Thursday, February 05, 2009

Obama's Union Payoff By Howie Rich

President Barack Obama is fond of telling how Abraham Lincoln “saved the union,” but it looks like the only unions he'll be trying to save during his presidency are those tied to America's organized labor movement.

After decades of being weeded out by the capitalist system due to their negative impact on profitability –and as a result, employment – unions seemed to be on the wane prior to the onset of the Obama presidency.

Once representing a massive 33.7% share of the private sector workforce, today only 7.8% of non-government workers are unionized.

In fact, the plight of the Big Three U.S. automakers (one of the few private sector industries where unions still thrive) has served to further illuminate the long-term profitability problems faced by union-heavy corporations.Of course, as the private sector has been ridding itself of unions, taxpayer dollars have kept them in business.

Representing only 9.8% of public sector workers in 1940, the percentage of unionized government employees totals an astonishing 36.5% today.

Along the way, government has further empowered labor by forcing the taxpayers to support their fundraising efforts, public contributions which – in many cases – have gone directly to support union political activity.

What sort of political activities, you may ask?

Well, unions gave more than $100 million to Obama and Democratic congressional candidates in 2008, a figure that doesn't even include their extensive voter registration and mobilization efforts, which benefited from an estimated 450,000 union “volunteers.”

And make no mistake about it, Obama is reciprocating that love with plenty of his own.In a comment reminiscent of his infamous “spread the wealth around” remark, last week Obama reaffirmed his unswerving commitment to radically altering U.S. employment policy in an effort to bring about a union renaissance.

“We need to level the playing field for workers and the unions that represent their interests, because we know that you cannot have a strong middle class without a strong labor movement,” he said.

His staffing decisions certainly bear witness to that movement.

In addition to naming longtime union-backer Hilda Solis to run the Department of Labor and former Teamsters' attorney Wilma Liebman to head the National Labor Relations Board, Obama has brought the unions directly into the White House as well, naming labor operative Patrick Gaspard as his political director.

But the new administration's commitment to labor goes much deeper than just rhetoric or staffing decisions that have been praised by such organizations as the Communist Party USA and the Democratic Socialists of America.

In fact, much more dangerous to our nation's history of free markets and individual liberty are the policies Obama's pro-union forces are pushing.

In less than three weeks, Obama has already signed three pro-union executive orders, with another two on the way designed to steer money from his massive public sector bailout toward union firms.

And then there is labor's top priority – the so-called “Employee Free Choice Act,” which among other provisions would strip away workers' rights to a secret ballot in determining whether or not they wish to be represented by a union.

Some estimate that the “Employee Free Choice Act” could double the number of union employees in America within a decade, taking us back to the dark days of the 1970's when America's economy sputtered along following the implementation of Lyndon Johnson's “Great Society.”

Having failed to recruit new members with all of their taxpayer-funded advantages (particularly workers aged 24-35), unions are now seeking to add hundreds of thousands of American laborers into their ranks through this new method of “recruitment.”

American workers deserve the right to choose – but more importantly they deserve the opportunity to work. A renaissance of unionism in our country would take those rights away from millions.

The author is Chairman of Americans for Limited Government.

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