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08 September 2009

Revival of the Labor Unions

In 1983, 20.1% of the workforce was unionized, which was already way down from the almost 36% of the workforce unionized in 1945. After steady decreases, by 2006 union membership fell to a minimum of 12%, but the first increase since WWII occurred in 2007 to 12.1% and then again in 2008 to 12.4%. The union membership increases have mostly been in the service industry and government workers areas, while the membership in manufacturing has been in decline. This increased membership has also been disproportionately in the West Coast states. In California, 16.7% of the workforce is unionized. Unions added 428,000 new members in 2008.

The unions have also been pushing their political agenda very strongly. According to the 7 September 2009 Washington Times, the AFL-CIO says it made 70 million phone calls, mailed 57 million election alerts, distributed 27 million fliers in the workplace, and knocked on 10 million doors to help Obama and the Democrats in the 2008 elections. Labor unions ran 11 of the 20 biggest non-party political action committees (PACs) during the 2007-2008 election cycle. These 11 labor union PACs spent $225 million, almost entirely for Obama and Democrats. The unions accounted for 18 of the top 20 Democrat candidate-supporting PACs

Union members massively voted for Obama also. 60% voted for Obama and only 37% voted for McCain. McCain carried the vote of white men by a 16% margin, but Obama had a margin of 18% among white male union members. McCain had a 9% lead among veterans overall, but Obama had a 25% lead among union member veterans. Among gun-owners, McCain led by a 25% margin, but gun-owning union members supported Obama with a 12% margin. Among white males not having a four-year college degree, Obama won only 43% of the non-union household vote, but in union households he won 60% of the votes. So, clearly, the unions were able to deliver the votes of their members.

Card check is the union #1 priority from the hugely indebted Obama administration and the Democrat Congress. Their #2 priority is health insurance reform with a strong public option. They have made it very clear that they will not tolerate a health reform plan without the public option. So far, the Democrats have not been able to gather the 60 votes they would need in the Senate to get either bill passed. The unions are very frustrated.

But, the unions have been given some goodies since Obama usurped the presidency. Obama made Wilma Liebman chairman of the National Labor Relations Board. She was once a lawyer for the Teamster's Union. He appointed the very socialist Hilda L. Solis, a California Congresswoman and the daughter of two union members, to be Secretary of the Labor Department. She is hiring 700 investigators to enforce labor regulations.

The first bill Obama signed was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which makes it easier for workers to sue employers for wage discrimination. The unions backed this. He issued an executive order requiring federal contractors to display notices telling workers they have the right to unionize. The United Auto Workers Union retiree health trust was given 17.5% of GM and 55% of Chrysler after Obama shafted the creditors who by law take precedence in bankruptcies. The unions also wanted the $33 billion expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program that Obama signed.

The stimulus bill increased and extended unemployment benefits. It put $600 million into job training for those who lost jobs due to foreign trade. [How will they ever figure out who that is?] The $7.2 billion to expand broadband was a boon to the Communications Workers of America. The unions liked the 'Buy American' provision in the stimulus bill. The teachers and their unions were happy with the $40 billion in new spending on education in the stimulus bill.

Obama has given the unions as much as he can, except on one issue. His $4.35 billion Race to the Top initiative out of the Department of Education has displeased the National Education Association, the largest teachers union that gave $11.5 million to the Democrats in the last election cycle. They do not like this competitive grant program which they think favors charter schools. The Democrats owe more to the smaller American Federation of Teachers, which contributed $21 million, making them the #3 contributing union.

The Service Employees International Union, which has many health services workers in it, is by far the biggest donor to the Democrats at $71.0 million and has been turning out its members to pack stacked town hall meetings on health care reform. The #2 donor union was the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees at $33.0 million. The top three unions with government employee members gave a total of $65.5 million. It is hardly surprising that the unions dependent upon government workers would strongly support the party more committed to growing the public sector, while eviscerating the private sector.

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