Posted by: Debby Durkee | July 3, 2011

Obama’s union problem.

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Obama’s union problem.

Okay, we know the Democratic Party is in bed with the unions. We know this president in particular is so tight with the unions that he probably has the union label tattooed somewhere on his body. The problem with this labor union tightness is that Americans can see the unions for the blood suckers they are. They suck the life out of companies and the life out of taxpayers. That creates a problem for Obama, but he’s trying to have it both ways. This is from Nina Easton of Fortune Magazine over at the CNN Money site.

How many ways are there to sidestep Congress’ refusal to make it easier for unions to organize?…let’s add yet another example — this one involving Delta Airlines — to the growing pile of end-runs around Congress to reward a constituency this White House badly needs at its side in next year’s presidential election.

Labor leaders bet big on an Obama victory in 2008, hoping Congress would enact, and the Democratic president would sign, “card-check” — legislation designed to turn around labor’s sagging membership rolls by ending secret-ballot elections in organizing drives. But card-check has never been able to pass the Senate — not even when Democrats took over Congress in 2006. Instead, presidential appointees friendly to labor are deploying agency muscle.

The latest example is taking place largely out of sight — at the National Mediation Board, a little known agency that oversees union elections for railroads and airlines. Late in 2010, flight attendants for the nonunion Delta and its unionized Northwest Airlines (acquired in a 2008 merger) voted thumbs down on joining the Association of Flight Attendants. The board — where two of the three members are former top union officials — reacted by investigating Delta for “interference” in the election, prompted by union claims that the company circulated too much literature.

Another vote is likely to follow, even though this was the third time Delta (DAL, Fortune 500) flight attendants had rejected the union. And here’s another twist: The union lost that November vote even after the NMB changed the rules — in place since the 1930s — to require that only a majority of those who vote, not a majority of the workplace, needs to sign off on unionization.

This is quite a bit like counting the votes (in a general election) until you win. The Democrats are experts at this, and the union saga is no different. It makes one wonder what kind of pressure or underhanded tactics the union is up to with all of this re-voting.

“They voted under new rules that the unions asked for,” Delta CEO Richard Anderson told Fortune via email. “They’ve done everything asked of them. And because they said no to union representation, their decisions aren’t being respected; they’re being held hostage.

Two years after the merger, flight attendants are still operating under different pay scales, and face restrictions on transferring to new locations or changing jobs.

On average, nonunion Delta flight attendants take home 12% more than their unionized Northwest counterparts (based on a typical 75-hour-a-month schedule); they enjoy more generous profit-sharing and retirement matches from the company; and they don’t have to dole out $43 a month in union dues. (Delta ranked No. 1 among airlines in this year’s Fortune Most Admired Companies list).

Delta’s pilots and flight superintendents have been unionized for decades, but 85% of its workforce is nonunion — and employees ranging from meteorologists to aircraft maintenance technicians have turned their backs on unions nine times since the merger.

The Delta flight attendant vote offers a telling microcosm of why labor is so desperate to change the rules to make it easier to organize. Only 11.9% of all workers (and only 6.9% of private sector employees) belonged to unions in 2010, compared to 20% in 1983. In the Delta vote, the flight attendants union not only lost 13,000 potential new members, but also 7,000 Northwest flight attendants already paying dues. That’s a big financial hit.

After the National Labor Relations Board hit Boeing with the accusation that it was in effect practicing union busting by building a new plant in business-friendly South Carolina instead of building that plant in Washington state, the Board just last week proposed new rules to cut the time available for employers to make their case prior to a union vote.

— an action the Chamber of Commerce rightly denounced as  “another not so cleverly disguised effort to restrict the ability of employers to express their views” during a union campaign.

I wrote about the NLRB and Boeing here:

Once again the Obama Administration talks out of both sides of its mouth. The administration worries about job creation on one hand and stifles companies and their abilities to create or maintain a work force that will help them compete in a global marketplace on the other. The stifling of business stifles our economy, which in turn stifles job creation, lather, rinse, repeat. Unions are parasites on businesses and on local, state and federal government. If you want to focus on the economy, then bowing down to unions isn’t the way to do it, but if you’re trying to payoff unions, then you shouldn’t be president of the United States, because union payoffs will not help the country recover and Americans can see right through what he’s doing. Just keep doing everything wrong, Mr. President – yeah, that’ll work. Read it all here:


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