Obama aide sees unionization as fix for economy


 WASHINGTON (PAI) - Legislation like the Employee Free Choice Act, which promotes collective bargaining, would help pull the U.S. out of its economic hole, a top White House official says.
But Ron Bloom, Democratic President Barack Obama's senior counselor for manufacturing policy, admits that his is a difficult message to get across to the nation, especially in an age of political attack ads and 30-second sound bites.
Repeatedly disclaiming, "I don't do politics," Bloom, a former top financial advisor to the Steelworkers, whom Obama brought into the White House to orchestrate the rescue of the U.S. auto industry, reiterated Obama's support for the Employee Free Choice Act. 
The EFCA, labor's top legislative goal, died without a floor vote in the 111th Congress due to a virulent business campaign against it and a planned Senate GOP filibuster. The EFCA promotes collective bargaining by leveling the playing field between workers and bosses in organizing, first-contract negotiations and penalties for labor law-breaking.
To get such a law to congressional votes, "You have to have a real conversation about what kind of country we want to have," Bloom said in an Oct. 29 keynote address at a D.C. conference on the 75th anniversary of the National Labor Relations Act.
"A lot of companies are run by honorable people," and the administration "wants to have that conversation company by company," Bloom said.  The discussion would be about "shared prosperity," and how to get there, including investing in education and infrastructure and in convincing firms that it is in their best interests to share the gains from rising productivity with their workers.  That means collective bargaining, he added.
"I don't have an idea about how to do this, but it is something to build over time," Bloom admitted.
Bloom said unions play another vital role, often unnoticed and unappreciated,  by both workers and businesses: Joining as partners to keep companies going when times are bad.  That occurs, he said, when both sides realize they have too much to lose if they don't share that joint goal of company and job preservation. 
That's what happened in the auto rescue, Bloom said.  The rescue resulted in wages 50 percent below existing levels for new hires at GM and Chrysler, both reorganized in bankruptcy, and cuts at Ford. It saved 1 million-1.5 million jobs, including those at dealers and suppliers, Bloom said.  The rescue would not have occurred, he added, had the union not had the credibility to convince its members of the need.

Photo: Ford workers at Chicago's plant celebrate President Obama's visit. (Teresa Albano/PW)

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  • Do any unions own businesses? Seems like they are always making ridicules demands of businesses in the name of fairness. Why dont they just start their own and put an end to the fight once and for all?

    Posted by curious person, 12/09/2010 10:41pm (5 years ago)

  • My dad was in a union for his entire adult life. When he retired and was in poor health he was UNABLE to get his benefits. He had to sue them and what he got was a pittance of a settlement, and passed away shortly thereafter. Once the lawyer fees were paid there was literally nothing. Why would they not pay his benefits? Its insane.

    For all of you workers out there, keep the union bosses in check by demanding to know if your pension is solvent or if they have squandered precious union dues on politics.

    Would you not think that it be reasonable that unions out to be, by law, mandate, bylaws, whatever, have fully funded pensions BEFORE they spend a single dime on politics?

    Thats what you, the people, need to demand of your union leaders.

    I hate to say it, but your pensions have already been spent. Just Google 'Labor Union Insolvency" and see the sweetheart deals and corruption at the top.

    An SEIU fund, as of 103% in 1998. It is now < 60%
    HERE's fund, in 1998 was very well funded at 115% and dropped down to 80% by 2007, well before any stock market declines.

    Teamsters below 60%, UFCW 58%, the list goes on.

    Amazingly, bosses and executives for unions such as SEIU have funds that have not been depleted. The one that covers SEIU bosses & execs is over 100% funding.

    They are now trying to get the rest of American taxpayers to fill the gaps by underhanded means, like trying to nationalize every Americans 401K fund, to merge it with underfunded union pensions and give everyone a lot less.

    If you are working today and it comes time to retire, I sure hope what happened to my dad doesn't happen to anyone else, even though I know its playing out across the country over and over. When I googled for the above figures, most of the paid ads were for lawyers to help you get your pension. Sad. Just sad.

    Posted by Kozlowski, 11/08/2010 5:10pm (5 years ago)

  • I agree with Thomas Kenny of New York.

    EFCA was just a ploy from the party that brought the American labor movement NAFTA and WTO. I would venture to assert that without support of the Democratic Party neither Taft Hartley nor Landgrum Griffin would have been possible.

    If the Dems wanted to do something for the American worker they had two opportunities. Once during Clinton and once during the past two years, simply repeal Taft Hartley.

    EFCA was just some policy persons attempt to get funding from the Labor movement. It was not nearly as important as Taft Hartley. The problem is, the repeal of Taft Hartley would have given the American working class some true power and neither the Ds or the Rs want that.

    Posted by Donny, 11/08/2010 5:02pm (5 years ago)

  • "The EFCA, labor's top legislative goal, died without a floor vote in the 111th Congress due to a virulent business campaign against it and a planned Senate GOP filibuster."

    No, it died mainly because Obama only paid lip service to it and didn't fight for it. He had two years to show some fight. If the President really wanted it, he and Harry Reid would have faced down a Republican filibuster. They would have mobilized millions of workers. Also it died because organized labor had to spend so much time, effort, and political capital blocking "health reform" taxes on union-won health care benefits.

    Posted by Thomas Kenny, New York, NY, 11/08/2010 2:43pm (5 years ago)

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