Commentary Magazine


Thanks for the Loan

President Obama wasted no time paying back his labor union supporters. He signed three executive orders today that he claims will level the playing field for organized labor. One of Obama’s executive orders will ensure that federal contractors be prohibited from doing anything to discourage unionization among their workers. Another is ostensibly aimed at informing workers of their rights to join a union. Both of these orders will encourage unionization in the private sector, which could be costly in this flailing economy.  But their real intent is to reward unions for their help in getting him and his fellow Democrats in Congress elected.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, unions donated $68 million directly in the 2008 election cycle, 91 percent of which went to Democrats.  But they also provided campaign volunteers (often paid union staff), printed campaign literature, and mobilized voters to get to the polls.  It’s difficult to know exactly how much unions spent on these activities, but some estimates put the number at 10 times or more than what they give directly.

For all the professed interest in protecting workers’ right to choose, the Obama administration is not likely to care much about protecting the rights of workers who don’t want to be forced into a union.  It is simply not in the Democrats’ self-interest to enforce the 1988 Beck decision, which gave workers covered by union contracts the right not to have to pay for the political activities of the union.

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