Barack Obama and Jimmy Hoffa are like Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Lady Gaga and hype, the “Jersey Shore” cast and hairspray: inseparable. The president can no more disown the Teamsters Union’s leader than he can disown his own id.
At a Labor Day rally in Detroit on Monday before Obama spoke, Hoffa stoked anti-tea party hostility by urging his minions to “take these son of a b*tches out.” (Botched grammar added that extra boost of street-gang authenticity to the labor lawyer’s threat.) The same civility police on the left who decry any references to crosshairs as incitements to violence are now mute about Hoffa’s brass-knuckle rhetoric. The Chicagoans in the White House refuse to comment.
Those calling on Obama to condemn Hoffa’s uncivil tone are deluding themselves. The 1.4 million-member Teamsters lifted Obama to power with a coveted endorsement and bottomless campaign coffers funded with coerced member dues. Over the past two decades, the union has donated nearly $25 million to Democrats (compared to $1.8 million for Republicans).
What quid pro quo protection has the Teamsters’ money bought? Let us count the ways.
Back in May 2008, as he jockeyed with rival Hillary Clinton for Big Labor support, Obama promised to end longstanding federal probes into the Teamsters’ mob racket. In 1989, the union was facing federal racketeering charges after Justice Department officials determined it was operating as a “wholly owned subsidiary of organized crime.” The Wall Street Journal reported that Obama phoned several Teamsters heavies to convey his vow to begin dismantling the independent federal watchdog overseeing the Teamsters; an Obama spokesman confirmed it.
Teamsters reformers now consider the review board a “toothless mechanism,” according to a recent article in the left-wing The Nation magazine. As one Hoffa critic put it, “You’re so tied up into a corrupt culture. You have this culture of protecting each other.”
Meanwhile, a federal court has determined that Hoffa and his goons raided the Teamsters treasury to try to buy his own re-election support with jobs and pensions. As a court-appointed watchdog determined this spring: “The conduct revealed in this investigation reflects a culture, or mind-set where elected union officials do not clearly distinguish between their fiduciary responsibilities to the union and their separate political objectives of achieving election.”
Nevertheless, Obama’s crime-fighting crusaders are far more preoccupied with cracking down on Gibson guitars made of rare wood and covering up the Operation Fast and Furious gun-walking scandal than with cleaning up the Teamsters’ graft and pay-for-play dirty business.
While he regularly lambastes “millionaires and billionaires” who benefit from tax loopholes, Obama has zero to say about the crony Cadillac health insurance tax exemption he doled out to the Teamsters and other Big Labor groups. In January 2010, Hoffa and his pals met behind closed doors at the White House to ensure that they would be shielded while other middle-class Americans were forced to bear the burden.
While he calls for shared sacrifice, Obama has zero to say about the exclusive Obamacare waivers he has awarded to Teamsters chapters, including:
— the Western Teamsters Welfare Trust in Seattle
— the Teamsters and Employers Welfare Trust of Illinois in Springfield
— the Teamsters Local 485 Health and Welfare Fund in Brooklyn, N.Y.
— the Teamsters Local 617 Welfare Fund in Ridgefield, N.J.
— the Teamsters Local 734 Welfare Fund in Chicago.
While he regularly lambastes Wall Street salaries, Obama has zero to say about the bloated salaries and benefits of Teamsters brass. According to internal data compiled by Teamsters for a Democratic Union, 120 top Teamsters officials made more than $150,000 in 2009 — the largest number ever. Forty made more than $200,000 — also an unprecedented number. Hoffa pulls down nearly $400,000 a year, including an exclusive housing allowance and cost of living raise.
While he rails against “special interests,” Obama has zero to say about the executive orders he signed in the first days of his presidency to give unions a leg up. Executive Order 13502, for example, essentially forces contractors who bid on large-scale public construction projects worth $25 million or more to surrender to union representation for its employees. This codification of so-called project labor agreements significantly raises the cost of highway and school construction projects (by as much as 15 percent among California public schools, according to a new study by the National University System Institute for Policy Research).
The Obama protection order shuts out the vast majority of contractors in America. As I’ve noted before, 85 percent of the construction industry workforce is nonunion by choice.
Instead of putting Americans to work, the Teamsters have been busy yanking members off projects and idling construction projects from California to Indiana to New York in order to shake down employers.
Now, you tell me: Who’s waging “war on workers”?