Commentary Magazine


Topic: Service Employees International Union

A No Good, Rotten Time for Big Labor

Big Labor is having a tough time. You’d think that after spending millions in hard and soft money to get Obama and a Democratic Congress elected, they’d be flying high. But alas, the public’s approval of labor unions has never been lower. And unions’ No. 1 priority — card check — never even came to a vote. Many of the beneficiaries of Big Labor cash are going to get swept out in November. And now this:

The FBI and U.S. Labor Department are looking into two deals involving Andy Stern — over a six-figure book contract given to the former head of the Service Employees International Union and payments to a labor leader convicted on separate fraud charges, a source familiar with the case told Fox News on Tuesday.

Alejandro Stephens, who was sentenced early this month to four months in prison and three months of home confinement for defrauding a non-profit organization in “bogus consulting agreements,” is former president of SEIU local 660 in Los Angeles.

Questioning of Stern, who is a member of President Obama’s debt commission, revolve around whether he paid Stephens $150,000 to do nothing as the local union boss. Stephens and Stern met with federal agents this summer to answer questions about the relationship.

Do you think it might be a good idea to take Stern off the commission?

As with many liberal groups and activists, Big Labor is experiencing the worst of times. Would you have imagined this two years ago?

Big Labor is having a tough time. You’d think that after spending millions in hard and soft money to get Obama and a Democratic Congress elected, they’d be flying high. But alas, the public’s approval of labor unions has never been lower. And unions’ No. 1 priority — card check — never even came to a vote. Many of the beneficiaries of Big Labor cash are going to get swept out in November. And now this:

The FBI and U.S. Labor Department are looking into two deals involving Andy Stern — over a six-figure book contract given to the former head of the Service Employees International Union and payments to a labor leader convicted on separate fraud charges, a source familiar with the case told Fox News on Tuesday.

Alejandro Stephens, who was sentenced early this month to four months in prison and three months of home confinement for defrauding a non-profit organization in “bogus consulting agreements,” is former president of SEIU local 660 in Los Angeles.

Questioning of Stern, who is a member of President Obama’s debt commission, revolve around whether he paid Stephens $150,000 to do nothing as the local union boss. Stephens and Stern met with federal agents this summer to answer questions about the relationship.

Do you think it might be a good idea to take Stern off the commission?

As with many liberal groups and activists, Big Labor is experiencing the worst of times. Would you have imagined this two years ago?

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If You Want Something Done Right

Notwithstanding Janet Napolitano’s assertions, the administration’s anti-terrorism system hasn’t “worked.” Instead, ordinary airline passengers have proven to be our best defense.

The Obama Justice Department isn’t keen on enforcing Section No. 8 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires that states and localities clean up their voting rolls to prevent fraud. So ordinary citizens are doing what the Justice Department won’t — uncovering voter fraud. This report explains that 50 friends took up the effort after seeing what went on in Houston on Election Day 2008:

“What we saw shocked us,” [ Catherine Engelbrecht] said. “There was no one checking IDs, judges would vote for people that asked for help. It was fraud, and we watched like deer in the headlights.”

Their shared experience, she says, created “True the Vote,” a citizen-based grassroots organization that began collecting publicly available voting data to prove that what they saw in their day at the polls was, indeed, happening — and that it was happening everywhere.

“It was a true Tea Party moment,” she remembers.

They set up their own voter-fraud unit:

“The first thing we started to do was look at houses with more than six voters in them” Engelbrecht said, because those houses were the most likely to have fraudulent registrations attached to them. “Most voting districts had 1,800 if they were Republican and 2,400 of these houses if they were Democratic. …

“But we came across one with 24,000, and that was where we started looking.”

It was Houston’s poorest and predominantly black district, which has led some to accuse the group of targeting poor black areas. But Engelbrecht rejects that, saying, “It had nothing to do with politics. It was just the numbers.”

Perhaps the new Congress should privatize voter fraud investigations. These amateurs turned up an ACORN-like operation:

Most of the findings focused on a group called Houston Votes, a voter registration group headed by Steve Caddle, who also works for the Service Employees International Union. Among the findings were that only 1,793 of the 25,000 registrations the group submitted appeared to be valid. The other registrations included one of a woman who registered six times in the same day; registrations of non-citizens; so many applications from one Houston Voters collector in one day that it was deemed to be beyond human capability; and 1,597 registrations that named the same person multiple times, often with different signatures. …

“The integrity of the voting rolls in Harris County, Texas, appears to be under an organized and systematic attack by the group operating under the name Houston Votes,” the Harris voter registrar, Leo Vasquez, charged as he passed on the documentation to the district attorney.

And if that weren’t enough, the day after that announcement, “a three-alarm fire destroyed almost all of Harris County’s voting machines, throwing the upcoming Nov. 2 election into turmoil.” Imagine that.

It’s admirable that we have citizens like Engelbrecht who take their civic responsibilities seriously, but there’s no excuse for the Obama Justice Department’s indifference to voting fraud. If Engelbrecht could uncover a massive voter-fraud operation, imagine what a contentious Justice Department could turn up. You’d almost think that they don’t mind that the voting rolls in heavily Democratic districts are bloated with imaginary voters.

Notwithstanding Janet Napolitano’s assertions, the administration’s anti-terrorism system hasn’t “worked.” Instead, ordinary airline passengers have proven to be our best defense.

The Obama Justice Department isn’t keen on enforcing Section No. 8 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires that states and localities clean up their voting rolls to prevent fraud. So ordinary citizens are doing what the Justice Department won’t — uncovering voter fraud. This report explains that 50 friends took up the effort after seeing what went on in Houston on Election Day 2008:

“What we saw shocked us,” [ Catherine Engelbrecht] said. “There was no one checking IDs, judges would vote for people that asked for help. It was fraud, and we watched like deer in the headlights.”

Their shared experience, she says, created “True the Vote,” a citizen-based grassroots organization that began collecting publicly available voting data to prove that what they saw in their day at the polls was, indeed, happening — and that it was happening everywhere.

“It was a true Tea Party moment,” she remembers.

They set up their own voter-fraud unit:

“The first thing we started to do was look at houses with more than six voters in them” Engelbrecht said, because those houses were the most likely to have fraudulent registrations attached to them. “Most voting districts had 1,800 if they were Republican and 2,400 of these houses if they were Democratic. …

“But we came across one with 24,000, and that was where we started looking.”

It was Houston’s poorest and predominantly black district, which has led some to accuse the group of targeting poor black areas. But Engelbrecht rejects that, saying, “It had nothing to do with politics. It was just the numbers.”

Perhaps the new Congress should privatize voter fraud investigations. These amateurs turned up an ACORN-like operation:

Most of the findings focused on a group called Houston Votes, a voter registration group headed by Steve Caddle, who also works for the Service Employees International Union. Among the findings were that only 1,793 of the 25,000 registrations the group submitted appeared to be valid. The other registrations included one of a woman who registered six times in the same day; registrations of non-citizens; so many applications from one Houston Voters collector in one day that it was deemed to be beyond human capability; and 1,597 registrations that named the same person multiple times, often with different signatures. …

“The integrity of the voting rolls in Harris County, Texas, appears to be under an organized and systematic attack by the group operating under the name Houston Votes,” the Harris voter registrar, Leo Vasquez, charged as he passed on the documentation to the district attorney.

And if that weren’t enough, the day after that announcement, “a three-alarm fire destroyed almost all of Harris County’s voting machines, throwing the upcoming Nov. 2 election into turmoil.” Imagine that.

It’s admirable that we have citizens like Engelbrecht who take their civic responsibilities seriously, but there’s no excuse for the Obama Justice Department’s indifference to voting fraud. If Engelbrecht could uncover a massive voter-fraud operation, imagine what a contentious Justice Department could turn up. You’d almost think that they don’t mind that the voting rolls in heavily Democratic districts are bloated with imaginary voters.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Ben Smith sounds skeptical about this ad campaign: “If Alexi Giannoulias pulls this one off, it’ll be one for the annals of political history: He’s trying to cast the failure of his family’s bank — which he ran as recently as four years ago and which failed Friday, the latest casualty of the bad loans in the run-up to the financial crisis — as a reason to sympathize with him and vote for him.”

What — you’re skeptical that the SEC can investigate itself ? “The Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) investigative office said Sunday it had begun an investigation into whether charges against Goldman Sachs were politically timed.”

Michael Rubin is skeptical about the Obami spin that we need an ambassador in Damascus because Syria’s ambassador here doesn’t accurately relay information to Bashar Assad. “We have an embassy in Damascus, and we can pass messages anytime we so choose. If the State Department seriously believes the Syrian ambassador in Washington doesn’t report things back to Damascus (too busy, as he is, taking trips to Oklahoma and California), then Secretary Clinton can make clear to Damascus through other means that it’s time Syria sent responsible diplomats. But the fact is that Bashar al-Assad wants an American ambassador because it would symbolize his rehabilitation. The only question that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama should answer is whether they think that rehabilitation is warranted at this point in time.”

Americans remain overwhelmingly skeptical about the benefits of ObamaCare: “Support for repeal of the recently-passed national health care plan remains strong as most voters believe the law will increase the cost of care, hurt quality and push the federal budget deficit even higher. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 58% of likely voters nationwide favor repeal, while 38% are opposed. … Sixty percent (60%) of voters nationwide believe the new law will increase the federal budget deficit, while just 19% say it will reduce the deficit. Fifty-seven percent (57%) think the law will increase the cost of health care, while 18% believe it will reduce costs.”

James Capretta is skeptical of HHS Secretary Katheleen Sebelius’s spin on ObamaCare: “The chief actuary for Medicare has released a memorandum providing cost estimates for the final health legislation passed by Congress and signed by the president. Amazingly, the HHS secretary tried to suggest that the memo confirms that the legislation will produce the favorable results that the legislation’s backers have touted for months. That’s nothing but spin. In truth, the memo is another devastating indictment of the bill. It contradicts several key assertions by made by the bill’s proponents, including the president. For starters, the actuary says that the legislation will increase health care costs, not reduce them — by about $300 billion over a decade. … The actuary also says that the financial incentives in the bill will lead many employers to stop offering coverage altogether.”

Skeptical of the chances for a “Palestinian nonviolent movement“? You should be: “Proponents hope civil disobedience, part of a strategy they call the White Intifada, also will flummox Israeli authorities in their efforts to crack down on protesters waving banners rather than shooting automatic rifles, and cast Israeli soldiers as oppressors. Unlike Ghandi [sic] or the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., however, the Palestinians who support this approach for the most part don’t appear to be embracing nonviolence as a philosophy. Rather they see it as part of a calculated strategy to achieve Palestinian goals.”

The Gallup poll bolsters skeptics (like me) who doubt Obama’s ability to turn out young voters for a midterm election: “Younger voters remain less enthusiastic about voting in this year’s midterm elections than those who are older, underscoring the challenge facing the Democratic Party in its efforts to re-energize these voters, who helped President Obama win the presidency in 2008.”

Mark Hemingway is right to be skeptical that the new head of the Service Employees International Union wants the union to be “less political.”

Ben Smith sounds skeptical about this ad campaign: “If Alexi Giannoulias pulls this one off, it’ll be one for the annals of political history: He’s trying to cast the failure of his family’s bank — which he ran as recently as four years ago and which failed Friday, the latest casualty of the bad loans in the run-up to the financial crisis — as a reason to sympathize with him and vote for him.”

What — you’re skeptical that the SEC can investigate itself ? “The Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) investigative office said Sunday it had begun an investigation into whether charges against Goldman Sachs were politically timed.”

Michael Rubin is skeptical about the Obami spin that we need an ambassador in Damascus because Syria’s ambassador here doesn’t accurately relay information to Bashar Assad. “We have an embassy in Damascus, and we can pass messages anytime we so choose. If the State Department seriously believes the Syrian ambassador in Washington doesn’t report things back to Damascus (too busy, as he is, taking trips to Oklahoma and California), then Secretary Clinton can make clear to Damascus through other means that it’s time Syria sent responsible diplomats. But the fact is that Bashar al-Assad wants an American ambassador because it would symbolize his rehabilitation. The only question that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama should answer is whether they think that rehabilitation is warranted at this point in time.”

Americans remain overwhelmingly skeptical about the benefits of ObamaCare: “Support for repeal of the recently-passed national health care plan remains strong as most voters believe the law will increase the cost of care, hurt quality and push the federal budget deficit even higher. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 58% of likely voters nationwide favor repeal, while 38% are opposed. … Sixty percent (60%) of voters nationwide believe the new law will increase the federal budget deficit, while just 19% say it will reduce the deficit. Fifty-seven percent (57%) think the law will increase the cost of health care, while 18% believe it will reduce costs.”

James Capretta is skeptical of HHS Secretary Katheleen Sebelius’s spin on ObamaCare: “The chief actuary for Medicare has released a memorandum providing cost estimates for the final health legislation passed by Congress and signed by the president. Amazingly, the HHS secretary tried to suggest that the memo confirms that the legislation will produce the favorable results that the legislation’s backers have touted for months. That’s nothing but spin. In truth, the memo is another devastating indictment of the bill. It contradicts several key assertions by made by the bill’s proponents, including the president. For starters, the actuary says that the legislation will increase health care costs, not reduce them — by about $300 billion over a decade. … The actuary also says that the financial incentives in the bill will lead many employers to stop offering coverage altogether.”

Skeptical of the chances for a “Palestinian nonviolent movement“? You should be: “Proponents hope civil disobedience, part of a strategy they call the White Intifada, also will flummox Israeli authorities in their efforts to crack down on protesters waving banners rather than shooting automatic rifles, and cast Israeli soldiers as oppressors. Unlike Ghandi [sic] or the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., however, the Palestinians who support this approach for the most part don’t appear to be embracing nonviolence as a philosophy. Rather they see it as part of a calculated strategy to achieve Palestinian goals.”

The Gallup poll bolsters skeptics (like me) who doubt Obama’s ability to turn out young voters for a midterm election: “Younger voters remain less enthusiastic about voting in this year’s midterm elections than those who are older, underscoring the challenge facing the Democratic Party in its efforts to re-energize these voters, who helped President Obama win the presidency in 2008.”

Mark Hemingway is right to be skeptical that the new head of the Service Employees International Union wants the union to be “less political.”

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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.

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Re: Laboring for Obama

Obama’s nominee to the National Labor Relations Board, Harold Craig Becker, came under fire in his senate confirmation hearing yesterday. As controversial nominee are wont to do, he tried to distance himself from his past writings:

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R., Ga.) expressed concern that Becker’s writings “have indicated a belief that the NLRB has the power to make some of the dramatic changes in the card-check bill.” The so-called card-check legislation, supported by Obama and Democrats in Congress, would allow unions to bypass secret-ballot elections and instead organize in workplaces by collecting signed cards from workers.

Becker on Tuesday suggested that he now doesn’t believe the board could take such a step, distancing himself from the writings.

“The law is clear that the decision…(of) an alternative route to certification rests with Congress and not the board,” Becker said, adding that the writings were “intended to be provocative and to ask fundamental questions in order for scholars and others to re-evaluate.”

Now, he’s all about implementing the will of Congress, you see. (“‘If confirmed, my decisions, unlike the views of a scholar, will have practical, concrete and important consequences,’ he told members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee. ‘I will have a duty to implement the intent of Congress.'”) That, of course, marks a stark reversal from his 1993 law review article, in which he claimed just the opposite, namely that election rules should be redrafted to favor unions and that the NLRB could do this all on its own without Congressional authorization.

Then the issue of his association with the SEIU surfaced:

Becker saw tough questioning from Sen. John McCain (R. Ariz.) over whether he would recuse himself from cases before the NLRB involving the Service Employees International Union, where Becker most recently worked. Becker said he would recuse himself from cases involving the Service Employees International Union for two years but stopped short of saying what he would do so in a case mentioned by McCain involving a local chapter of the union.

“If any other matter arises in which any questions can be raised or might be raised about my impartiality, I will take that very seriously,” Becker said.

McCain told Becker “that’s not good enough.”

The real question is whether Harry Reid will try to jam this nomination through before Scott Brown is seated next week and Republicans can mount a successful filibuster. If Reid decides to force the vote with Sen. Paul Kirk still casting votes nearly a month after the Massachusetts election, it will be one more example of the excesses of one-party rule — in which a president beholden to political patrons can put up a nominee with obvious bias and ethical problems, knowing that his dutiful senate allies will rubber stamp his choice. And what of those Red State senators who swear to their constituents that they exercise independent judgment? They keep assuring their constituents that they don’t simply do the bidding of their ultra-liberal leadership. Oh well, another time perhaps. Now, one suspects it is time to ram through a favor for Big Labor.

Obama’s nominee to the National Labor Relations Board, Harold Craig Becker, came under fire in his senate confirmation hearing yesterday. As controversial nominee are wont to do, he tried to distance himself from his past writings:

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R., Ga.) expressed concern that Becker’s writings “have indicated a belief that the NLRB has the power to make some of the dramatic changes in the card-check bill.” The so-called card-check legislation, supported by Obama and Democrats in Congress, would allow unions to bypass secret-ballot elections and instead organize in workplaces by collecting signed cards from workers.

Becker on Tuesday suggested that he now doesn’t believe the board could take such a step, distancing himself from the writings.

“The law is clear that the decision…(of) an alternative route to certification rests with Congress and not the board,” Becker said, adding that the writings were “intended to be provocative and to ask fundamental questions in order for scholars and others to re-evaluate.”

Now, he’s all about implementing the will of Congress, you see. (“‘If confirmed, my decisions, unlike the views of a scholar, will have practical, concrete and important consequences,’ he told members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee. ‘I will have a duty to implement the intent of Congress.'”) That, of course, marks a stark reversal from his 1993 law review article, in which he claimed just the opposite, namely that election rules should be redrafted to favor unions and that the NLRB could do this all on its own without Congressional authorization.

Then the issue of his association with the SEIU surfaced:

Becker saw tough questioning from Sen. John McCain (R. Ariz.) over whether he would recuse himself from cases before the NLRB involving the Service Employees International Union, where Becker most recently worked. Becker said he would recuse himself from cases involving the Service Employees International Union for two years but stopped short of saying what he would do so in a case mentioned by McCain involving a local chapter of the union.

“If any other matter arises in which any questions can be raised or might be raised about my impartiality, I will take that very seriously,” Becker said.

McCain told Becker “that’s not good enough.”

The real question is whether Harry Reid will try to jam this nomination through before Scott Brown is seated next week and Republicans can mount a successful filibuster. If Reid decides to force the vote with Sen. Paul Kirk still casting votes nearly a month after the Massachusetts election, it will be one more example of the excesses of one-party rule — in which a president beholden to political patrons can put up a nominee with obvious bias and ethical problems, knowing that his dutiful senate allies will rubber stamp his choice. And what of those Red State senators who swear to their constituents that they exercise independent judgment? They keep assuring their constituents that they don’t simply do the bidding of their ultra-liberal leadership. Oh well, another time perhaps. Now, one suspects it is time to ram through a favor for Big Labor.

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Laboring for Obama

As others have aptly detailed, Patricia Smith, Obama’s nominee for solicitor of labor, has a problem with telling the truth. In an extraordinary detailed account, Republican senators have documented her repeated misstatements concerning a New York wage and hour program, the intention to expand the program, the involvement of organized labor in devising the program, and the intention of Big Labor to use the program to facilitate organizing efforts. She was passed out of committee on a straight party-line vote and last night, with Sen. Paul Kirk still casting votes, the Senate invoked cloture, 60-32. So this seems to be one gift to Big Labor on which the Democrats can still deliver. (Yes, there is something pernicious about keeping Kirk there to vote in favors for Obama’s Big Labor patrons.)

But it is not the only gift to Big Labor coming from the Democrats. There is also the nomination of Harold Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board. His hearing is set for today. Who is Becker? Here’s a handy summary:

Mr. Becker is associate general counsel at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which is most recently in the news for its close ties to Acorn, the disgraced housing shakedown operation. President Obama nominated Mr. Becker in April to the five-member NLRB, which has the critical job of supervising union elections, investigating labor practices, and interpreting the National Labor Relations Act. In a 1993 Minnesota Law Review article, written when he was a UCLA professor, Mr. Becker argued for rewriting current union-election rules in favor of labor. And he suggested the NLRB could do this by regulatory fiat, without a vote of Congress.

In that law-review article, Becker argues that employers should be not be allowed to attend NLRB hearings about elections and shouldn’t be permitted to challenge election results even if unions engage in misconduct. Under his regime, elections would not be held at workplaces and could be conducted by mail (a recipe for union intimidation and fraud). In Becker’s legal world, employers would not be permitted to even assign observers at elections to detect fraud.

And Becker too has a candor problem, previously refusing to answer questions as to whether he drafted pro-Labor executive orders for the Obama administration while still on the SEIU’s payroll. Aside from his obvious fidelity to Big Labor, his apparent willingness to implement a ridiculously biased set of rules through executive fiat and his reluctance to come clean on his work for the Obami, there are his Chicago connections:

One of the many accusations leveled against former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is that he accepted money from the SEIU in return for taking actions giving collective bargaining rights to Illinois home health-care workers. While Mr. Becker denies any knowledge of, or role in, contributions to the former Governor, he does admit that he provided “advice and counsel to SEIU relating to proposed executive orders and proposed legislation giving homecare workers a right to organize and engage in collective bargaining under state law.”

Mr. Becker says he “worked with and provided advice” to SEIU Local 880 in Chicago, a beneficiary of the newly unionized health workers, and one of two SEIU locals currently in the national spotlight for its deep ties with Acorn. Mr. Becker denies working for Acorn or its affiliates, but as recently as April Acorn co-founder Wade Rathke praised Mr. Becker by name, noting “For my money, Craig’s signal contribution has been his work in crafting and executing the legal strategies and protections which have allowed the effective organization of informal workers, and by this I mean home health-care workers.”

Unlike Smith, Becker may not get a vote before Scott Brown is sworn in.

These two nominees tell us much about the Democrats and their dependence on Big Labor. When Obama talks about the unseemly influence of “special interests,” we should look no further than these two nominees, who—one supposes—are small consolation prizes to Big Labor, which has gotten precious little else from this adminstration after giving millions to elect Obama and large Democratic majorities in Congress. It is also yet another argument in favor of divided government. Without the comfort of huge Democratic majorities to rubber stamp its appointments, the White House would presumably think twice before sending up such defective nominees.

As others have aptly detailed, Patricia Smith, Obama’s nominee for solicitor of labor, has a problem with telling the truth. In an extraordinary detailed account, Republican senators have documented her repeated misstatements concerning a New York wage and hour program, the intention to expand the program, the involvement of organized labor in devising the program, and the intention of Big Labor to use the program to facilitate organizing efforts. She was passed out of committee on a straight party-line vote and last night, with Sen. Paul Kirk still casting votes, the Senate invoked cloture, 60-32. So this seems to be one gift to Big Labor on which the Democrats can still deliver. (Yes, there is something pernicious about keeping Kirk there to vote in favors for Obama’s Big Labor patrons.)

But it is not the only gift to Big Labor coming from the Democrats. There is also the nomination of Harold Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board. His hearing is set for today. Who is Becker? Here’s a handy summary:

Mr. Becker is associate general counsel at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which is most recently in the news for its close ties to Acorn, the disgraced housing shakedown operation. President Obama nominated Mr. Becker in April to the five-member NLRB, which has the critical job of supervising union elections, investigating labor practices, and interpreting the National Labor Relations Act. In a 1993 Minnesota Law Review article, written when he was a UCLA professor, Mr. Becker argued for rewriting current union-election rules in favor of labor. And he suggested the NLRB could do this by regulatory fiat, without a vote of Congress.

In that law-review article, Becker argues that employers should be not be allowed to attend NLRB hearings about elections and shouldn’t be permitted to challenge election results even if unions engage in misconduct. Under his regime, elections would not be held at workplaces and could be conducted by mail (a recipe for union intimidation and fraud). In Becker’s legal world, employers would not be permitted to even assign observers at elections to detect fraud.

And Becker too has a candor problem, previously refusing to answer questions as to whether he drafted pro-Labor executive orders for the Obama administration while still on the SEIU’s payroll. Aside from his obvious fidelity to Big Labor, his apparent willingness to implement a ridiculously biased set of rules through executive fiat and his reluctance to come clean on his work for the Obami, there are his Chicago connections:

One of the many accusations leveled against former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is that he accepted money from the SEIU in return for taking actions giving collective bargaining rights to Illinois home health-care workers. While Mr. Becker denies any knowledge of, or role in, contributions to the former Governor, he does admit that he provided “advice and counsel to SEIU relating to proposed executive orders and proposed legislation giving homecare workers a right to organize and engage in collective bargaining under state law.”

Mr. Becker says he “worked with and provided advice” to SEIU Local 880 in Chicago, a beneficiary of the newly unionized health workers, and one of two SEIU locals currently in the national spotlight for its deep ties with Acorn. Mr. Becker denies working for Acorn or its affiliates, but as recently as April Acorn co-founder Wade Rathke praised Mr. Becker by name, noting “For my money, Craig’s signal contribution has been his work in crafting and executing the legal strategies and protections which have allowed the effective organization of informal workers, and by this I mean home health-care workers.”

Unlike Smith, Becker may not get a vote before Scott Brown is sworn in.

These two nominees tell us much about the Democrats and their dependence on Big Labor. When Obama talks about the unseemly influence of “special interests,” we should look no further than these two nominees, who—one supposes—are small consolation prizes to Big Labor, which has gotten precious little else from this adminstration after giving millions to elect Obama and large Democratic majorities in Congress. It is also yet another argument in favor of divided government. Without the comfort of huge Democratic majorities to rubber stamp its appointments, the White House would presumably think twice before sending up such defective nominees.

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The Engine of Spending

As Jennifer referred to this morning, Andy Stern, the head of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is not happy with the idea of scaling back health-care “reform.” It is not exactly hard to see why Stern is upset. He represents over one million health-care workers. He also represents over a million government workers and a government takeover of health care is very much in his interest.

Andy Stern and the SEIU are the exemplars of the modern union movement, as the old union movement, personified by Walter Reuther and John L. Lewis, that was so influential in the mid-20th century is a shadow of its former self. Union membership peaked in the early 1950’s at about 35 percent of the nation’s workforce, virtually all of them in the private sector. It’s been declining ever since and is now at 7.2 percent of the workforce in the private sector, about where it was in 1900. What has been growing is union membership among government workers and non-profits such as hospitals: 37.4 percent of the public sector workforce is now unionized and these public-sector workers now constitute more than 50 percent of all union members.

As Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal made clear on Thursday, this is a very dangerous situation. The public service unions have acquired disproportionate political influence, pouring millions in dues money (more than $100 million in 2008) into political campaigns to elect Democrats, the party of government. They pour millions more into ads opposing any reform in government spending, even in states on the brink of bankruptcy, and pushing for higher taxes instead. In Massachusetts public safety spending is up by 139 percent in the last twenty years, education up by 44 percent, Medicaid up by 163 percent.

A big part of the problem is that the laws in place that cover collective bargaining were devised in the 1930’s when public-sector unions didn’t exist. A corporation is a wealth-creation machine and collective bargaining is a negotiation over how to divide the profits between stockholders and labor. Each side knows that if they drive too hard a bargain, they will injure the goose that lays the profit eggs. If labor is paid too much, the company will be less competitive. If it is paid too little, good workers will leave for better-paying jobs elsewhere. But in the public sector, unions and the bureaucrats who negotiate with them are playing with someone else’s money (yours, to be precise), and have overlapping interests in spending more of it. Bureaucrats, after all, measure their prestige by the size of the budget they control and the number of people who report to them.

The result has been an explosion in public-sector compensation. Federal workers now earn, in wages and benefits, about twice what their private-sector equivalents get paid. State workers often have Cadillac health plans and retirement benefits far above the private sector average: 80 percent of public-sector workers have pension benefits, only 50 percent in the private sector. Many can retire at age 50.

The public-sector unions have become the engine behind ballooning state and federal budgets. There will be no cure for excess government spending until their power is decisively curbed. It would be a winning issue for a Republican presidential candidate in 2012. The Democratic candidate, deeply beholden to Andy Stern, who has visited the White House more than anyone else not in government since Obama has been in office, will be very hard pressed to defend against such an attack but will have no option but to try.

As Jennifer referred to this morning, Andy Stern, the head of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is not happy with the idea of scaling back health-care “reform.” It is not exactly hard to see why Stern is upset. He represents over one million health-care workers. He also represents over a million government workers and a government takeover of health care is very much in his interest.

Andy Stern and the SEIU are the exemplars of the modern union movement, as the old union movement, personified by Walter Reuther and John L. Lewis, that was so influential in the mid-20th century is a shadow of its former self. Union membership peaked in the early 1950’s at about 35 percent of the nation’s workforce, virtually all of them in the private sector. It’s been declining ever since and is now at 7.2 percent of the workforce in the private sector, about where it was in 1900. What has been growing is union membership among government workers and non-profits such as hospitals: 37.4 percent of the public sector workforce is now unionized and these public-sector workers now constitute more than 50 percent of all union members.

As Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal made clear on Thursday, this is a very dangerous situation. The public service unions have acquired disproportionate political influence, pouring millions in dues money (more than $100 million in 2008) into political campaigns to elect Democrats, the party of government. They pour millions more into ads opposing any reform in government spending, even in states on the brink of bankruptcy, and pushing for higher taxes instead. In Massachusetts public safety spending is up by 139 percent in the last twenty years, education up by 44 percent, Medicaid up by 163 percent.

A big part of the problem is that the laws in place that cover collective bargaining were devised in the 1930’s when public-sector unions didn’t exist. A corporation is a wealth-creation machine and collective bargaining is a negotiation over how to divide the profits between stockholders and labor. Each side knows that if they drive too hard a bargain, they will injure the goose that lays the profit eggs. If labor is paid too much, the company will be less competitive. If it is paid too little, good workers will leave for better-paying jobs elsewhere. But in the public sector, unions and the bureaucrats who negotiate with them are playing with someone else’s money (yours, to be precise), and have overlapping interests in spending more of it. Bureaucrats, after all, measure their prestige by the size of the budget they control and the number of people who report to them.

The result has been an explosion in public-sector compensation. Federal workers now earn, in wages and benefits, about twice what their private-sector equivalents get paid. State workers often have Cadillac health plans and retirement benefits far above the private sector average: 80 percent of public-sector workers have pension benefits, only 50 percent in the private sector. Many can retire at age 50.

The public-sector unions have become the engine behind ballooning state and federal budgets. There will be no cure for excess government spending until their power is decisively curbed. It would be a winning issue for a Republican presidential candidate in 2012. The Democratic candidate, deeply beholden to Andy Stern, who has visited the White House more than anyone else not in government since Obama has been in office, will be very hard pressed to defend against such an attack but will have no option but to try.

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Promises? What Promises?

Union bosses are having a get-together with the president today to discuss his broken promise not to tax those families who make less than $250,000. They will meet behind closed doors, violating the promise to C-SPAN that we’d watch them all sit around a big table to work out the details. But for tough guys, these Big Labor fellas seem awfully wimpy, as this report explains:

Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), told The Hill on Friday that the final bill would likely include some form of the excise tax.“When you have a president who says he wants to incorporate it and a Senate that says it wants to incorporate it and some in the House who say they want to incorporate it, it’s hard to look that in the face and say we can just win this outright,” Stern said.

I wonder how their members feel about that. Millions and millions of dollars were taken from union members’ pockets to be spent in direct contributions and soft-money expenditures to elect Democrats to Congress and Obama to the White House. And what they get for that is nothing — worse than nothing. Union members already have health care. What they’re now going to get are tax increases. Or perhaps they’ll instead see those generous health-care benefits slashed to avoid the excise tax (so much for “guaranteeing” to keep the health plan you have). Meanwhile, unemployment is in double digits and employers aren’t anxious to hire anyone — union or nonunion. What exactly have union members gotten from Washington and from their own leaders?

And if union leaders succeed in trimming the tax, if not eliminating it, what then? Well, other Americans are going to get smacked because the money has to come from somewhere:

The Senate bill would raise about $150 billion from 2013 to 2019 by taxing employer-provided health plans costing more than $8,500 for individuals and $23,000 for families. Labor officials, citing an analysis by the Joint Committee on Taxation, claim this would hit nearly 31 million households by 2019. But limiting the excise tax would require Senate and House negotiators to find alternative sources of revenue to fund healthcare reform.

Who’s the likely victim? Well, it seems that “labor leaders may push for a bigger increase in the Medicare Hospital Insurance tax.” Because we haven’t stuck it to health-care providers or endangered the fiscal viability of Medicare enough, I suppose.

Well, Democrats are bound and determined to push something through. Now the only question, it seems, is determining which groups will hate the bill more: union members, seniors, young people (forced to buy insurance), the Left, the Right, good-government types, independents, or tax-hike opponents. So many groups, so many grievances.

Union bosses are having a get-together with the president today to discuss his broken promise not to tax those families who make less than $250,000. They will meet behind closed doors, violating the promise to C-SPAN that we’d watch them all sit around a big table to work out the details. But for tough guys, these Big Labor fellas seem awfully wimpy, as this report explains:

Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), told The Hill on Friday that the final bill would likely include some form of the excise tax.“When you have a president who says he wants to incorporate it and a Senate that says it wants to incorporate it and some in the House who say they want to incorporate it, it’s hard to look that in the face and say we can just win this outright,” Stern said.

I wonder how their members feel about that. Millions and millions of dollars were taken from union members’ pockets to be spent in direct contributions and soft-money expenditures to elect Democrats to Congress and Obama to the White House. And what they get for that is nothing — worse than nothing. Union members already have health care. What they’re now going to get are tax increases. Or perhaps they’ll instead see those generous health-care benefits slashed to avoid the excise tax (so much for “guaranteeing” to keep the health plan you have). Meanwhile, unemployment is in double digits and employers aren’t anxious to hire anyone — union or nonunion. What exactly have union members gotten from Washington and from their own leaders?

And if union leaders succeed in trimming the tax, if not eliminating it, what then? Well, other Americans are going to get smacked because the money has to come from somewhere:

The Senate bill would raise about $150 billion from 2013 to 2019 by taxing employer-provided health plans costing more than $8,500 for individuals and $23,000 for families. Labor officials, citing an analysis by the Joint Committee on Taxation, claim this would hit nearly 31 million households by 2019. But limiting the excise tax would require Senate and House negotiators to find alternative sources of revenue to fund healthcare reform.

Who’s the likely victim? Well, it seems that “labor leaders may push for a bigger increase in the Medicare Hospital Insurance tax.” Because we haven’t stuck it to health-care providers or endangered the fiscal viability of Medicare enough, I suppose.

Well, Democrats are bound and determined to push something through. Now the only question, it seems, is determining which groups will hate the bill more: union members, seniors, young people (forced to buy insurance), the Left, the Right, good-government types, independents, or tax-hike opponents. So many groups, so many grievances.

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Why State Budgets Are so Deep in the Red

A clear majority of the public, according to Rasmussen, thinks that the federal government should not bail out the state of California but rather let it declare bankruptcy. Even when told that the state might have to slash welfare and medical care for the disabled and elderly and cut state salaries by 14 percent, 53 percent favored that outcome over a federal bailout. Only 33 percent want the feds to help.

Bloated state payrolls are a large part of the problem with state budgets. While revenues have stagnated or fallen, employees have not been laid off, and salaries and benefits have continued to increase. These expenses now make up half of all state spending. As a Cato Institute report makes clear, state employees make out much better than do private-sector ones. In total compensation, state and local workers earn $1.45 for every dollar private workers earn. State workers get $2.18 in health benefits for every one dollar their private-sector counterparts earn. For every dollar in defined-benefit pension benefits given to private-sector workers, public-sector workers get $6.95. Some states allow workers to retire early, begin to collect a pension, and then go back to work for the state at their old job, earning a salary as well as a pension.

Federal workers do even better, earning more than twice what equivalent private-sector workers do. No wonder the ratio of government workers to the total population has been steadily falling. In 1940 there were about 31 Americans for every government worker. By 1970 the ratio was 18.5-to-1. Today it is 13.7-to-1. In this decade, the number of government workers exceeded the number of those in manufacturing. Part of the reason for that, of course, has been the great increase in productivity in manufacturing in recent decades. No such productivity increase in government, however.

And the most frequent non-governmental visitor to the White House since Obama became President? Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, which represents 1.8 million mostly government workers. It’s the largest and fastest growing union in the country. Its political clout is legendary, thanks to $60 million in contributions in the last election cycle and the ability to turn out large numbers of union workers at rallies.

The states cannot hope to regain fiscal health until the wages and benefits of state works are more nearly in line with those of the private sector.

A clear majority of the public, according to Rasmussen, thinks that the federal government should not bail out the state of California but rather let it declare bankruptcy. Even when told that the state might have to slash welfare and medical care for the disabled and elderly and cut state salaries by 14 percent, 53 percent favored that outcome over a federal bailout. Only 33 percent want the feds to help.

Bloated state payrolls are a large part of the problem with state budgets. While revenues have stagnated or fallen, employees have not been laid off, and salaries and benefits have continued to increase. These expenses now make up half of all state spending. As a Cato Institute report makes clear, state employees make out much better than do private-sector ones. In total compensation, state and local workers earn $1.45 for every dollar private workers earn. State workers get $2.18 in health benefits for every one dollar their private-sector counterparts earn. For every dollar in defined-benefit pension benefits given to private-sector workers, public-sector workers get $6.95. Some states allow workers to retire early, begin to collect a pension, and then go back to work for the state at their old job, earning a salary as well as a pension.

Federal workers do even better, earning more than twice what equivalent private-sector workers do. No wonder the ratio of government workers to the total population has been steadily falling. In 1940 there were about 31 Americans for every government worker. By 1970 the ratio was 18.5-to-1. Today it is 13.7-to-1. In this decade, the number of government workers exceeded the number of those in manufacturing. Part of the reason for that, of course, has been the great increase in productivity in manufacturing in recent decades. No such productivity increase in government, however.

And the most frequent non-governmental visitor to the White House since Obama became President? Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, which represents 1.8 million mostly government workers. It’s the largest and fastest growing union in the country. Its political clout is legendary, thanks to $60 million in contributions in the last election cycle and the ability to turn out large numbers of union workers at rallies.

The states cannot hope to regain fiscal health until the wages and benefits of state works are more nearly in line with those of the private sector.

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Big Labor Sold Out by Democrats

Harold Meyerson writes of Big Labor’s reaction to ObamaCare:

Labor believes, rightly, that the cost controls in the Senate bill come chiefly from insurance policy holders (among them, labor’s members), rather than from insurance and drug companies. Both the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union have condemned these provisions, while hailing the bill’s epochal creation of affordable health insurance for 30 million Americans. They’re careful, too, to exempt President Obama from their criticisms.

Actually, if the labor bosses had their members’ interests at heart, they’d be outraged and looking to upset the deal. For starters, insurance for 30 million Americans really doesn’t do much for their members,  nearly all of whom have union contracts giving them that benefit. (Come to think of it, unions dig their own graves by supporting mandatory benefits for nonunion workers, thereby lowering the incentive to unionize.) Moreover, the excise tax on Cadillac plans hits their members disproportionately and quite severely. Having run against a similar proposal by John McCain, now Obama is delivering the same bitter pill to his political allies, as Meyerson concedes:

Politically, in fact, the tax could set in motion the kind of dynamic that undermined many Great Society anti-poverty programs: taxing the working class to provide benefits to the poor (or, in this case, the uninsured). Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan smashed the Democrats’ New Deal coalition by fanning the racial and class tensions endemic to such programs.

So what exactly is in this for union members and why aren’t their leaders trying to stop this assault on their financial interests? You got me. But union members might start to wonder why millions in union dues are being used to support candidates who back legislation so hostile to their economic well being.

Harold Meyerson writes of Big Labor’s reaction to ObamaCare:

Labor believes, rightly, that the cost controls in the Senate bill come chiefly from insurance policy holders (among them, labor’s members), rather than from insurance and drug companies. Both the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union have condemned these provisions, while hailing the bill’s epochal creation of affordable health insurance for 30 million Americans. They’re careful, too, to exempt President Obama from their criticisms.

Actually, if the labor bosses had their members’ interests at heart, they’d be outraged and looking to upset the deal. For starters, insurance for 30 million Americans really doesn’t do much for their members,  nearly all of whom have union contracts giving them that benefit. (Come to think of it, unions dig their own graves by supporting mandatory benefits for nonunion workers, thereby lowering the incentive to unionize.) Moreover, the excise tax on Cadillac plans hits their members disproportionately and quite severely. Having run against a similar proposal by John McCain, now Obama is delivering the same bitter pill to his political allies, as Meyerson concedes:

Politically, in fact, the tax could set in motion the kind of dynamic that undermined many Great Society anti-poverty programs: taxing the working class to provide benefits to the poor (or, in this case, the uninsured). Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan smashed the Democrats’ New Deal coalition by fanning the racial and class tensions endemic to such programs.

So what exactly is in this for union members and why aren’t their leaders trying to stop this assault on their financial interests? You got me. But union members might start to wonder why millions in union dues are being used to support candidates who back legislation so hostile to their economic well being.

Read Less




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