Payoffs to Big Labor continue

Katie Packer Gage Executive Director, Workforce Fairness Institute
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Even as Congress is away for the Easter recess, the Obama administration and Congressional allies are busy working to reward union bosses at the expense of working families and small businesses.

The silent but economically devastating agenda of organized labor is attended to daily at the highest levels within the White House. Turning to their friends for help with under-funded and mismanaged pension plans, government contracting policies, and initiatives that weaken workers’ rights and force unionization on small businesses, Big Labor’s looking for payback and they are receiving it.

Just last week, Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania introduced a bill that would dump the burden of union pension plans, which are going bankrupt, on the federal government; therefore, placing the costs at the feet of taxpayers. The Create Jobs & Save Benefits Act of 2010 is designed to address the funding problems faced by union-administered, multi-employer pension plans by shifting the costs to the federal government, which starts at $10 billion dollars in the initial outlay, but the obligation could expand as these plans are underfunded by hundreds of billions of dollars.

A reasonable person might ask, why is the federal government or in reality, the taxpayer, footing the bill for union-run pension plans?

Because labor bosses have chosen to either keep funds to line their own pockets, dump hundreds of millions into political spending or treat themselves to luxurious and lavish conferences, adequate resources have not been allocated to workers’ pension plans. And as a result, Congress is advocating for working families and small businesses to eat the bill.

Consider for a moment, that union bosses spent half a billion dollars getting President Obama and the current leadership on Capitol Hill elected and now they expect an historic and massive return on that investment.

The reality is that unions are pay and benefit experts, it’s one of their sole reasons to exist. They promise workers retirement and pension packages as workplaces are unionized and contracts are voted and signed on. These union heads cannot claim ignorance of the fact that the pension plans promised workers have been going bankrupt, as many were already in crisis well before the current economic downturn.

Furthermore, labor bosses have continued to unionize workers—in many cases forcibly—as they continue to make pension promises they know to be untrue.

But those making the promises—bosses like Andy Stern and Richard Trumka—have nothing to worry about as their own pension plans are fully funded, while those of their members aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.

Introducing legislation to place the burden of Big Labor’s poor—and some might argue criminal—mismanagement of these pension programs onto citizens is not only damaging to Americans’ tax rates, but will contribute to the bankrupting of small businesses. Yet the Washington establishment’s free spending and job-killing agenda doesn’t stop with bailing out pension funds at our expense.

Also high on the list of priorities for unions is a new attempt at contracting favoritism. Called “High Road” Contracting, this policy would enforce an evaluation of wages and benefits in relation to government contracting, which would give clear advantages to unions, while cutting out businesses. Small businesses would not be able to compete for contracts and larger employers would be at a significant disadvantage as they already struggling to meet payroll, and keep the lights on and doors open. The advantage would lie squarely in the hands of union bosses with their government-subsidized and taxpayer-funded bankrolls.

And as Congress works to bail out union pensions which have been recklessly and incompetently handled by Big Labor and the Obama Administration works to issue an executive order placing billions of dollars in government contracts in the hands of union bosses, the Employee ‘Forced’ Choice Act (EFCA) waits in the wings.

EFCA would remove workers’ rights to a private ballot in union organizing votes meaning that intimidation and coercion in the workplace would increase dramatically as would union membership. With additional members, even more money would flow into the hands of bosses as the increased dues would allow them to reward lawmakers with millions of additional dollars in political contributions and activities.

Going further, the forced unionization of workers in EFCA would result in the government writing labor contracts addressing wages, benefits and workplace conditions that would force small businesses into insolvent pension programs without the consent of the employee or employer.

Whether workers pay additional taxes as a result of Casey’s legislation or small businesses are forced into bankrupt pension plans to cover the costs of Big Labor’s mismanagement, the result is always the same, union bosses win and the public at large loses.

The current leadership in Washington should spare workers and small businesses the soaring rhetoric and lofty aspirations concerning job growth and economic development and simply tell us the truth, jobs be damned, the payoffs to union bosses will continue.

Katie Packer is the executive director of the Workforce Fairness Institute.