Lots of angst in the air after Teamster President Jimmy Hoffa called tea party people SOB’s and urged voters to “take them out.” Immediately, voter registration jumped among members of the Gambino family. Apparently, Hoffa is angry that some Americans want to put a lid on public sector pensions and perks that are bankrupting municipalities all over the country. Old Jimmy believes this is “taking the bread out of the mouths” of American workers.
For decades, union power has intimidated politicians in both parties. I mean, if you were running for office, would you want big union money flowing into your opponent’s campaign? Would you want organized demonstrations at your rallies? How about work slowdowns, sudden mass worker illness or anti-you phone campaigns? Unions have power, and power rules.
Thus, many American unions have secured lucrative benefits for their members — benefits that have drained treasuries. The United States Post Office, for example, is on the verge of bankruptcy, unable to repay $5.5 billion in loans from the Treasury Department. The huge cost of postal retirement benefits is one of the main reasons an American institution may collapse.
All of this is not the fault of the workers. They did their jobs and are entitled to what was negotiated. But public money has run out, and going forward, big changes will have to be made if the American economy is to expand. Hoffa can huff and puff all day long, but if he succeeds in blocking economic reform, he will indeed blow the entire house down.
President Obama needs union votes to win re-election. Therefore, he did not condemn Hoffa’s over-the-top rhetoric even though he campaigned for verbal restraint in his Arizona speech. Obama also will not go up against the unions and demand fiscal reform. He will position himself as the champion of the working stiff even if it means more disasters like the USPS.
Previously in this space, I discussed my membership in AFTRA, a union that represents TV and radio people. When some greedy suits tried to con me and my colleagues at the syndicated program “Inside Edition” out of pension money, AFTRA fought them and won. So unions are needed, but they should be optional. No American worker should be forced to pay union dues. Employees must weigh self-reliance against union protections.
With union power in decline, Hoffa needs an enemy to rail against, and the tea party provides him that. But if he were honest, Hoffa would see that the tea party folks simply want financial responsibility and fairness in the public sector. Living within your means is a key to economic success. Gaming the system through intimidation and threats is not.
Hoffa’s not looking out for his country on this one.