TCS Daily


Labor Unions for America... or the World?

By Doug Bandow - March 30, 2007 12:00 AM

On Tuesday House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY) and Trade Subcommittee Chairman Sander Levin (D-MI) released "A New Trade Policy for America," which would turn free trade into ever more regulated trade. Their proposal directs the U.S. Trade Representative to "require countries to adopt, maintain and enforce basic international labor standards."

This approach seeks to empower a UN body, the International Labor Organization (ILO) -- which promulgates rules on everything from child labor to union organizing -- more than the U.S. government. This is what organized labor desires; American unions began taking labor controversies to the ILO years ago.

For instance, should employees of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) be able to unionize? Whether TSA employees should be able to organize is a practical policy question, and similar battles are being waged over the unionization of employees at the Department of Defense. Congress authorized the President Bush to say no when it created the TSA, but House Democrats are now pushing to overturn his decision.

Back in August 2003 the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) filed a complaint with the ILO. In case no. 2292, the ILO reports of complainants over "the recent passage of legislation and preparation of draft laws which exempt a variety of federal employees from the basic rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining."

Big Labor sometimes wins such fights. Mike Hall of the AFL-CIO recently exulted that "Federal courts have ruled against new personnel rules" involving the Defense Department and Homeland Security. In early January the House voted to allow 56,000 TSA screeners to unionize.

And TSA organizing is not the only issue unions have presented to the ILO. In October the AFL-CIO went to the ILO's Committee on Freedom of Association complaining of the U.S. government's "violation of fundamental rights of freedom of association and protection of the right to organize and bargain collectively concerning employees classified as 'supervisors' under the National Labor Relations Act."

The National Labor Relations Act governs which employees are guaranteed the right to organize. The original Act mandated unionization for supervisors. But according to the AFL-CIO, "in 1947 a reactionary Congress stripped supervisors of these rights."

The union claimed that this amendment "on its face violates the principles of freedom of association," but chose not challenge this six decade old law. Rather, the union focused on a recent decision of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), created by Congress to interpret U.S. labor law. Explained the AFL-CIO:

"It means that employers can fire such 'supervisors' for trade union activity. They can fire supervisors for resisting participation in employers' anti-union activity. And employers can refuse to bargain with unions of supervisors. All this with complete immunity, since supervisors are not 'employees under the Act'--that is, workers protected by the NLRA against discrimination for union activity and workers who, with majority status in a bargaining unit, can compel employers to bargain in good faith with their union."


Managers and "supervisors" possess no such right. In October the NLRB applied this rule to some health professionals. The AFL-CIO expressed its outrage to the ILO: "the Board's 3-2 majority reached beyond the facts to fashion an ideologically driven management agenda to weaken trade unions and collective bargaining."

The union seeks to refight the NLRB case before the ILO. The AFL-CIO spent several pages detailing "ILO, U.N., and regional human rights instruments" in order to demonstrate that the NLRB decision is invalid. Indeed, the AFL-CIO contended, "At every level, the NLRB's [decision] runs afoul of the Committee's criteria."

The AFL-CIO urged the Committee to send a delegation to America. "A direct contact mission will have the added benefit of bringing dramatic public attention to the work of the Committee on Freedom of Association in a country and a labor law community that, lamentably, know little about the ILO and the authoritative role of the Committee on Freedom of Association."

Of course, NLRB decisions are reviewable in U.S. courts. But, unfortunately for the AFL-CIO, the latest agency decision actually reflects an earlier Supreme Court ruling.

In theory, international agencies can help promote individual liberty and economic deregulation. In practice, global institutions are easily captured by professional staffs with their own agendas. That has been evident throughout the UN system. If the ILO has a legitimate role it is dealing with countries where workers have no rights, economic or political. If American unions can raise $104 million to spend directly, and far more to spend indirectly, in one election, they obviously aren't helpless victims of management oppression.

Doug Bandow is Vice President of Policy for Citizen Outreach.

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13 Comments

Freedom from what?
What does the AFL-CIO seek freedom from? A series of neutral tribunals bound by the rule of law? Democratically generated laws? A nation who believes it's better off bound by the rule of law and democracy than special interest organizations?

All of the above, and more: The AFL-CIO seeks freedom from all who oppose its agenda, and will stop at nothing to lay low everything and everyone thwarting its goals. Fortunately, there exist forums for suchlike actors that don't involve battlefields.

If you can't get people to do it then have government force people to do so.
This is another case of "Big Labor" trying to jam its horrible, over-regulated, hum-drum, uninteresting lifestyle of government provided everything.

Labor is dead until it gets something to sell. That is hard. It is easier of course to get government to force people to pay them instead of earning it.

What is new and worse is that these labor bozos now are trying to go over the capital, so to speak, and have the UN do their dirty work.

The selling out of America
The Democrats are selling out this nation. They are socialist who do not believe in the US Constitution and hate this nation.

Democrat = Treason.

Rights for terror suspects.
Defeat in Iraq
Excessive Taxation
Spending without restraint
Subversion of the Constitution
Sell us out to the UN.

Democrat = Treason.


If you keep selling after you have the order...
A young salesman has trouble shutting his mouth, writing the order, shaking hands and getting out of the room. Once he has all there is to get today the only thing he might accomplish by continuing to talk is to unsell what he already has booked. You have to know what you are in there to do and when you have achieved that. Stop. And go. Right away.

This is, perhaps, the hardest thing to drill into eager, young talent. But every senior player knows this for sure.

Similarly. The Union Movement had real work to do in the middle of the last century. However, once they had achieved the benefits of ending the abuse of workers and our society evolved they should have simply taken down the tent and gone home. Mission accomplished.

Instead, the unions continued to push for more. Their strength was simply too delicious and they indulged themselves. Until they destroyed the US Auto Industry.

Similarly. The United States won the Cold War (1991) and stood tall as the lone Super Power with our raging economy throughout the 1990's while the EU struggled to get under way (1992) and Japan tried to recover from the depression we forced on them via the Plaza Accord (1985). We made short work (100 hours) of a major army in Iraq (1991) and came into this century on top of the world. Literally.

However, we are also having trouble folding the tent when we have accomplished all the work there is to do on a given day. We just had to try to reengineer the culture of an ancient society when the only thing we were there to do this time out was remove a truly dangerous tyrant.

The baseball analogy is to get thrown out by a mile while trying to stretch a stand-up triple into an in-the-park home run. Stupid. Rookie mistake.

This lesson is very much like teaching your successful young salesmen to stop selling, write the order, close the book, look the client square in the eye, shake his hand and get out of the room.

Similarly, never ask a question you don't know the answer to ...
Well said, forest. Lawyers tend to succumb to the same temptation when questioning witnesses, asking that one question too many, the answer to which provides damning evidence you'd prefer remain obscure. Or in other situations, adding one condition too many in a contract that sours the deal, or planting one barb too many in opposing counsel's side, souring the professional relationship.

America's primary power arises not from what it does or can do but from how non-Americans perceive it is or could be for them. America has a great brand name with a fantastic jingle - "the Land of Opportunity"; come one, come all, the streets are paved with gold, be what you've always wanted to be, no one's stopping you.

The brand name is intact although it's recently taken a pounding because nobody wants "America the Liberator" or "America the Savior".

Like you said, forest, America has already made the sale. Now all it has to do is keep the doors open for the world's talent to pour in and make us all rich.

workers of the world
It's not enough that these special interest groups, unions, try to get government monopoly power just in the States, but like liberals usually do, they also want anti-american foreigners like the corrupt UN to also have a say in american matters. Does anyone know what the salary is for the CEO of the AFL-CIO? I tried to find it on the web, but that union which has an executive pay website, doesntnot include the salaries of the rotten union bosses. Perhaps some member of that union can tell us. Or is this kept secret from you ordinary members who have to pay for it?

abuse of workers
I think you said you had a company. Do you also have employees, and do they belong to a union?

Unions are bad enough in manufacturing... In defense?
Unions create layers of regulation that make no sense from the standpoint of a rational employer (Why do we have to fire the last one hired if there is deadwood hanging around and getting paid?) They obstruct sensible compromise. They demand more money than their jobs are worth and the usually end up getting it because the employers are legally required to deal with the extortionists that run these sick, sad organizations.

The real problem is when unions apply their power to the defense and security industries. When it comes to ensuring the safety of air travel, the government needs to be able to hire and fire idiots. With unionization, this is not an option. This practically guarantees that terrorists will be able to find some idiot running a security counter, and attack.

Unions are on thing when they are making our cars, they are totally different when they are running our national security. They are a potentially fatal annoyance for many businessesm and the best ally Osama has ever had in security...

Of course...
Yes. I do own companies. And, yes, we have employees. But, no, they do not belong to unions. What is this question about, Dietmar?

Union workers in defense industry.
A recent stike in Tucson by electrical workers against Raytheon Missiles increased productivity.
Some union and many non-union workers filled in. Thank God for right to work states.

Honda has one of the highest quality autos assembled in the USA, but not with union labor.

It DOES make a difference.

of course
Maybe mixed you up with someone else. But for interests sake, what if they tried to start a union, or others condemned you for not having them at your places?

Absolutely correct.
I do not mean to suggest that unions in defense industries are not harmful, unions are harmful wherever they are found.

However, unions in manufacturing industries are one thing, wheras unions for employees who are charged with protecting security are another thing entirely. Unions in defense industries mean that those industries are going to be less productive and effective than they otherwise would. We can pay a little bit more money, something the government has never been unwilling to do, and still get what we need.

When unions form to protect the employees of government agencies like the TSA, we have a situation where union protection for incompetent employees is likely to cost lives. It can take months to fire government employees for greivous violations of the rules and gross incompetence. It takes much longer to do so for government employees who are incompetent, but have not engaged in any sort of behavior that would get them fired in a heartbeat in corporate America. With unions protecting them, incompetents will be able to hold on to their jobs in the TSA and other agencies for extended periods despite incompetence, and in the process to create holes in our security apparatus that invite terrorists to strike.

Unions are bad for manufacturing, just compare GM and Honda if you want proof of that. However, they are infinitely more dangerous when they involve protecting incompetents upon whom people rely for protection.

Union Representation in the Middle-East
It is about time that we gain our rights as United States citizens working throughout the Middle-East. How can we get a union set up to represent us against management exploitation? I see limited adherance to American Labor Laws in Kuwait and as government workers we should have some sort of recourse to workplace violations.I understand all government workers throughout the world have union representation except us who work in the most oppressive region in the world and who work on the front-line in the Global War on Terror.

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