Things are not going well for Big Labor. The Washington Post details the recent, largely self-inflicted damage:
President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee for labor secretary will go before Congress today embodying the hopes of a movement that views Obama’s victory as a chance to reverse years of union decline. But labor’s prospects are already being shadowed by controversies besetting the Service Employees International Union, the country’s fastest-growing union and one that has gone from being seen as a savior of the movement to a favored target of its opponents.
The SEIU is contending with corruption allegations involving several appointees of President Andy Stern, including the president of a Los Angeles local who was fired for allegedly funneling money to his relatives and friends.
The union has also been linked to the federal investigation into Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), who was taped speculating about getting a job with an SEIU-led labor alliance and who met with a top SEIU official to discuss filling Obama’s Senate seat. There is no allegation of SEIU wrongdoing, but the episode has drawn attention to the union’s reliance on cultivating politicians. A power struggle in the union is also coming to a head, with the SEIU board voting today on whether to break up a large Northern California branch at odds with Stern.
The critics aren’t exclusively from the business community and can’t all be tagged as “anti-labor”:
Herman Benson, founder of the Association for Union Democracy, a pro-labor watchdog group, said the SEIU controversies and its move against the Northern California chapter, in particular, are a “serious problem” for labor.
What they are doing is giving ammunition to right-wing anti-labor forces by denying their own members the same rights that they are asking Congress to give workers,” he said.
. . .
Rose Ann DeMoro, head of the California Nurses Association, an SEIU rival, called Stern a “liability” for Obama. “SEIU is the new poster child for bad union behavior and symbolizes the worst of the labor movement,” she said. “The Teamsters used to be notorious; SEIU makes them look like choirboys.”
It sounds like Ms. DeMoro and Mr. Benson would be fine witnesses for a hearing–maybe a commission even–on corruption in the labor movement. Republicans who oppose card check have some powerful facts and allies at their disposal.
And some smart liberals are trying to warn the Obama administration that card check is political poison, as this ABC report explains:
I think you’re right, I think the flashpoint might be the card check thing,” Matt Miller told New York Times columnist David Brooks during a discussion of Miller’s new book which was sponsored by the liberal Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C. “Going for things like the Employee Free Choice Act could poison the well for universal health coverage because it will just lead to a decimating fight on both sides.
While encouraging the Obama administration to put Employee Free Choice Act on the backburner and to avoid putting the full cost of raising wages for unskilled labor on employers, Miller spoke out in favor of creating a “very robust, mega Earned Income Tax Credit so that folks who are unskilled still end up at 10 or 11 dollars an hour”.
. . .
Miller, who served in the Clinton White House as a senior ad adviser in the Office of Management and Budget, issued his warning after Brooks observed that wealthy Democratic donors do not mind the tax increases Democrats are planning on the rich but “what they hate is card check.”
Republicans should be enlisting some of these Democratic allies to insure that Big Labor’s abuses are rooted out and that workers are not deprived of basic civil rights, such as that to a secret ballot, which other Americans enjoy.