Commentary Magazine


Topic: federal labor law

Was It Something They Did?

Big Labor has an image problem. It seems that helping to run the American car industry into the ground (with help from less-than-stellar management, of course), trying to snag a sweetheart deal to exempt its members from the Cadillac excise tax on health-care plans, and making a run at abolishing secret-ballot elections in the workplace have left a bad taste in the mouths of American. A Pew survey tells us:

Favorable views of labor unions have plummeted since 2007, amid growing public skepticism about unions’ purpose and power. Currently, 41% say they have a favorable opinion of labor unions while about as many (42%) express an unfavorable opinion. In January 2007, a clear majority (58%) had a favorable view of unions while just 31% had an unfavorable impression. … In April 2009, 61% agreed with the statement “labor unions are necessary to protect the working person,” down from 68% in 2007 and 74% in 2003. In the same survey, six-in-ten (61%) agreed that “labor unions have too much power,” up from 52% in 1999.

The Pew report notes that this is consistent with surveys by other polling outfits. Big Labor’s approval ratings have plunged in all demographic and racial groups. Only union households (of which there are fewer every year) think their unions are doing a bang-up job.

Big Labor would have us believe that its decline is attributable to rigged federal labor rules or nefarious employers. But the reality is that most Americans don’t see unions doing much good for them — but they do see union bosses acting like every other strong-arming, special-interest group. So it may not be an issue of whether federal labor law is outmoded but whether labor unions are.

Big Labor has an image problem. It seems that helping to run the American car industry into the ground (with help from less-than-stellar management, of course), trying to snag a sweetheart deal to exempt its members from the Cadillac excise tax on health-care plans, and making a run at abolishing secret-ballot elections in the workplace have left a bad taste in the mouths of American. A Pew survey tells us:

Favorable views of labor unions have plummeted since 2007, amid growing public skepticism about unions’ purpose and power. Currently, 41% say they have a favorable opinion of labor unions while about as many (42%) express an unfavorable opinion. In January 2007, a clear majority (58%) had a favorable view of unions while just 31% had an unfavorable impression. … In April 2009, 61% agreed with the statement “labor unions are necessary to protect the working person,” down from 68% in 2007 and 74% in 2003. In the same survey, six-in-ten (61%) agreed that “labor unions have too much power,” up from 52% in 1999.

The Pew report notes that this is consistent with surveys by other polling outfits. Big Labor’s approval ratings have plunged in all demographic and racial groups. Only union households (of which there are fewer every year) think their unions are doing a bang-up job.

Big Labor would have us believe that its decline is attributable to rigged federal labor rules or nefarious employers. But the reality is that most Americans don’t see unions doing much good for them — but they do see union bosses acting like every other strong-arming, special-interest group. So it may not be an issue of whether federal labor law is outmoded but whether labor unions are.

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Re: Re: Laboring for Obama

As I suspected, the nomination of Harold Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board seems to be in peril. Republican Sens. Mike Enzi and Lisa Murkowski, who previously supported his nomination last fall, voted against Becker in a straight party-line vote today in committee. Enzi in a statement explained his objections:

Mr. Becker’s answers to written questions that senators submitted previously on these views are vague, and sometimes non-responsive due to his attorney relationship with both SEIU and the AFL-CIO . . This has left open the real possibility that Mr. Becker would reinterpret the National Labor Relations Act to limit the ability of employers to participate in the process, or tilt the playing field unfairly in the direction of labor union leaders.

And today, Scott Brown joined the Senate as the 41st Republican vote, enough for a filibuster of Becker’s nomination, should it come to that. The real question for voters remains, or should remain, why every single Democrat would rubber stamp a nominee who is obviously so biased and so committed to one side in labor disputes. The NLRB is supposed to be a neutral body that interprets federal labor law. Who really thinks the associate general counsel to both the Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO is going to give employers a fair shake? Can any senator buy Becker’s testimony that he no longer believes his own writings advocating that the Board can radically change labor law without Congressional authorization? Let’s be honest: this was a big giveaway to Big Labor that could only have been delivered if 60 Democrats were willing to hold their noses and vote to confirm him.

Well, Brown’s appearance will have a dramatic effect on the Senate. ObamaCare is already comatose. Perhaps without the luxury of a filibuster-proof majority, the quality of the Obama nominees will also improve.

As I suspected, the nomination of Harold Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board seems to be in peril. Republican Sens. Mike Enzi and Lisa Murkowski, who previously supported his nomination last fall, voted against Becker in a straight party-line vote today in committee. Enzi in a statement explained his objections:

Mr. Becker’s answers to written questions that senators submitted previously on these views are vague, and sometimes non-responsive due to his attorney relationship with both SEIU and the AFL-CIO . . This has left open the real possibility that Mr. Becker would reinterpret the National Labor Relations Act to limit the ability of employers to participate in the process, or tilt the playing field unfairly in the direction of labor union leaders.

And today, Scott Brown joined the Senate as the 41st Republican vote, enough for a filibuster of Becker’s nomination, should it come to that. The real question for voters remains, or should remain, why every single Democrat would rubber stamp a nominee who is obviously so biased and so committed to one side in labor disputes. The NLRB is supposed to be a neutral body that interprets federal labor law. Who really thinks the associate general counsel to both the Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO is going to give employers a fair shake? Can any senator buy Becker’s testimony that he no longer believes his own writings advocating that the Board can radically change labor law without Congressional authorization? Let’s be honest: this was a big giveaway to Big Labor that could only have been delivered if 60 Democrats were willing to hold their noses and vote to confirm him.

Well, Brown’s appearance will have a dramatic effect on the Senate. ObamaCare is already comatose. Perhaps without the luxury of a filibuster-proof majority, the quality of the Obama nominees will also improve.

Read Less