Obama should help workers, not union bosses 

For decades, unions have perpetuated the myth that the interests of Big Labor’s bosses and of American workers are identical. A tenuous case for that proposition could be made decades ago when unions represented one-third of all private-sector workers. But doing so today requires a studied refusal to acknowledge reality when fewer than 7 percent are union members.

Nevertheless, President Barack Obama often seems concerned primarily with serving the interests of the union bosses who are among his most frequent White House guests. Meanwhile, recent economic news has gone from bad to worse. Unemployment is back up to 9.1 percent (more like 20 percent when the count includes the millions who have quit looking for work), manufacturing activity is weakening, housing prices are still falling, job creation is all but stopped except in Texas, and banks are slashing growth forecasts. The American economy, in short, is in desperate need of a jolt.

Yet Obama is refusing to send free-trade agreements already negotiated with South Korea, Panama and Colombia to Congress for ratification, even though they would expand overseas sales opportunities for American businesses and create thousands of new jobs here at home. The holdup is that Obama demands renewal of the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which provides help — often funneled through unions — to Americans who claim to be adversely affected by such deals. And he wants TAA funding made permanent at the artificially high levels established under the failed stimulus legislation. Under this formula, in 2010, the program spent $975 million to aid 228,000 people at a cost of nearly $4,300 per beneficiary.

In another development, the National Labor Relations Board, which Obama has packed with union activists, was bad enough last month when the board’s general counsel, Lafe Solomon, sued Boeing for building a nonunion facility with 1,000 workers in South Carolina — a move that even a former Democratic chairman of the NLRB called “unprecedented.” But this past week, when three South Carolina Boeing workers sought to intervene in the suit, Solomon opposed them, arguing that they had “no cognizable interest” in whether Boeing will actually be able to employ them. That’s the same position taken by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. The union wants NLRB to force Boeing to shut down its new production line in South Carolina and instead build a new facility in Washington state. So what if 1,000 or more South Carolinians were offered jobs in the new plant Boeing just finished?

As outrageous as these actions may be, none of them should be surprising. Obama told the Service Employees International Union as a candidate during the 2008 campaign, “I know how much more we can accomplish as partners in an Obama administration. Just imagine what we could do together. Imagine having a president whose life work was your work.” Sadly, the work of the Obama-Big Labor alliance is harmful to actual American workers.

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