- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 23, 2002

President Bush's courting of Teamsters and other unions has not stopped them from giving cash and endorsements almost exclusively to Democrats, including Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's opponent.
At the same time, right-to-work advocates are growing increasingly frustrated with the Bush administration for giving concessions to unions on important policy matters.
"Our supporters and members around the country are fuming," said Stefan Gleason, vice president of National Right to Work. "The White House is pursuing an ill-advised strategy to cozy up to union officials by making core policy concessions to increase compulsory unionism.
"That hurts employees while alienating the small business and right-to-work base," he added. "And it has done nothing to blunt Big Labor's ongoing attacks on the Bush administration or Republicans."
White House officials acknowledge they were not pleased when the Teamsters recently endorsed Democrat Bill McBride over the president's brother in the Florida governor's race. Mr. Bush has aggressively courted Teamsters President James Hoffa, even giving him a seat in the presidential box at a State of the Union address.
"There are going to be times when we agree and times when we disagree and obviously, that's one where we strongly disagree," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said of the McBride endorsement.
But he added that Jeb Bush has been endorsed by another union courted by the president, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners.
"On the question of what we are getting in return for courting labor, I reject the premise of the question," Mr. McClellan said. "The president makes decisions based on what he believes is the right policy for the American people, including working men and women."
One White House official pointed out that the Teamsters and carpenters have endorsed the president's proposals on energy and terrorism insurance, indicating the administration has not come away completely empty-handed. And Mr. Bush has drawn the line on concessions by holding out for the ability to suspend union protections in a proposed Department of Homeland Security.
Still, his administration has made other moves that have angered the business community.
Last month, for example, Solicitor General Ted Olson asked the Supreme Court not to review a Clinton-era ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that allows employees to be fired for not financially supporting union organizing activities. Right-to-work advocates consider the ruling a rollback of the Supreme Court's 1988 ban on forced union dues in the case of Communications Workers v. Beck.
"We are not familiar with the particulars of the case," Mr. McClellan said. "We are strongly committed to compliance with the Beck case. The president signed an executive order requiring compliance with the Beck case and we are vigorously defending it against legal challenge."
But Mr. Gleason complained that the White House has done little to push for passage of the National Right to Work Act, which would ban forced union membership. Mr. Bush pledged during the presidential campaign to sign the act into law.
And the administration has nominated a slate of NLRB board members that National Right to Work considers "sympathetic toward compulsory unionism" and "hostile toward employee individual rights as well as business interests."
The White House countered that several of the nominees have been praised by business groups.
The president's overtures to unions have also aggravated Sean Doherty, executive director of the Merit Shop Roundtable, a California coalition of nonunion contractors. Mr. Doherty said the White House has refused to block state preferences for union contractors.
"It does stick in our craw because we are literally dying on the vine out here," he said. "We've asked the administration for help during this time, but our calls have been repeatedly ignored or turned away.
"We certainly don't disagree with a political strategy that will encourage some unions to support the president. But before courting the unions, you should take care of your base.
"And we're the base for the White House out here in California," Mr. Doherty added. "The building construction trade industry is the single largest industry in the state that can organize, get out the vote and get involved in the electoral process."
Worse yet, according to Mr. Doherty and Mr. Gleason, White House overtures to unions have failed to staunch the flow of cash and endorsements to Democrats.
"Carpenters and Teamsters are still giving 94 percent of their soft money to the Democrats' Party committees," Mr. Gleason said. "In the closest races, where the money really matters, they back the Democrat virtually every time.
"There are 13 close Senate races. They're backing the Democrats in 10 of them and the Republicans in none of them.
"In the House, there are 22 close races," he added. "The carpenters are backing one Republican and 16 Democrats. And the Teamsters are backing only Democrats."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide