the 2008 financial crisis, andthey are causing governors and mayors toagree on one goal whatever their ideologi-cal leanings: They don’t want their states togo broke. Transcending the usual left-right political divide, some Democrats are defy-ing their labor union allies, and are movingaggressively to cut their budgets and limitthe power of public sector unions.When Republicans in Wisconsin and Ohiodo this, they create an intense union back-lash. But what happens when elected of-ficials with a “D” next to their names takeon union privileges in deep-blue states likeMassachusetts, Connecticut, and New York?
The Democrat-controlled MassachusettsHouse of Representatives shocked the na-tion on April 26, when it voted 111-42 tolimit collective bargaining for municipalemployees in the state through a provisionin the state’s Fiscal Year 2012 budget pro- posal (H.3400, Amendment #749). The billis now in the state Senate, where it faces atougher battle. Governor Deval Patrick, aDemocrat, has not promised to sign the bill, but he praised the House for its “important”vote, and earlier this year he floated a similar  proposal.
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