Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 19, 2009

The Cobbler’s Children

If there is a more problematic union around today than the Service Employees International Union, I would rather not hear from it.

Over the years, the union has spent a great deal of money on outside vendors and contractors that — by some astonishing coincidence — are owned by close family members of the organization.

During the 2008 campaign, they vowed to spend pretty much whatever it would take to get Barack Obama and other Democrats elected — and it appeared that their definition of “whatever it takes” translated into about  $46,000,000.

A good chunk of that money came from contributions to the union’s PAC — whose coffers were stuffed by a truly unique fund-raising technique: according to a recent amendment to the SEIU’s constitution, each chapter has to contribute at least $6.00 per member to the PAC or risk a fine  of $1.50 per dollar of shortfall.

A clever move, only slightly impaired by the fact that it’s illegal: under federal law, PAC contributions must be entirely voluntary. You can’t demand people give to your PAC — unless, apparently, you’re a union.

The latest scandal involving the SEIU is more entertaining than outrageous, but it illustrates its essential nature quite well:  it’s trying to lay off 75 of its employees, but they’ve been hit with — of all things — a union grievance.

It would be a clear conflict of interest for the SEIU to represent its own employees, and hypocritical to deny them union representation, so there is the Union of Union Representatives (whose own employees, I presume, belong to yet another union). And the UUR has filed unfair labor practices charges with the National Labor Relations Board.

The complaints are so familiar, one wonders if the UUR simply took SEIU-filed grievances and cut and pasted them: improper notice before layoffs, bringing in temps to replace employees, banning union activities, and reclassifying workers to reduce those qualified for union membership.

This sort of hypocrisy is nothing new for unions.  A couple years ago, another union — the United Food and Commercial Workers — picketed a Wal-Mart in Las Vegas to get the workers inside unionized. However, the union didn’t send its members, it hired temp workers to do the picketing — temps who were paid less and had suffered conditions than the poor, oppressed folks inside.

As the old saying goes, it’s the cobbler’s children who go barefoot.

There was a time when labor unions served a truly valuable service for workers. Those days have, by and large, passed, and today’s union leaders are far more wrapped up in lining their own pockets and promoting their own political agendas.

Their efforts to get Barack Obama and other Democrats elected might help them postpone their demise, but it certainly won’t help them reform..

If there is a more problematic union around today than the Service Employees International Union, I would rather not hear from it.

Over the years, the union has spent a great deal of money on outside vendors and contractors that — by some astonishing coincidence — are owned by close family members of the organization.

During the 2008 campaign, they vowed to spend pretty much whatever it would take to get Barack Obama and other Democrats elected — and it appeared that their definition of “whatever it takes” translated into about  $46,000,000.

A good chunk of that money came from contributions to the union’s PAC — whose coffers were stuffed by a truly unique fund-raising technique: according to a recent amendment to the SEIU’s constitution, each chapter has to contribute at least $6.00 per member to the PAC or risk a fine  of $1.50 per dollar of shortfall.

A clever move, only slightly impaired by the fact that it’s illegal: under federal law, PAC contributions must be entirely voluntary. You can’t demand people give to your PAC — unless, apparently, you’re a union.

The latest scandal involving the SEIU is more entertaining than outrageous, but it illustrates its essential nature quite well:  it’s trying to lay off 75 of its employees, but they’ve been hit with — of all things — a union grievance.

It would be a clear conflict of interest for the SEIU to represent its own employees, and hypocritical to deny them union representation, so there is the Union of Union Representatives (whose own employees, I presume, belong to yet another union). And the UUR has filed unfair labor practices charges with the National Labor Relations Board.

The complaints are so familiar, one wonders if the UUR simply took SEIU-filed grievances and cut and pasted them: improper notice before layoffs, bringing in temps to replace employees, banning union activities, and reclassifying workers to reduce those qualified for union membership.

This sort of hypocrisy is nothing new for unions.  A couple years ago, another union — the United Food and Commercial Workers — picketed a Wal-Mart in Las Vegas to get the workers inside unionized. However, the union didn’t send its members, it hired temp workers to do the picketing — temps who were paid less and had suffered conditions than the poor, oppressed folks inside.

As the old saying goes, it’s the cobbler’s children who go barefoot.

There was a time when labor unions served a truly valuable service for workers. Those days have, by and large, passed, and today’s union leaders are far more wrapped up in lining their own pockets and promoting their own political agendas.

Their efforts to get Barack Obama and other Democrats elected might help them postpone their demise, but it certainly won’t help them reform..

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Unlike the president, who seems to lack rudimentary bargaining skills, GM’s CEO is “softening” on the bankruptcy option. Why? He’s looking for concessions from the UAW in excess of what Ford obtained so he needs the threat of Chapter 11 (which would void the entire collective bargaining agreement). Gosh, if he had done this last year might the taxpayers have saved $20B and the concessions have already been extracted?

The Wall Street Journal editors strongly take exception to the president’s phony approach to the War on Terror : “He lambastes his predecessor, then makes cosmetic changes that leave the substance of Bush policy intact. But Mr. Obama’s decision last week to renounce the term ‘enemy combatant’ is almost a parody of this method, given that the ‘new standard’ for detaining terrorists is identical to the old one.”

Blue Dogs flee from card check?

Is Terry McAuliffe hoping people will forget he fought alongside Hillary Clinton against Barack Obama to the primary’s bitter end? Seems so.

Republicans write a “no way” letter to the president about his “charge the vets for service-related injuries” gambit. (Even Jon Stewart figured out “That can’t be right.”) And after several days of this lunacy, Obama caves.

So: time for the next stupid idea! This one from Eric Holder: potentially releasing Guantanamo detainees into the U.S. Let’s see how many Congressional Democrats support that one.

SEIU has its own labor problems and is keen on subcontracting out work performed by bargaining unit employees. It becomes more clear with each passing day why Big Labor wants to snuff out secret ballots.

Republicans are indeed pushing AIG as an issue in the NY-20 race. It wasn’t hard to spot this coming.

And they are pushing to dump Geithner. Democrats are “lukewarm,” but not yet calling for his head. After all, not since Alexander Hamilton have we had such challenges.

You think this “Chris Dodd lied” CNN package will come back in the 2010 election? Well, only if Dodd decides not to retire.

The New York Times  describes the gathering storm over Geithner: “The mixed messages on A.I.G. gave further ammunition to critics who had begun questioning Mr. Geithner’s credibility as the administration’s point man on the economy, an essential commodity if he is to help restore consumer confidence. Fair or not, questions about why Mr. Geithner did not know sooner about the A.I.G. bonuses and act to stop them threaten to overwhelm his achievements and undermine Mr. Obama’s overall economic agenda. The controversy comes as Mr. Geithner is about to announce details of the restructured bank rescue program, and it clouds prospects for more rescue funds that the administration is all but certain to need.”

Unlike the president, who seems to lack rudimentary bargaining skills, GM’s CEO is “softening” on the bankruptcy option. Why? He’s looking for concessions from the UAW in excess of what Ford obtained so he needs the threat of Chapter 11 (which would void the entire collective bargaining agreement). Gosh, if he had done this last year might the taxpayers have saved $20B and the concessions have already been extracted?

The Wall Street Journal editors strongly take exception to the president’s phony approach to the War on Terror : “He lambastes his predecessor, then makes cosmetic changes that leave the substance of Bush policy intact. But Mr. Obama’s decision last week to renounce the term ‘enemy combatant’ is almost a parody of this method, given that the ‘new standard’ for detaining terrorists is identical to the old one.”

Blue Dogs flee from card check?

Is Terry McAuliffe hoping people will forget he fought alongside Hillary Clinton against Barack Obama to the primary’s bitter end? Seems so.

Republicans write a “no way” letter to the president about his “charge the vets for service-related injuries” gambit. (Even Jon Stewart figured out “That can’t be right.”) And after several days of this lunacy, Obama caves.

So: time for the next stupid idea! This one from Eric Holder: potentially releasing Guantanamo detainees into the U.S. Let’s see how many Congressional Democrats support that one.

SEIU has its own labor problems and is keen on subcontracting out work performed by bargaining unit employees. It becomes more clear with each passing day why Big Labor wants to snuff out secret ballots.

Republicans are indeed pushing AIG as an issue in the NY-20 race. It wasn’t hard to spot this coming.

And they are pushing to dump Geithner. Democrats are “lukewarm,” but not yet calling for his head. After all, not since Alexander Hamilton have we had such challenges.

You think this “Chris Dodd lied” CNN package will come back in the 2010 election? Well, only if Dodd decides not to retire.

The New York Times  describes the gathering storm over Geithner: “The mixed messages on A.I.G. gave further ammunition to critics who had begun questioning Mr. Geithner’s credibility as the administration’s point man on the economy, an essential commodity if he is to help restore consumer confidence. Fair or not, questions about why Mr. Geithner did not know sooner about the A.I.G. bonuses and act to stop them threaten to overwhelm his achievements and undermine Mr. Obama’s overall economic agenda. The controversy comes as Mr. Geithner is about to announce details of the restructured bank rescue program, and it clouds prospects for more rescue funds that the administration is all but certain to need.”

Read Less




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