The union horde is spreading, from Madison to Indianapolis to a state capital near you. And yet the Democratic and union bigwigs engineering the outrage haven't directed their angry multitudes at what is arguably the most "hostile workplace" in the nation: Washington, D.C.Strassel notes that Wisconsin school teachers through their collective bargaining agreement dictates that schools purchase their health insurance plans through union-controlled plans that cost considerably more than could be procured from private health insurers. Indiana's teachers union has similarly steered business to union-affiliated companies by exercising broad collective bargaining rights. As we've seen this past year, the affiliate organization wasn't always exercising their fiduciary obligation to their members in a manner that served their interests well. In Washington, the Democrats in Congress have primarily used federal authority to enhance the rights of union members over private employers through such legislative machinations as the Davis-Bacon Act, which forces employers who work on government-funded public works projects to pay their employees the prevailing union wage. Unlike President Obama, states cannot simply print more money and run deficits year after year. Most states constitutionally mandate a balanced budget.
It will no doubt surprise you to learn that President Obama, the great patron of the working man, also happens to be the great CEO of one of the least union-friendly shop floors in the nation.
This is, after all, the president who has berated Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to limit the collective bargaining rights of public employees, calling the very idea an "assault on unions." This is also the president who has sicced his political arm, Organizing for America, on Madison, allowing the group to fill buses and plan rallies. Ah, but it's easy to throw rocks when you live in a stone (White) house.
Fact: President Obama is the boss of a civil work force that numbers up to two million (excluding postal workers and uniformed military). Fact: Those federal workers cannot bargain for wages or benefits. Fact: Washington, D.C. is, in the purest sense, a "right to work zone." Federal employees are not compelled to join a union, nor to pay union dues. Fact: Neither Mr. Obama, nor the prior Democratic majority, ever acted to give their union chums a better federal deal.
Scott Walker, eat your heart out.
For this enormous flexibility in managing his work force, Mr. Obama can thank his own party. In 1978, Democratic President Jimmy Carter, backed by a Democratic Congress, passed the Civil Service Reform Act. Washington had already established its General Schedule (GS) classification and pay system for workers. The 1978 bill went further, focused as it was on worker accountability and performance. It severely proscribed the issues over which employees could bargain, as well as prohibited compulsory union support.
Democrats weren't then (and aren't now) about to let their federal employees dictate pay. The GS system, as well as the president and Congress, sees to that. Nor were they about to let workers touch health-care or retirement plans. Unions are instead limited to bargaining over personnel employment practices such as whether employees are allowed to wear beards, or whether the government must pay to clean uniforms. These demands matter, though they are hardly the sort to break the federal bank.
Which is precisely the point. Washington politicians may not know much, but they know power—in particular, the art of keeping it. Even Carter Democrats understood the difference between being in electoral debt to the unions, and being outright owned by them. And as Gov. Walker will attest, allowing unions to collectively bargain over pay and benefits is allowing them the keys to the statehouse . . .
"If the president is so worried about Wisconsin's 'assault,' why has he never taken up federal bargaining rights?," Strassel asks. "If the Badger State's current system is the gold standard, why has he not replicated it?" She continues. "If it is so important that all parties "sit at the table"—as White House Press Secretary Jay Carney recently lectured Wisconsin—how dare Mr. Obama unilaterally declare a federal pay freeze? (Honestly, the union-busting gall!)" I wouldn't encourage Obama to act if I were Strassel. If his leadership to date is any indication, he just hasn't gotten around to those agenda items.