Barack won't let Big Labor down

Collectivism, discredited around the world, surges in the U.S.

On June 26, the AFL-CIO brass officially endorsed Barack Obama for president. With Big Labor's largest umbrella organization — and its member unions — pouring unprecedented resources into the general election campaign, the public ought to fear the legislative payback that would ensue if Obama were elected.

Indeed, Big Labor is launching its largest political campaign in its history, and this year, more than ever, Big Labor means Big Money. The two largest union coalitions — the AFL-CIO and the "Change to Win" Federation, a coalition of labor unions formed in 2005 as an alternative to the AFL-CIO — admit that they will spend at least $300 million on federal elections alone. When combined with political action committees, local unions and other union funders, at least $1 billion of pro-union money is being dumped into electioneering. You can bet the union bosses expect a lot of "change" from Obama next year on labor law. An Obama administration — possibly coupled with a filibuster-proof Senate — will feel a real sense of obligation to repay Big Labor that supported them.

Top on the Big Labor agenda is the "Employee Free Choice Act" (EFCA), which is better described as the Employee 'No Free Choice' Act. If it passes, employees would be subjected to a "card check" system which effectively requires them to declare publically their support or opposition to unionizing their shop. Without the protection of the secret ballot, workers would be subject to coercion and deceptive practices by pro-union forces. Mandatory card check union drives will mean that millions more American workers will be forced to join unions and facing the "choice" between paying union dues or being fired. Both President Bush and John McCain have said they would veto this union power grab, while Obama is a co-sponsor and leading advocate.

Another pro-union bill on the fast track is the misnamed "Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act." If it becomes law, the bill would force state and local governments to collectively bargain with union officials over all contracts involving police officers, firefighters, and paramedics. This would be required even in "Right to Work" states that currently guarantee workers the right to choose whether or not to join a union. Public safety employees would no longer be permitted to bargain individually and could be forced to accept the union's "representation" — like it or not. The bill would also facilitate union efforts to stamp out the proud tradition of volunteer firefighting. It would create massive unfunded mandates by imposing significant additional costs on state and local governments which are not reimbursed by the federal government.

Like the other bills, the police and firefighter unionization bill has so far been blocked — barely — in the Senate, backstopped by a Bush veto threat. But it would likely be unstoppable under an Obama presidency. One of Obama's pet projects is the Patriot Employers Act, which he introduced last August. The bill offers incentives — in the form of tax breaks — to employers that comply with a litany of Big Labor demands. To get these tax breaks, companies need to agree to eliminate secret ballot elections for unionizing in their shop and to enforce a gag rule on truthful speech about the downsides of unionization.

An Obama White House will also seek law changes that prohibit permanent replacement of striking workers. Under current law, an employer has the right to continue operating during a strike by hiring replacement workers. In advocating a ban on striker replacements, Obama's message is clear — union-ordered strikes would be automatic winners, and American workplaces would come to a screeching halt in the face of extortionate union demands.

Obama would also invariably promote the ultimate, though rarely spoken, goal of Big Labor: ending the rights of "Right to Work" states to preserve the rights of employees to decide for themselves whether or not to join or financially support a union. All Right to Work protections would be eliminated by repealing Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act. Without this provision, forced unionism would prevail in all states, and states could not protect private sector workers from union demands to pay dues to them as a condition of employment. This would be a huge win for unions and pro-union candidates — literally billions of additional dollars in new coerced dues would flow into Big Labor's coffers which could be used to support pro-union candidates. So the union bosses have found their man. With their billion-dollar bet on Barack Obama, they know that the payoff of new union coercive powers will be worth the trouble.

- Mallory Factor, a Charleston resident, is a financial consultant and the co-founder of The Monday Meeting, a New York-based monthly gathering of economic conservatives and corporate leaders.


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