The just concluded Mayors’ Conference in Providence was a big embarrassment to all concerned: the state of Rhode Island its the capital city, Mayor Cicilline, the protesting Providence firefighters, and especially the Democrats and the Obama administration. With about 100 members of the Obama administration missing in action, the conference could not conduct the kind of much needed business it was intended to address, and there’s no way anything else on the agenda could replace it. Mayors and their staffs came to Providence with the expectation that they would have direct access to a host of federal agencies and Administration officials to discuss their pressing needs amidst the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Instead they mostly sat around talking amongst themselves.
While there is lots of blame to go around from this debacle, let me zero in on whom I take to be the main culprits: the cowardly Obama administration and the leadership of the Providence firefighters. First off, what is there about a union picket line that will stop Democrats dead in their tracks like the Ebola virus? This was an important conference at a time of economic crisis. Did the Obama folks stop to weigh the consequences of not finding a way to get inside the Providence Convention Center? Apparently not, as it was quickly declared, “We do not cross picket lines ever.” Are Democrats so cravenly beholden to labor unions that they won’t conduct the nation’s business should there be a local labor dispute? I guess so, and that’s a shameful indictment of them.
Regarding the Providence firefighters, despite the fine job they do (no one takes issue with that) their union, Local 799 is one of the state’s most recalcitrant public employee unions, on a par with the correctional officers. Like the Brotherhood at the ACI, their elected leaders have them stuck perpetually out of contract and always battling tooth and nail, never finding sufficient reason to compromise. It certainly must make for a difficult situation for the members to be in. Local 799 has been without a contract for almost a decade, and it is important to remember that their last contract expired under Mayor Cianci’s tenure. Cianci’s departure from the scene spared him their inevitable fury; instead it’s Mayor Cicilline who they now vilify, and by their actions over the Mayors’ Conference, deliberately embarrassed.
Their union boss, Paul Doughty, reaps the rewards of being head of the union while his fellow union members are the ones to suffer. Like all of these union leaders, Doughty doesn’t have much time left over from his union duties to actually work; as an example, when the controversy over the picketing first surfaced he was away at a conference in Miami, spending his members’ dues.
Unions and Democrats have always been joined at the hip, and the election of Barack Obama comes with payback for Labor’s support. Obama, coming from Democratic controlled Chicago politics, knows all about this. The Labor movement’s payback is legislation before Congress that would provide a big boost to Labor’s flagging fortunes and dwindling member rolls. It’s misleadingly called the Employee Free Choice Act or EFCA for short, but it should be called The Election Payback Bill. It’s the most disturbing legislative initiative against business and free enterprise that I have ever encountered. EFCA’s purpose is clear cut: make it easier for unions to gain a foothold in non-union companies.
To accomplish this union organizing purpose, EFCA would take away the secret ballot by which workers privately voted their preference regarding whether to form a union in their workplace. Now union organizers and employers will know how an employee voted, depriving the worker of the basic right to privacy and exposing him/her to pressure and potential retaliation. The law as its presently written does allow for a secret ballot in principle, but not really in practice.
EFCA is a direct threat to American enterprise. If you think greater union power is good for the country, just look what the unions did to the auto companies. Should the Democrats in Congress pass EFCA (it has the President’ support and of course the support of all four of our elected representatives), it will further erode the vitality and competitiveness of many businesses, especially smaller privately owned companies. When it comes to preserving American competiveness, the Democratic-controlled Congress could do no worse harm than making EFCA the law of the land.