The last week has been a busy one in Washington for Big Labor.
First, union boss Andy Stern, head of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) announced that he was going to step down.
Second, a little-known Executive Order issued by President Obama last year was just approved by the federal government. This order will drastically affect competition for large federal construction projects by favoring union shops and penalizing businesses whose workers have decided to remain non-unionized.
All of this occurs against a backdrop of double-digit unemployment in many states along with massive federal and state deficits.
These recent actions taken by the White House suggest their judgment is clouded by affection for their friends in Big Labor as almost every move they make rewards bosses, hurts employers and subsidizes – in one form or another – union-administered pension plans, which are terribly under funded and in some cases going bankrupt.
Andy Stern was the most frequent visitor to the White House in 2009 directly lobbying our nation’s chief executive and his staff over and over again. Stern even tweeted at one point that he was having “cocktails with prez and VP.”
Furthermore, Stern and company weren’t just enthusiastic supporters during the 2008 campaign cycle; you might say they qualify as this President’s “number 1 fans.” In fact, the SEIU contributed more than 60 million to get Obama elected, even taking out loans to do so. In total, labor bosses invested nearly half a billion dollars getting the current administration and Congressional leadership in place.
All of this took place while union membership declined and the number of under-funded worker pension plans increased.
This cozy relationship masks the fact that there’s a hidden crisis looming when it comes to union pension funds, which are rapidly failing, and not because of the current economic crisis. Many of these plans have been on a downward spiral for quite some time. Some kind of “bailout” that would bring these failing pension plans back to life is at the heart of the union agenda.
In visiting and lobbying officials in the White House and Congress as frequently as he has, Stern has certainly shared these concerns with President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.