Obama and the bosses: Taking care of the unions 

One day last fall, approximately 40,000 private day care owners in Michigan woke up to discover they had become members of a public-sector union. Most had no idea what was coming.

Here’s how it happened: The United Auto Workers and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees worked with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission to conduct a vote-by-mail union election.

Of the 40,000 day care workers in the state, only 6,000 responded to the ballot they received in the mail. But that was enough for the state to declare all of the owners would henceforth be represented by the newly organized Child Care Providers Together Michigan union.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Michigan’s Department of Human Services collects $3.7 million in dues for the newly created union. These dues are collected by taking money out of child care subsidies the state pays to day care providers.

The union says it will use this money to lobby the state for bigger child care subsidies — no doubt needed to cover the newly created $3.7 million shortfall it’s using to pay itself.

This Michigan occurrence is by no means unique. By hook, but mostly by crook, otherwise failing but newly aggressive unions are exerting tremendous political pressure to bleed business owners and taxpayers dry in myriad ways, typically with strong support and encouragement from President Barack Obama and congressional leaders such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

As a result, despite representing just over 7 percent of the private labor force (and falling), union political influence today is stronger than at any time since President Lyndon Johnson won passage by the U.S. House of Representatives of repeal of the Taft-Hartley Right to Work law, but fell just short in the U.S. Senate. Back then, more than a quarter of all private sector jobs were unionized.

The $3.7 million the UAW helped extort from independent Michigan day care workers, however, is small potatoes compared to the union’s other activities. Last year’s tax-funded bailout by the federal government was also a UAW bailout.

The UAW received 17.5 percent of the value of the restructured General Motors for the union’s health care fund. By contrast, GM bondholders got only 10 percent. And let’s not forget the UAW’s $6.5 billion in preferred GM stock, paying a government-guaranteed 9 percent cash dividend.

It was this sweet deal that led critics to accuse the White House of not doing what was best for GM or the taxpayers who now owned 60 percent of a failing automaker, but rather running a political operation to benefit a powerful Democratic constituency known as the UAW.

Congress’ political motivations for helping to bail out the UAW were even more transparent. According to data cited by the Sunlight Foundation and compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, the UAW’s political action committee donated “$1,111,250 [in 2008] to 182 lawmakers who voted ‘yes’ on the auto bailout” — a $14 billion cash infusion to the failing car maker in December 2008.

All told, the UAW spent more than $2 million in political contributions electing Democrats in 2008 — including $29,000 to put Obama in the White House. The UAW was not alone, as the whole of organized labor spent an estimated $400 million electing Democrats in 2008. In return for all that campaign cash, the unions are now seeing their coffers filled by captive lawmakers with taxpayer cash to replace shrinking union dues revenue.

Obama’s $859 billion economic stimulus package last year included Davis-Bacon “prevailing wage” provisions, which mandates more government contracts going to unionized companies despite their submitting more costly bids than nonunion companies. Heritage Foundation scholar James Sherk estimates this provision alone cost taxpayers $17 billion.

Right now, Obama’s White House Middle-Class Task Force is considering adopting “high road” contracting policies that favor companies paying wages and benefits even beyond union scale. This move would radically remake the $500 billion annual federal contracting market and dwarf the costs incurred by Davis-Bacon.

With all these billions at stake, you might wonder why two powerful unions such as the UAW and AFSCME would bother force unionizing day care workers for an extra $3.7 million. The simple answer might be that unions have become so powerful and greedy under Obama that they did it simply because they could.

Mark Hemingway is an editorial staff writer for The Washington Examiner.

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