A Week’s Review of Labor’s Power

Mark Hemingway of The Washington Examiner embarked Monday on a weeklong series of columns about the political power of organized labor, commenting that, “Whatever wants, labor gets.”  It’s hard to argue with the thesis when talking about the Obama Administration, but it’s not entirely true when elective representative bodies like the U.S. Senate are involved: Labor has not gotten the Employee Free Choice Act…so far.

Today’s column is “Big Labor fills the ranks of Big Government,” discussing the recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, the confirmation of Patricia Smith to be the Department of Labor’s solicitor, and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis herself.

On Monday, Hemingway wrote, “Stuffing union coffers with taxpayer cash,” leading with the example of the anti-democratic unionization of daycare workers in Michigan.

One day last fall, approximately 40,000 private day care owners in Michigan woke up to discover they had become members of a public sector union. Most had no idea what was coming.

Here’s how it happened: The United Auto Workers and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees worked with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission to conduct a vote-by-mail union election.

Of the 40,000 day care workers in the state, only 6,000 responded to the ballot they received in the mail. But that was enough for the state to declare all of the day care owners would henceforth be represented by the newly organized Child Care Providers Together Michigan union.

Governor Ted Kulongoski of Oregon and former Governor Eliot Spitzer of New York also signed executive orders to promote the unionization of private sector daycare workers in their respective states. (See Fordham Urban Law Journal.)

The actions by these governors, heavily supported by organized labor, seems even more economically ominous given a program included in the new health care law. Jeffrey Birnbaum in The Washington Times reports on the issue in a column, “The not-so-Class Act“:

The health legislation signed into law last week by President Obama includes a provision called the CLASS Act, which provides long-term care at home. Few people know about it, but experts agree that it could well explode the federal budget deficit down the road.

The Community Living Services and Support (CLASS) Act was designed to assist people who need help with basic daily tasks and are willing to pay for in-home assistance. The plan, which was long championed by the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, would, in effect, enable elderly and disabled people to stay out of nursing homes.

People who paid into the program for five years could qualify for federal subsidies to purchase in-home care. As Birnbaum argues, laudable goals but fiscally unsustainable. We predict when the rules are written, the only in-home care providers eligible for the program will be subject to (forced into) union membership. The SEIU smiles.

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