If we have learned anything about our liberal Democratic overlords during the first six months of their rule, it is the depth and breadth of their devotion to government bailouts as a panacea for all that ails America. But bailouts serve a deeper purpose for Democrats. They are a great way to revive struggling constituencies, from investment banks and Big Auto to Big Abortion and so on.
Few Democratic constituencies are more in need of a helping hand than Big Labor. A new bill being pushed by Democrats could prove lucrative for labor unions, and all their liberal causes.
Many unions, like the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), are millions of dollars in debt. And until last year, labor union membership had been declining since 1954, when it peaked at 28 percent of workers.
But things may be getting better for unions, which would receive a financial windfall if the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) becomes law, according to a June study by the Workforce Fairness Institute (WFI). Congressional Democrats have been trying to pass EFCA for years. The latest version of the bill was introduced in both chambers of Congress in March.
There is much to dislike about EFCA. Perhaps foremost is a provision to replace the right of workers to vote on unionization by secret ballot with a widely unpopular “card check” policy allowing union bosses to bully employees into signing a card in favor of a union. Because the right to a secret ballot is so revered, even some Democratic senators oppose card check, and there is talk that the provision will be left out of the final legislation. Even if it is, there are plenty of other aspects of EFCA to hate. And they all will have the effect of empowering unions and their pet causes.
You could call this the Bullies Bailout Bill, as union bosses, having failed to convince blue-collar workers to vote for them by secret ballot, would be able to intimidate employees face to face for a signature thereby allowing the unions to go by force where they could not go by persuasion.
Will there be protections for workers who are coerced to vote a certain way? I doubt it. Consider this: The Washington Times reported this week that the Obama Justice Department dropped a civil complaint in May alleging that three members of the New Black Panther Party intimidated voters in Philadelphia during the November election.
Seen clearly on video tape, the three men, one of whom brandished a night stick at a polling station, were accused of blocking access to the polls and physically and verbally harassing voters. The government had already won a preliminary judgment in court against the men involved. It decided to drop the case anyway.
It seems unlikely that workers reluctant to cast their votes for a union will get any better protection than Americans attempting to vote for president.
EFCA, according to the WFI report, could create 1.5 million new union members a year. And assuming each member pays roughly $425 a year in union dues (a conservative estimate), with five percent of those dues devoted to political activity, an increase in 15 million members over a decade means “organized labor would have roughly $1.75 billion to spend on political activities over the next 10 years.”
The fortune EFCA would create for Big Labor should deeply concern pro-family conservatives, because labor unions typically spend their political funds on liberal causes.
Consider that the California Teachers Association (CTA) donated $1.25 million to oppose California’s Prop. 8 initiative to protect traditional marriage. The CTA’s donation was the largest by any in-state Prop. 8 opponent.
Consider also that in 2005 the AFL-CIO Executive Committee adopted a resolution opposing efforts at the federal and state level to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
Unions have also spent their members’ dues to promote abortion. As part of ongoing negotiations with automotive manufacturers, United Auto Workers leaders requested that health insurance plans cover elective abortions. The request was dropped only after the union received significant pushback from pro-life groups.
In 2003, AFSCME and the National Education Association (NEA) co-sponsored the “March for Freedom of Choice” in Washington, D.C., and promoted their sponsorships in industry newsletters.
The NEA has been a notorious opponent of school choice and charter schools. In 2007 and 2008, for instance, it spent as much as $3.3 million fighting a school choice referendum in Utah. The NEA has opposed efforts to protect parents’ constitutional right to direct their children’s education in accordance with their values and religious beliefs.
These are just a few examples, but the point is clear: Unions have often funneled member dues to political interests at odds with the values of social and religious conservatives.
Not surprisingly, labor unions spend millions of dollars every election cycle to support Democrats running for office. Last month, SEIU President Andy Stern said, “We spent a fortune to elect Barack Obama.” Naturally they expect some return on their investment. President Obama has repeatedly pledged to sign EFCA into law.
Labor unions have often worked to obtain more and better benefits, higher wages and more job security for Americans workers. But unions have also helped make many industries — the airlines, the auto industry, public education — uncompetitive, and many workers flinch at being compelled to hand over part of their hard-earned wages to bankroll the union’s political agenda.
But if Employee Free Choice Act becomes law, they may no longer have a choice.
Former presidential candidate Gary Bauer is president of American Values and chairman of the Campaign for Working Families.