With labor unions seeing a decline in membership, their agenda is becoming ever more desperate. Public-employee unions, with their lavish taxpayer-funded pensions, are driving governments to insolvency. No wonder approval ratings for unions are at an all-time low. Here are the Top 10 Labor Union Outrages.
1. Wisconsin on fire: When the Wisconsin legislature prepared to vote on requiring unionized government workers to increase paltry contributions to their health care plans and pensions, teachers abandoned their classrooms to protest and Democrats in the state senate fled to Illinois to avoid a vote. State workers make an average salary of more than $50,000, with another $40,000-plus in benefits, while contributing only 0.2% of their wages to their pension plans. This battle over public-employee union benefits is spreading like wildfire across the U.S. as cash-strapped states face massive unfunded pension liabilities.
2. UAW greed: When U.S. taxpayers bailed out the automakers, the United Auto Workers got a major stake in the car companies even though it was union-negotiated Cadillac health care plans that put automakers at a competitive disadvantage in the first place. While the government bailout money has yet to be paid back, union auto workers are getting record bonuses this year.
3. Campaign dollars: While President Obama carped during the midterm elections about all the corporate and foreign cash being spent on behalf of Republicans, he seemed to overlook the hundreds of millions of dollars spent by labor unions. The largest government-workers’ union, the 1.6 million-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), was the largest 2010 campaign donor, spending some $90 million to help Democrats hold onto Congress. Not exactly money well spent.
4. Government pensions: While the rest of us try to build up our 401(k)s during times of economic uncertainty, government workers are still receiving defined-benefit pensions. Who exactly is negotiating and approving these sweatheart deals? Such as the New York policemen retiring at age 39 and earning a six-figure salary the rest of their lives? Or San Francisco city retirees getting an unexpected $170 million cost-of-living bonus on top on their regular COLA despite the retirement system having an unfunded liability of $1.6 billion? Or the school board superintendent in Wayne Township, Michigan, who retired in December after 15 years on the job and is already raking in more than $1 million in pension benefits?
5. ObamaCare waivers: If ObamaCare is such a great thing, why are the unions scrambling to get waivers from the administration to avoid complying with the health care law. Of the first 222 waivers granted by the Department of Health and Human Services, more than one-third of the workers affected were insured by union health plans. Some waivers don’t pass the smell test: such as the one given to three local Chicago chapters of the SEIU, which contributed a combined $27 million to Obama’s 2008 campaign.
6. SEIU thugs: Any left-wing protest isn’t complete without throngs of Service Employees International Union workers making their presence felt. Their latest favored tactic is to terrorize neighborhoods by protesting at the private residences of their targets. Last year, 500 screaming SEIU members descended on the home of a Bank of America executive in the Washington suburbs to protest foreclosures, terrifying the official’s teenage son, who was home alone.
7. Craig Becker: President Obama avoided a Senate confirmation battle and used his recess appointment power to install Craig Becker, the former SEIU and AFL-CIO counsel, to the National Labor Relations Board. Becker became the swing vote for the Democrats on the board, which has begun wielding its power to reopen previously settled labor issues. For example, the board is reconsidering whether to allow the United Auto Workers to organize graduate students who are teachers at New York University.
8. Card check: Before Republicans won back the House of Representatives, Big Labor thought it could get Congress to enact its highest priority: the misnamed “Employee Free Choice Act” bill, or card check. A better name would have been the “Employee No Choice Act,” as that piece of legislation would have denied the right to a secret ballot for workers during union elections, giving a green light to coercive tactics.
9. New York snow job: When a massive storm dumped 20 inches of snow on New York City in December, Sanitation Department bosses told workers to slow down snow removal efforts because they were angry over budget cuts and layoffs among their union brethren in the agency. The workers left citizens stranded from Queens to Staten Island, all while the city workers received lucrative overtime pay.
10. Sports unions: Labor strife in professional sports has cut short seasons in all the major sports, including an entire year of hockey, and even canceled the 1994 World Series, which had been played throughout wars and the Depression since 1903. Now labor issues are once again threatening the upcoming National Football League’s season. Have they no shame?