Labor Notes: Exploiting tragedy, unions and the IRS scandal, unions vs. Obamacare, etc.
Never underestimate the unions’ ability to take advantage of tragedy. In the wake of the devastation caused by the storm Sandy, unions pushed through the New Jersey legislature a measure to expand the use of Project Labor Agreements, which require contractors to pay union-scale wages and benefits on large public work projects. Such agreements increase costs to taxpayers and slow down or eliminate projects that would help New Jersey recover from the storm. The bill to include highways, bridges, pumping stations, and water/sewage treatment plants under PLAs was backed by State Senate President Steven Sweeney, who’s a paid organizer for the ironworkers union, and State Senator Donald Norcross, head of the Southern New Jersey Labor Council. Ultimately, Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the measure.
In the February Labor Watch, we reported on “official time,” under which employees perform union duties while on the public payroll. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has introduced legislation to eliminate the practice entirely, while a less sweeping measure has been introduced in the House by Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.). At the Department of Veterans Affairs, at least 250 people work full-time for the union, according to Nathan Mehrens of Americans for Limited Government.
Colleen Kelly, the head of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represent most IRS employees, has called the Tea Party movement “extreme.” She met with the President at the White House the day before the agency started its “special” treatment of Tea Party and allied groups.
During a three-year period in which his agency was targeting conservative and Tea Party groups, Doug Shulman, then the IRS commissioner, was cleared for White House visits 157 times, by far the most of any agency or department chief. (His predecessor says that, during his tenure, he visited the White House just once.) Interestingly, Shulman’s wife, Susan L. Anderson, is the senior program advisor for the organization Public Campaign, which seeks to restrict First Amendment rights through so-called “campaign finance reform.” Public Campaign is able to accept tax-deductible contributions as a 501(c)(3) organization—a status for which few Tea Party-related groups bother to apply. According to the Daily Caller, Public Campaign receives “major funding” from a pro-Obamacare group that includes the AFL-CIO; the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; the Service Employees International Union; the American Federation of Teachers (AFT); the Communications Workers of America (CWA); the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW); and other unions and left-wing groups.
Once upon a time, labor unions focused primarily on issues of special concern to their members. Today, they are usually just cogs in the Left’s political machine. Case in point: In May, when the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force held a celebration of its same-sex marriage victories, sponsors included the AFT, the CWA, and the UFCW, along with the parent company of NBC. Who knew same-sex marriage was high on the agenda for the chicken processors, grocery employees, and other workers in the UFCW?
Still, some cracks may be showing in the union/Left united front, as Obamacare threatens union members’ healthcare coverage. The head of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers has called for the “repeal or complete reform” of Obamacare. And in an op-ed for the Washington newspaper The Hill, the president of the UFCW noted that the President’s 2009 promise to union members that they could keep their insurance “is simply not true for millions of workers.” (Yes, the UFCW is still listed as a member of that pro-Obamacare coalition mentioned above. Such are the ways of Washington.)
Hector Lopez, former president of the Metal Polishers Local 8A-28A in Queens, New York, pleaded guilty to tax evasion and conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, and agreed to make restitution of more than $1.1 million in connection with his fleecing of the union benefit plan. Cora Carper, a former clerical employee of the Heat and Frost Insulators union in Lanham, Maryland, pleaded guilty in connection with the embezzlement of more than half a million from a union Political Action Committee. Grace Rathke, a former office manager, was sentenced to 17 months in prison and three years probation and ordered to make more than $200,000 in restitution after she embezzled funds from the Laborers International Union Local 32 in Rockford, Illinois. (Source: the National Legal and Policy Center’s Union Corruption Update.)