March 9, 2005


Labor's Divisions Widen As Membership Declines (Thomas B. Edsall, March 7, 2005,
Washington Post)

AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney last week won the latest round in a bitter internal clash over the future of the labor movement by insisting that more money go for future campaigns to unseat Republicans than for trying to shore up the federation's sagging membership.

Under the Microscope: An aggressive audit of labor unions is only one front in Republicans' multi-pronged attack. (David Moberg, March 8, 2005, In These Times)
If union leaders are feeling a little paranoid about Bush’s reelection, maybe it’s because they really are being persecuted. Republicans have both ideological and strategic reasons for an offensive against labor. Attacking unions pleases both Bush’s corporate friends and the movement’s conservatives, and harasses the strongest grassroots political operation opposing the Republican right.

“There’s been a strategy,” says former Democratic Rep. David Bonior, now chairman of American Rights at Work. “It’s not a conspiracy. They’re very open. [Key conservative Republican strategist] Grover Norquist says they want to get rid of unions, to break the labor movement.”

But the rights of all workers, not just union members and their organizations, are in jeopardy. Since Bush took office, the Labor Department has significantly reduced staff for enforcing employer violations of laws on labor standards (such as child labor, the minimum wage and overtime), occupational safety, and rights to organize—laws that are important for everyone employed in America.

Not that increasing the staff would help much if the Labor Department’s treatment of Wal-Mart is the standard. The Labor Department recently fined Wal-Mart, a company with $285 billion in annual sales, a paltry $135,540—or less than $6,000 per violation—for breaking child labor laws. What’s more, the department promised that its inspectors would give the company advance notice of future investigations.

Of course, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao may figure that there’s no need to beef up enforcement if the laws are getting weaker. Republicans plan to follow up Bush’s success last year in curtailing overtime protection with legislation that would make both overtime payments and the 40-hour week optional for employers.

But while protection of children and of worker health is being neglected, the Office of Labor-Management Standards, which investigates and audits labor unions, is thriving. This year 48 new positions and a 15 percent budget increase were granted to the office, and since Bush has been in office they have benefited from 94 new positions and a 60 percent overall increase in the budget. Last year the Labor Department began imposing extraordinarily detailed financial reporting requirements for unions and related institutions, like credit unions. Although the AFL-CIO is still pursuing a legal challenge to the rules, the new requirements—which far exceed those placed on corporations—have already eaten up dues that could have been spent on providing members with services. In addition, the reports expose details about union strategies that could be helpful to employers and political opponents.

“The real motivation was to saddle unions with expensive and time-consuming requirements to harass them and to provide the kind of ammunition that a Right to Work Committee researcher or Republican staffer would find very useful, but union members would find not useful at all,” says AFL-CIO General Counsel Deborah Greenfield. “I don’t think it’s an accident that the head of the agency within the Department of Labor who came up with the rule, Don Todd, was head of research for the Republican National Committee.”

If unions want to be just another partisan interest group they can't really complain about being treated like one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 9, 2005 5:49 PM

They should focus on the "government/education complex."

This Enronesque entity (its more a corporation than an industry) takes in $500 billion a year in "sales", and is designed for one purpose only - to propagate itself while turning our an uneducable (far worse than uneducated) populace.

Sweeney is chump change compared to these guys, and if left unmolested, they will destroy any gains we may make.

Posted by: BB at March 9, 2005 6:07 PM

Sing along ~

Look for the Union rabble. . .

Posted by: Oswald Booth Czolgosz at March 9, 2005 6:39 PM

What, they hired 5 y.o.???

Or, 15 y.o.?

Apply the Bache(?) requirement.

Posted by: Sandy P at March 9, 2005 6:43 PM