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Obama caters to big labor: Reverses Bush orders

By
January 30, 2009

President Barack Obama is playing to one of the Democratic Party’s most reliable constituencies — organized labor — reversing a number of his predecessor’s executive orders that critics regard as anti-union.

Labor leaders were to visit the White House for a second consecutive day Friday, where, a union official said, Obama was to abolish four Bush-era directives that unions opposed and then reintroduce Vice President Joe Biden’s task force focused on the middle class.

Both were meant as a way for the new administration to connect with workers at the end of a week that has seen U.S. companies announce thousands more jobs cuts.

"Over the last 100 years the middle class was built on the back of organized labor. Without their weight, heft and their insistence starting in the early 1900s we wouldn’t have the middle class we have now, in my view," Biden told CNBC on Thursday. "So I think labor getting a fair share of the pie is part of it."

Officials planned to re-announce a Middle Class Task Force aimed at finding ways to help an economic group that has been hammered by the recession. Biden will lead the task force, comprising a panel of advisers and four Cabinet members.

Among the George W. Bush-era executive orders that Obama was to reverse was one that allowed unionized companies to post signs informing workers that they are allowed to decertify their union. Critics claimed it was unfair because nonunion businesses are not required to post signs letting workers know they are legally allowed to vote for a union.

Two Democratic sources also said Obama would prevent federal contractors from being reimbursed for expenses that were intended to influence workers’ decisions to form unions or engage in collective bargaining. A third Obama order would require federal vendors with more than $100,000 in contracts to post workers’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

The final order would require service contractors at federal buildings to offer jobs to qualified current employees when contracts changed. For instance, rank-and-file workers could continue working on the same federal project even if the administrative contract expired.

The officials disclosed the plans on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to pre-empt the White House’s announcements.

Labor leaders also visited the White House on Thursday, where Obama welcomed them to the East Room as he signed his first major piece of legislation, an equal-pay act that organized labor and women’s groups championed.

Unions have been lobbying the Obama administration to repeal scores of executive orders they view as hostile to their cause. Officials gave administration officials their top 10 executive orders they wanted to see dismantled quickly.

Many executive orders are enacted and repealed based on which party controls the White House. One of the rules Obama planned to repeal Friday was approved by President George. H.W. Bush, removed by President Bill Clinton and reinstated by the second President Bush.

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3 Responses to Obama caters to big labor: Reverses Bush orders

  1. dbumRob

    January 30, 2009 at 8:16 am

    The Republicans are anti-middle class. Their real beef with helping the auto workers was a smoke screen to bust the union.

    And after their lock step Republican Reich vote against the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, to the member, it almost seems apparent they are anti-American.

    These are the exact class of people that Jefferson and Eisenhower warned us about.

    I hope that after caving to the Republicans on a family planning aspect of the Recovery Act, and their subsequent snubbing of the bill, that Obama will learn to ignore these clowns. It would be better than they deserve.

  2. jzelensk

    January 30, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Having spent several years around my state legislature, observing the players and the dynamics in those hallowed corridors, I am amused when anyone uses the term “big labor.” No doubt it is bigger than any one individual, or than your corner dry cleaner, but one can gain some insight into their relative “bigness” in a number of ways.

    First, sometime take a day and personally visit the offices of “big labor” in your state, and the offices of the business associations (chamber of commerce, etc.). Go inside, and sit in the chairs, peek into the meeting rooms, check out the curtains, what’s on the floors, even use the restrooms. Count the support staff (if you can find any at “big labor”). Notice any contrast? Do all of the chairs at “big labor” match? Or even work properly? Would you guess that the business association probably spends as much on housecleaning as “big labor” has in its entire organizational budget? Me too.

    Then go back to the state capitol and hang a few minutes (that’s all it’ll take) with the lobbyists from, say, the insurance industry or the contractors association. Notice the suits and the shoes they wear. BTW, there’ll be lots of these lobbyists, quite often taking over whole rows of hearing room seating in phalanxes. Each will have a stunning briefcase unlikely to be found on the racks of Office Depot.

    Then find, if you can, the lonely guy or gal representing “big labor.” The individual will often be rather young (in contrast to the well-coiffed silver-haired execs from business), i.e., early in their career, and clearly be not paid well enough to afford even one suit that one would want wear to a job interview. Papers will likely be collected in something made of canvass and sometimes slung over the shoulder. This individual will usually be racing among hearing rooms because there are no others to assign to the different bills being heard.

    Then go down to the capitol cafeteria and observe what each is having for lunch. But you’ll seldom find the business lobbyists eating there, as they often as not are dining a legislator at the white table-cloth restaurants near the capitol. But you’ll find the “big labor” person down there, with either a brown bag or sandwich from the deli or a machine.

    These are the memories and images that come to me whenever I read about “big labor.”

  3. adamrussell

    January 31, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Government should neither help nor hinder unions. No laws against strikes and no laws against firing strikers. If a company signs a contract promising not to fire strikers that’s one thing but aside from enforcing contract law just stay out of it.