Politics

Obama’s Department of Labor forces unionization

Photo of Matthew Boyle
Matthew Boyle
Investigative Reporter

Labor unions give more money to the Democratic Party than any other source, and critics have long accused President Barack Obama’s administration of doing their bidding.  Now there is evidence that the White House has indeed put its thumb on the scale on behalf of unions. After saying that “union jobs are, by and large, good jobs,” the Department of Labor’s “strategic plan” for the next five years says: “many of the Department’s outcome goals are furthered by high rates of union membership.”

Don Todd, Americans for Limited Government’s head of research and a former DOL agency head under George W. Bush, told The Daily Caller that the Obama administration wants to “shame” companies into unionizing.

“In a worst-case scenario, your union organizer comes to you, offers you a deal to unionize, you say, ‘no,’ and, the next thing you know, OSHA’s [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] at your door,” Todd said in a phone interview. “Then, Wage and Hour show up, and they want to publicize it. They always find something wrong – it’s like with bed-checks in boot camp in the army.”

Todd said some companies will fight the DOL’s intimidation tactics, but many will give in to unionizing forces.

“It makes it the path of least resistance,” Todd said.

The current Solicitor of Labor, Patricia Smith, specialized in that kind of corporate intimidation when she served in a similar position in New York’s Department of Labor. Senate Republicans strongly opposed Smith’s appointment to her current post for that reason. In New York, Smith set up a neighborhood watch-style system for monitoring and investigating wage and hour violations by companies.

While that “sounds good,” Sen. Mike Enzi, Wyoming Republican, said during Smith’s Senate confirmation hearings, “Neighborhood Watch was set up so that people would notify law enforcement authorities of things they thought were strange and should be looked at. They did not have permission to go into people’s homes and investigate unannounced.”

Enzi pointed out that Smith’s announcement for her Wage and Hour Watch program lists six organizations, two of them unions and four of them “community organizing” groups, to take the lead on investigating violations.

Smith’s recommendations as the federal-level solicitor haven’t gone as far as Enzi feared, but they get close. Former union executives and confidants are leading almost every agency within the DOL, including, but not limited to, John Lund, who has deep ties to the AFL-CIO, Craig Becker, who has worked with the AFL-CIO and the SEIU, and Joe Main, who had worked for the United Mine Workers of America.

Smith and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis recently released the DOL’s “Strategic Plan” for 2011 through 2016, in which they link the recent economic recession and the recently high unemployment numbers with the decline in private sector union membership.

Holis has made the case publicly that unionization is a good thing as it is the only way workers get “higher wages,” “good jobs” and “flexibility and benefits like paid leave, childcare and education assistance.”

“It’s not enough to have fair wages and a safe workplace — workers also need a voice on the job! Some people say that, given the state of the economy, we can’t afford unions right now,” Holis said in a September 2009 speech to the AFL-CIO. “They’ve got it backwards. Today unions are more important than ever. Workers are facing unprecedented challenges, and they need the voice on the job that unions provide.”

DOL is pushing unionization by turning the fraud investigation arms of the Department of Labor into intimidation tools. Todd said DOL’s enforcement arms repeatedly audit and investigate businesses that refuse to unionize. They demand records of everything from Wage and Hour compliance to health and safety regulations, and won’t stop until the business they’re targeting unionizes.

Another way the Obama administration helps unions is by overloading the arms of the DOL that normally fight union fraud. The Obama administration, for instance, doubled the duties of the Office of Labor and Management Standards (OLMS). OLMS historically has been used primarily for investigating labor union fraud, but since Obama took office, OLMS is also charged with dealing with “whistleblower” complaints, or complaints from employees all over the country about companies that aren’t following safety requirements. That used to be handled by OSHA.

OLMS is the agency Todd used to lead, and as he put it, pushing companies to unionize is “life and death for these people,” meaning that unions need to get more members quickly or they’ll face bankruptcy as they’ve spent much more than they’ve taken in during recent elections.

Another thing the DOL is doing in what appears to be an effort to weaken union investigations is shifting many career employees out of OLMS and into other, non-investigative agencies that pose no immediate threat to union survival. Todd said that’s the only explanation for shifting the employees he and previous administrations spent years training to different jobs.

“They’re moving people out of OLMS over to places like Wage and Hour, which is a waste of all the training they received in prosecuting and investigating union misconduct,” Todd said in a phone interview. “In the time that I was there, we convicted close to 1,000 union officers and employees. That was not for unfair practices – that was for stealing from members.”

Todd said he thinks it’s more likely that union leadership would rather “suffer from the thefts than from the bad publicity they’d get from investigations and convictions” of union members and leaders.

“The Obama Department of Labor is being organized to push a pro-union agenda without regard to the welfare of the worker,” Rick Manning, a spokesman for Americans for Limited Government, told TheDC.

  • BigRmv

    * Holis said in a September 2009 speech to the AFL-CIO. “They’ve got it backwards. Today unions are more important than ever. Workers are facing unprecedented challenges, and they need the voice on the job that unions provide.” *

    …So, having more chiefs and fewer indians will make things run better?

  • Sproing

    Many were concerned that with the change in control of the House the President would come to lean on his hand-picked regulators to move his agenda forward. It looks like that just might be what we’re going to see over the next two years. During that time I expect Obama will cozy up to the center to enhance his chances for a second term where he’d be free to do what he wants for 4 years without worrying about an election.

    These too numerous to list governmental agencies that have been created over the years plus the tremendous number of Obama appointed “Czar’s” that oversee much of this with no over-sight from Congress has become a sort of sub-rosa government uncontrolled by anyone but the President.

  • Pingback: Department of (Organized) Labor Wants Solidarity, Not Enforcement | Manufacturing Digest

  • truebearing

    First Obama took away our freedoms and prosperity, right in front of our faces. Now he is doing it behind our backs. Will the people of this country continue to be so stupid as to change their opinion of Obama over an insincere speech in the desert, while he is destroying the country?

    Obama hasn’t changed. He’s just changed his tactics. Evil doesn’t sleep, just ask the left.

  • truebearing

    Nice job Matt. I always know good jpournalism when it makes me feel a little sick to the stomach and furious simultaneously. Your piece did both.

    Did you find out anything on a strategy to block this blatant power grab by the neo-coms?

    My choice would be to entirely defund them.

  • captaingrumpy

    I say DON’T RAISE FINANCIAL LENDING LIMITS.