Preserving the Unions

Abraham Lincoln was perhaps the best known of those who were interested in preserving the Union–the whole of the then United States. Ahh, but a new Lincoln is here, if we are to believe the hype. His task is not to preserve the Union, but rather to preserve the unions: SEIU, UAW, AFL-CIO, etc.

Let’s see how the President is doing so far. First, we’ll look at the free trade agreement with Colombia that is all but ready (OK, past ready):

In an interview on CNBC’s Squawk Box from the Americas Competitiveness Forum in Atlanta two weeks ago, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke was asked if he found it awkward to face the attending Colombians, who have been waiting since 2008 for ratification of their free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States.

“Actually,” Mr. Locke declared, “there are a lot of intense negotiations going on as we speak, and I’ve been meeting with some of the ministers and representatives of the government of Colombia here.” That was news to my Colombian sources familiar with what happened. They told me that there were no such “intense negotiations.”

Ahh. But of course. AFL-CIO is not a friend of such trade agreements. Why, it could cost union jobs if the Colombians are able to produce and ship something to us for less than we can make it ourselves.

Then, there is the unintended consequence of Obamacare with regard to the SEIU:

One of the largest union-administered health-insurance funds in New York is dropping coverage for the children of more than 30,000 low-wage home attendants, union officials said. The union blamed financial problems it said were caused by the state’s health department and new national health-insurance requirements.

The fund is administered by 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union. Union officials said the state compelled the fund to start buying coverage from a third party, which increased premiums by 60%. State health officials denied forcing the union fund to make the switch, saying the fund had been struggling financially even before the switch to third-party coverage.

The fund informed its members late last month that their dependents will no longer be covered as of Jan. 1, 2011. Currently about 6,000 children are covered by the benefit fund, some until age 23.

Bummer. Financial problems caused by “new national health-insurance requirements.” They could have said it more simply, but that would sound like they were not grateful.

Finally, let’s look at how the UAW is doing now that the undead corpse of GM is ambulatory once again:

Thanks to a generous share of GM stock obtained in the company’s 2009 bankruptcy settlement, the United Auto Workers is well on its way to recouping the billions of dollars GM owed it — putting it far ahead of taxpayers who have recouped only about 30 percent of their investment and further still ahead of investors in the old GM who have received nothing.

The boon for the union fits the pattern established when the White House pushed GM into bankruptcy and steered it through the courts in a way that consistently put the interests of the union ahead of many suppliers, dealers and investors — stakeholders that ordinarily would have fared as well or better under the bankruptcy laws.

Some investors are simply more equal than others.

Taken as a whole, however, it is hard to argue that President Obama’s policies have not substantially benefited the unions. I’d have to give him a B+.