One of the interesting things about the Obama administration is the strange dominance of labor unions. Yes, Barack Obama and other Democratic leaders do owe the unions something: Unions gave $400 million to Democrats in the 2008 campaign cycle, and they expect to get something in return.
What they haven't gotten out of the Democratic Congress is the thing they wanted most -- the card check bill that would effectively abolish the secret ballot in unionization elections. Unions now represent only 7 percent of private-sector workers, the lowest percentage since the early 1930s. Union leaders believe that with card check they could vastly increase their dues income.
But the unions have gotten lots of other things, as Peyton R. Miller reports in The Weekly Standard. Obama has appointed as head of the National Labor Relations Board a former union lawyer who once wrote that the NLRB could institute something very much like card check without congressional action.
An Obama appointee has changed the National Mediation Board's rules in a way designed to produce more strikes by airline and railroad union members.
Obama executive orders have encouraged unionization by employees of government contractors and the seniority-based promotion practices preferred by union leaders. Obama has granted a 35 percent tariff on Chinese tires sought by the United Steelworkers and, in contravention of the North American Free Trade Agreement, has blocked Mexican trucks from U.S. roads as demanded by the Teamsters Union.
The Democrats' stimulus package includes Davis-Bacon requirements that union wages be paid on construction jobs, which means that the government will pay more or get less production than it would if contractors were free to pay market wages. The complex Davis-Bacon process also means huge delays in getting supposedly shovel-ready projects underway.
And Obama Democrats are trying to force FedEx to become unionized by subjecting it to the same law as unionized UPS.
Meanwhile, one-third of the stimulus money went to state and local governments, with the effect of propping up the pay and saving the jobs of public employee union members. As a result, while 8 million private-sector jobs have disappeared, the number of public-sector jobs has barely budged.
The cynical will see these measures as a political payoff and might venture that the unions have gotten something like a hundredfold payout for the $400 million they gave to Obama and his copartisans.