Fat-cat unions cut Prez Bam no slack

Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act"
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Militant labor fascists lick their chops

Two months before Barack Obama is sworn in, opening salvos are being launched over what could become one of the thorniest issues his administration will face.

Organized labor, which spent about $80 million to put Obama in the White House and Democrats in Congress, wants him to deliver on its top priority: new rules to make it easier to unionize workplaces. American Rights at Work, a union-backed organization whose founder is David Bonior, a former Michigan congressman and one of Obama's economic advisers, launched a national ad campaign Sunday calling for the legislation.

Obama and his vice president-elect, Joe Biden, embraced the measure in the Senate last year, and on the campaign trail this year, particularly in front of union audiences.

Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act"

But the issue poses a quandary for the president-elect. If he pushes for the law, he risks alienating business—which also contributed heavily to his campaign and his party and will be crucial to his efforts to fix the crippled economy and overhaul the health-care system.

"President-elect Obama needs to think about how much political capital he wants to put behind this," said Glenn Spencer, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce executive who is leading the fight to kill the measure. If it is passed in Obama's first 100 days, Spencer said, it is "going to look like a special-interest payback."

The chamber stayed out of the presidential race but spent $35 million on the elections, much of it to try to keep Democrats from reaching the 60 Senate seats needed to block filibusters.

Paul Booth, a top official of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, is quick to say that congressional leaders will decide when to move the bill. But he has his view: "Sooner the better. I'm quite anxious to have it come up."

AFSCME, which backed Sen. Hillary Clinton during the Democratic presidential primaries, spent $50 million on the 2008 election, he estimated.

The issue involves the method by which unions organize workers. The Employee Free Choice Act, sponsored by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), would do away with secret-ballot elections and require employers to enter contract talks when a majority of workers sign union cards.

The legislation comes at a time when labor, while relatively strong among government workers, represents 12 percent of the total workforce, down from one-third at its height in the early 1950s.

Miller, the labor committee chairman, said he is all but certain that the measure will not be "the first bill out of the chute." But he also vowed that it is "not moving to the back of the train."

Barry Broad, a Teamsters lobbyist and attorney in Sacramento, believes the future of unions hangs in the balance. Broad was among hundreds of union people who walked door-to-door on Obama's behalf in Reno in the days leading up to the Nov. 4 election. Tens of thousands of other members did the same.

"Unions spoke with a nearly unanimous voice: This is their No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 priority in the next administration," said Broad, who believes quick passage is crucial.


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