President Obama and Organized Labor, Together

By January 30, 2009Labor Unions, Regulations

As noted yesterday, President Obama will revoke executive orders signed by President Bush in 2001, in the process giving organized labor another political victory. As AP put it:

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is playing to one of the Democratic Party’s most reliable constituencies — organized labor — reversing a number of his predecessor’s executive orders that critics regard as anti-union.

Labor leaders were to visit the White House for a second consecutive day Friday, where, a union official said, Obama was to abolish four Bush-era directives that unions opposed and then reintroduce Vice President Joe Biden’s task force focused on the middle class.

Along with the signing of the Ledbetter bill, the executive orders help prevent labor from getting restive over the White House deemphasizing the the Employee Free Choice Act. The card check legislation is too politically charged, too damaging to the economy and its congressional support is waning, so labor has to settle for these other measures.

But we shouldn’t let process and politics obscure the substance of what the President’s executive orders will do. For one, employees in union shops will now be deprived of useful information about how to decertify a union — labor views the mere presence of such information in the workplace as a hostile act.

And in allowing project labor agreements (PLAs) in federal construction contracts, labor gains an advantage while depriving many qualified people an opportunity at work and increasing the costs of the projects. Louisiana Republicans made the point in a letter to the President about Hurricane Katrina recovery projects:

“In Louisiana, just 12.6 percent of private construction workers belong to a construction labor union, ” the Louisiana Republicans said. “If PLAs are attached to federal construction projects in Louisiana over 87 percent of local workers will be locked out of the rebuilding process.”

The Bush orders being repealed:

 Executive Order on Notification of Employee Rights Concerning Payment of Union Dues or Fees 
 Executive Order: Revocation of Executive Order on Nondisplacement of Qualified Workers under Certain Contracts 
 Executive Order and Presidential Memorandum Concerning Labor-Management Partnerships 
 Executive Order on Preservation of Open Competition and Government Neutrality Towards Government Contractors’ Labor Relations on Federal and Federally Funded Construction Projects 

UPDATE (12:55 p.m.): Judging by news accounts (see above), it’s not clear that all four Bush executive orders are being repealed.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

Leave a Reply