June 6, 2010

Tightening the Union Loop into a Noose

Justin Katz

It could just be that I'm in my annual phase of presummer burnout, or it could be an indication of the complexity that Big Government imposes on a democratic society — to such degree that it ceases to be possible for the individuals who comprise that democracy to function as they must — but the number of fronts for manipulating the public sector feel like they've been multiplying, lately.

The issue that brings that statement to mind is the Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) legislation that Democrats have brought to the table in Washington, which Bradley Smith describes, here. Given my usual areas of focus, this part earned a bracket in the margins of my issue of National Review:

DISCLOSE's partisanship is apparent in its different treatment of corporations and unions. Every major federal campaign-finance-reform effort since 1943 has attempted to treat corporations and unions equally. If a limit applied to corporations, it applied to unions; if unions could form PACs, corporations could too; and so on. DISCLOSE is the first major campaign-finance bill that has not taken this approach. For example, it prohibits corporations with government contracts of as little as $50,000 from making independent expenditures in elections or engaging in "electioneering communications." This very low threshold would bar not only large contractors such as Boeing but also thousands of small businesses from exercising the rights recognized in Citizens United. Yet no parallel provision exists for unions that bargain with the government for multimillion-dollar benefit packages. Corporations that received TARP funds are prohibited from spending, but unions at those companies — which in many cases benefited far more from the bailouts than shareholders — are not.

Smith doesn't go far enough, to my mind, by raising this as a matter of teams in a partisan dispute. It's actually part of a broad effort to shift the role of unions in our political society. Recall a post from November that noted, tangentially, that hospitals receiving federal money are barred from lobbying the government while their workers' unions are not (see "addendum," below). As the federal government continues to grow — especially in the amount of our economy for which it takes direct authority — the loop whereby businesses rely on the unions with which they negotiate to lobby the government will tighten into a noose, excluding organizations that are not unionized and siphoning off more money for politicians, bureaucrats, and the unions that serve as the middleman transferring economic wealth to the public sector.


I've said before that among the greatest advantages of blogging to a mixed audience is that one is more likely than not to have errors or inadvertent stretches corrected. In that vein, Stuart called me on the statement about hospitals receiving federal money being barred from lobbying the government. Going back to my initial citation, I see that I paraphrased the following poorly:

SEIU's corporate campaigns, however effective, are nothing new. Stern's real breakthrough came when he realized that labor could offer a carrot as well as a stick Around 50 percent of SEIU's members work in the health-care industry as nurses, hospital attendants, and lab techs. The facilities that employ such workers benefit from a number of government programs. SEIU's pitch was simple: Let us organize your workforce, and we'll use our lobbying power to push for increased government spending on health care.

It worked. Fred Siegel and Dan DiSalvo recently observed in The Weekly Standard that, "under the brilliant leadership of Dennis Rivera, [SEIU Local] 1199 built a top-notch political operation, and with the hospitals, which were barred from political activity, formed a partnership to maximize the flow of government revenue." The alliance has been so successful, they wrote, that New York now spends as much on Medicaid as California and Texas combined. Rivera now serves as the SEIU's point man on national health-care-reform legislation, with over 400 union staff members working full time at his disposal. Sen. Chuck Schumer called him "one of the few key players" shaping the final bill.

In essence, I joined concepts that were only related: The union offers lobbying clout, but the political activity from which hospitals are barred probably doesn't have to do with the federal dollars that the lobbying seeks, but rather with such things as bans on non-profit political activities. My understanding is that unions are not so restricted.

So, the statement in specific was incorrect, but the point remains valid. To the extent that government restrains the employer in political activity and speech, while leaving unions exempt from those restraints, the union and the government gain leverage versus the productive organizations.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

>>>Recall a post from November that noted, tangentially, that hospitals receiving federal money are barred from lobbying the government while their workers' unions are not

At first glance this seems like total BS.
Could you provide clear links to verify?

Every hospital and doctor in the USA receive vast amounts of money from the Federal Government through medicare, medicaid and payments for treatment of indigents. If what you said was true, then no hospital, HMO, insurance company, drug company, medical equipment company, etc. could lobby the government since they all receive vast amounts of Federal Money.

So, please, show your proof.

Posted by: Stuart at June 6, 2010 8:43 PM



SEIU is a Marxist organization seeking to transform all employees and employers into actual or de facto government entities -- which not coincidentally is the same end result sought by Marx and Lenin.

SEIU's leader (until a few weeks ago) was Andy Stern, former SDS member and graduate of the "community organizer" program of the Midwest Academy.

Once an entity derives most or all of its revenue from the government, is it not a de facto government entity (even if "on paper" it is a private enterprise)?

Is not this the model pursued by SEIU 11199 in New York, and now its ally Obama with his de facto takeovers of auto makers, healthcare, banking and (soon to come via the FCC) the internet?

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at June 6, 2010 10:10 PM

>Once an entity derives most or all of its revenue from the government, is it not a de facto government entity ?

I don't know..that would make Lockheed Martin and hundreds of other corporations government entities...but if you really like that particular untrue statement, add it to your list of lies.

As to unfettered access to money, you (and Justin) forgot to mention that the Supreme Court conservatives just approved UNLIMITED money to be spent by ANY AND ALL corporations to swing US Elections...even corporations with vast foreign interests.

Seems like once again you may be on the wrong side of things.....against the working person and the poor and the meek, and for the powerful corporate entities (who are not even people!).

One wonders how such a world view could be adopted by someone like Justin, who claims some religion. I never saw all those corporate rights in scripture!

As to you, Ragin, you are simply ridiculous! Acorn, Acorn, Acorn, Marxist, Marxist, Marxist...there, I said it all...except that Barry is from Kenya...almost forgot that one.

C'mon, man....think!

Posted by: Stuart at June 6, 2010 11:28 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Important note: The text "http:" cannot appear anywhere in your comment.