News broke last week that Obama had deployed the Coast Guard to protect grain ships from longshoremen union members and occupiers in Washington State, but now a more politically perilous anti-union revelation is surfacing: his new chief of staff has led at least one effort to bust a labor union. And Lew succeeded in destroying it.
Lew worked for President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, first as an assistant to the president before moving to the Office of Management and Budget. Lew quickly rose through the ranks at OMB to become its director for the last few years of Clinton’s presidency.
Lew also worked for the Obama administration in various roles and became Obama’s OMB director, before the president named him as the replacement for Bill Daley as White House chief of staff.
Between Lew’s service in the Clinton and Obama administrations, he was executive vice president for operations at New York University, where he was also a professor.
In 2004 Lew informed NYU’s full-time faculty that they were expected to continue working even though adjunct faculty members were planning a strike. The next year, while NYU’s graduate student union was planning a strike, Lew informed the campus he would have nothing of it.
NYU had previously officially recognized the graduate student labor union — a local chapter of the United Auto Workers. But, as Americans for Limited Government Communications Director Rick Manning points out in a column for The Hill, NYU decided to stop recognizing the union after the National Labor Relations Board issued a decision saying it no longer had to.
Then, the union went on strike. “For months, the campus witnessed loud demonstrations as graduate students went on strike,” Manning wrote. “Demonstrators held up ‘wanted’ posters of Lew and set up a large inflatable rat near Lew’s office. Various union bosses traveled to the campus, and even Jesse Jackson visited to participate in the protests.”
Lew fought against them all, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Jackson demanded that Lew and NYU recognize the union. “NYU must recognize the union, recognize the UAW, but most of all they must recognize the work you do,” Jackson said at rally in favor in the union, according to NYU’s student newspaper. “NYU must not go backward.”
Manning said the NYU administration, under Lew’s leadership, then slowly “broke the strike by unilaterally setting terms of employment for graduate students, refusing to negotiate with the union and raising the stakes for strikers.”
“At the last minute, the university offered the union an all-or-nothing deal to allow it to negotiate on stipends and benefits, but nothing else,” Manning added. “The union rejected the offer as insulting. Shortly thereafter, NYU announced that the union representing the NYU Teaching Assistants would no longer be recognized.”
Manning said that means Lew is “officially a union-buster.”