Monday, February 21, 2011
Unions: Dupes, Thugs, and Politicians
By Alan Caruba
Growing up in New Jersey and having been a journalist here, my memory of news about unions in the Garden and Empire States is that of headlines concerning the indictment and sentencing of various union chiefs and their underlings.
The alignment between unions and the Mafia is so well known it has been the subject of movies such as “On the Waterfront”, “The Godfather”, “Goodfellas” and “Casino.” To this day the rumor persists that Jimmy Hoffa is buried somewhere between the goalposts of Giants stadium in the Meadowlands.
As events unfold in the very progressive capital of Wisconsin, Madison, the public is being treated to the way unions have very nearly always functioned. Intimidation has been their stock in trade with campaign contributions running a close second. We are watching an epic battle between Wisconsin voters and entrenched, self-serving unions.
In his 2006 book, “Solidarity for Sale: How Corruption Destroyed the Labor Movement and Undermined America’s Promise”, Robert Finch, a former labor organizer and later a faculty member at Cornell and New York University, told the story of how and why unions were and are rotten to the core.
Finch’s book reads like a Hollywood movie script, replete with the names of Mafia families like that of New Jersey’s Vito Genevese and a host of others throughout the nation.
“Corruption,” says Finch “had been built into the labor movement from its very inception.” The politicians who benefited from union support have always done their best to ignore “five generations of racketeering, Mafia rule, bribery and extortion, job selling, benefit fund theft, and simple thievery, going back to the days of the early-twentieth-century labor czars.” This dates back as well to the creation of the National Labor Relations Board created by Congress in 1935. It is another legacy of the FDR years that have left the nation on the brink of bankruptcy.
Suffice to say that the National Labor Relations Board is a useless, allegedly “independent” government entity, often looking with favor on the union’s unceasing demands. Among the issues conservatives want to thwart are card check regulations to enhance union power. Reportedly, Republicans have cut $50 million from the NRLB’s budget as a part of the effort to cut the bloated Obama budget.
Finch notes that “In 1986, the President’s Commission on Organized Crime had identified the four most mobbed-up unions; the Teamsters, the Laborers, the Hotel and Restaurant Workers, and the East Coast Longshoremen. The close relationship between labor unions and the Democratic Party is too often obscured by the mainstream media. “According to the Center for Responsible Politics”, Finch noted, “seven of the top ten campaign contributors in the last decade are not Fortune 500 corporations. They’re AFL-CIO unions.”
Little wonder that public service union members are howling for the head of Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker or that several Wisconsin Democrat politicians have fled to Illinois to avoid debating his proposals. His demand that unions forego collective bargaining rights is, in fact, not that unusual. Twenty-two States have curbed union power with “right to work” legislation.
Perhaps the greatest error regarding the union movement came in 1962 when President John F. Kennedy issued an executive order to grant all federal government employees the right to unionize and collectively bargain with departments and agencies. This accounts for the rise in power of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) with its 1.8 million members and the deceptively named National Education Association (NEA), a union, the largest in the nation. It has 3.2 million members and employs more than 550 staff.
It is not an exaggeration to say that the NEA is responsible for the horrid test scores of U.S. students throughout the nation despite their incessant demands for higher wages, along with healthcare and pension programs well in excess of the private sector. Since the 1960s, they have been at the heart of the deteriorating condition of education in America. A four-part series on this topic is posted on the website of The National Anxiety Center which I founded in 1990.
Leading the SEIU is Andy Stern whose many visits to the White House since Obama was elected have become legendary. His rise in the union began with organizing hundreds of thousands of home care and day care workers. Despite unionizing, their pay has never really improved. “The SEIU,” Finch noted, “is now the largest AFL-CIO union.”
During his campaign and since, President Obama has never made any secret of how beholden he is to the SEIU and the union movement that contributed millions toward his election. It should come as no surprise that he has spoken up regarding the Wisconsin riots on the side of the union members. This ignores the fact that a majority of Wisconsin voters put the Governor in office, along with giving political power to Republicans there. They campaigned on the very issues the unions are protesting against.
Wisconsin, like other States that are essentially broke, must win the struggle to reduce the taxpayer burden that government worker and public sector unions represent.
© Alan Caruba, 2011