Saturday, April 4, 2009

Part I, Big Labor, the Democrat Party, and US Taxpayers

Anyone who keeps up with government hijinks knows that, for the last three weeks or so, Americans have been extremely angry about the retention bonuses that were paid to executives by AIG (the HUGE company that "was too big to fail" and was given multiple bailouts of billions of tax dollars). While Liberals are angry because they see this as an issue of the rich and greedy misusing the "people's" money, most Conservatives are angry that the government gave our tax dollars to bail out private companies in the first place.

Two weeks ago, the US House of Representatives voted to retroactively tax those retention bonuses at the confiscatory rate of 90%. That bill stalled in the Senate where cooler heads worried that such a retroactive tax on bonuses, which were part of the executives' employment contracts, might not be a prudent or even a legal move. Especially since that Porkulous Bill that Congress voted on without reading...remember that one?...contained language from Obama's Treasury Deparment that would allow payment of said bonuses.

Yesterday, the House tried again. They settled on a new bill that would allow the bonuses...if the Treasury Department and financial regulators determine they are not excessive. But that was only after Republicans and 31 Democrats managed to defeat another attempt, by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., that would have let the attorney general sue employees to return excessive compensation, even if the money was promised in a contract.

So, what does any of this have to do with Labor Unions and the hypocrisy of politicians in the pocket of Big Labor? Big Labor, which almost exclusively supports Democrat candidates and Democrat policies, exercises huge political clout in that party and in our country. While Big Business is considered a Special Interest by Liberals, Democrats, and the Media, Big Labor is never, ever examined by the same standards. Labor Unions, we are told, represent the workers, families and a broad spectrum of constiuencies. They are not a bunch of greedy, avaricious, immoral, high-living parasites like business executives.

Let's take that magnifying glass and look more closely at Big Labor. Back in February, 1999, it seems that an official of the Service Employees International Union (a union that played a significant role in the election of Barack Obama) had become so corrupt, Andrew Stern, President of the SEIU, placed that Local into trusteeship and the official eventually resigned. Oh, but wait. That official, Gus Bevona, negotiated himself a golden parachute before slinking off into retirement.

Following was the way the NY Daily News described it at the time:
Ousted labor fat cat Gus Bevona — who earned more than $422,000 in salary last year — walked away with an additional $1.5 million in compensation payments when he retired Monday, union officials said yesterday. Another 40 to 50 officials of Local 32B-32J, the giant building service workers union Bevona headed for 18 years, collected a total of $1.6 million for unused vacation time, national union leaders said. They said the locals officials who include Bevonas wife, Elaine, a $40,000-a-year aide also stand to collect an additional total of $5.3 million under a special severance plan devised by Bevona. The payouts were blasted as excessive by Andrew Stern, president of the national Service Employees International Union, who placed the local in trusteeship Monday. But while vowing to end future sweetheart arrangements, Stern said payments to Bevona and associates that had been contracted were legal and could not be stopped. (italics added)

The payments were contracted, were legal, and could not be stopped. Hmmm. Sounds like AIG Executives, no? Contracts or no, Senators were angry, Congressmen were angry, the President said he was angry too and did not want to quell the anger. But, in the case of SEIU, there was no legislation to confiscate the payments through taxes. There were no outcrys from Congress, no attempt to instigate populist anger against the SEIU and no mob-like groups accompanied by MSM reporters, taking a bus tour of the homes owned by Gus Bevona and his lovely wife.

Ah, you say, that was a long time ago and the SEIU does not take taxpayer dollars like AIG did. That is why there was no anger. Wrong.

While this event took place in 1999, many of the actors are still in place. Andrew Stern, who did not stop Gus Bevona from taking millions raised through members' union dues, is still the President of SEIU. Andrew Stern is very much involved in today's politics. For example, Andrew Stern is currently using SEIU political influence to try to punish the CEO of Bank of America, Ken Lewis.

CNN Politics reported on March 31 that Stern's SEIU is circulating a petition to its two million members calling on President Obama to ask for Lewis's resignation. Stern said that firing the CEO of General Motors (Waggoner) was a good thing and the same should be applied to the CEO of Bank of America. "Both Rick Wagoner and Ken Lewis sunk large public companies — putting thousands out of work and toppling the American economy" Stern stated.

(Of course, it could be that Mr. Stern is also trying to teach other CEOs a lesson: Do Not Oppose Employee Free Choice Act. Per CNN, "Stern specifically criticized Lewis for 'actively fighting' the Employee Free Choice Act, the pending legislation that would make it easier for employees to unionize. Stern's theory is that businesses that have taken bailouts and TARP monies should not be able to speak against the EFCA)

So, the other possible argument against drawing comparisons between Big Labor such as the SEIU and Big Business is that SEIU has not taken taxpayer dollars...has it? Yes, Virginia. It has and it does.

On March 11, The Wall Street Journal ran an editorial that stated, in part,
The double standard here is remarkable. Every year, unions collect millions of dollars in grants from government agencies they lobby. In 2002 and 2003, the Service Employees International Union -- - lobbied the Department of Health and Human Services while receiving between $563,226 and $938,388 per year in grants. Imagine if Tom DeLay had ever said that labor unions or AARP couldn't speak up about Medicare because they or their affiliates had accepted federal grants. The headlines would have read: "Republican Gag Rule.

There is, indeed, a double standard in how our President and Congress relate to Labor Unions and the Business World and a double standard in how the Mainstream Media reports on either. The special privileges granted to Labor by the Federal Government stretch back many decades, but they have become more significant today under an Executive and a Congress that are especially politically beholden to Labor Unions. This relationship is impacting many of the economic decisions being made today. For example, the car company bailouts were not so much to save the car companies as to save the United Auto Workers and all their "legacy" benefits.

This comparison is not written in defense of businesses and executives. It is written in support of the rule of law which should be applied equally to all organizations and to all people. If our governmental bodies always acted in accord with the Constitution, our politicians would avoid making foolish decisions based on trying to get the most votes in order to remain in power.

Part II of this story will delve into the evidence that hard times for worker/members of Labor Unions are not mirrored by the lavish expense accounts and salaries of Labor Union Officials and that some big unions are more attuned to pushing social reform than they are to the nuts and bolts of saving jobs for real working men and women.

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Quickie: Education

Grrr. As a teacher this kind of thing irks me to no end. The main reason I chose not to teach in a public school was because I refuse to be beholden to any teacher's union.* They have ruined the education in this country. The unions have made it impossible to fire incompetent teachers or reward talented teachers based on merit. We have no system in place to deal with the actual effectiveness of our teachers, and this terrible problem can solely be laid at the feet of teacher's unions across the nation.

Washington State schools just received some grades, and guess what they found? I'm sure you can guess, we're not doing very well. Overall we received a C-. The most troubling part of the study was the analysis on awarding tenure. Via the Washington Policy Center:
Washington does not require any process to ensure that tenure decisions are meaningful. Washington has a two-year probationary period for new teachers, but there is no indication that at the conclusion of this period any additional process evaluating cumulative evidence of teacher effectiveness is required for tenure. The awarding of tenure appears to be virtually automatic. See page 13.
But don't you dare try to change this process - even though change is like oxygen now, it is vital to our very existence according to the Obamabots nowadays. No, yet again, they have proven their hypocrisy. We are not allowed to even think about changing the systems that might actually bring out positive outcomes in our society if those changes wrestle power from the government and puts it back into the hands of the people.

*I teach for a nonprofit organization