- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 24, 2009


The AFL-CIO’s enthusiasm for “cap-and-trade” has become a perfect example of how the union bosses in Washington have grown out of touch with their rank and file.

In recent decades, unions have fought hard against free-trade agreements out of fear that good-paying union jobs would be lost to places such as Mexico, China or India where goods can be produced more cheaply.

But analysis by the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Council for Capital Formation found the union-backed legislation would actually increase the number of unionized manufacturing jobs that could be sent overseas, which runs counter to AFL-CIO’s stated goal of protecting jobs.

The analysis - released in a report last month - found between 1.8 million and 2.4 million jobs would be lost under Waxman-Markey by 2030, with two-thirds coming in the heavily unionized manufacturing sector. The study also accounted for the so-called “green jobs” that some estimates say could be created as a result of cap-and-trade.

Cap-and-trade also has serious economic costs for working families who struggle to earn a living. These costs include lower wages, increased energy costs and higher taxes.

The Heritage Foundation found cap-and-trade would reduce the nation’s gross domestic product by $161 billion in 2020, which translates to a loss of $1,870 per household. It found that in subsequent years the nation’s gross domestic product would take an average hit of $393 billion or an inflation-adjusted loss of $6,790 for a family of four after they have finished paying their $4,600 share of carbon taxes.

Additionally, cap-and-trade has been shown to have a negligible impact on global temperatures, amounting to only a few hundredths of a degree, and an April 2007 Massachusetts Institute of Technology study found Third World industrialization makes it moot.

Union families have looked to their unions to attend to their interests for generations going back to the fight for better working conditions in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and to protect their jobs, but today’s unions have placed a commitment to leftist dogma over workers’ interests.

Labor leaders of the past such as George Meany or Lane Kirkland would have been up in arms over any plan that had the potential to cost union jobs, but times have changed.

“In the 1950s and the 1930s, liberal Democrats would have been fighting to keep those unionized manufacturing jobs,” Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist said in response to questions with regard to union support for cap-and-trade. “Today union bosses care about union dues, and union dues flow from government workers.”

The AFL-CIO care less about the auto industry than about the number of unionized officials in the town hall and the city hall.

The union position on cap-and-trade is explained by pure politics: Rather than being the driving force in the left’s coalition, they have become secondary players, cozying up to other members of the coalition even when doing so betrays the economic self-interest of union members. This became clear to Republicans who unsuccessfully sought Teamster support for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in 2004. Instead of backing drilling in the ANWR that could create Teamster jobs, union leaders condemned drilling on environmental grounds.

Union leaders have clearly decided that it is the Sierra Club and MoveOn.org that they will please, not their members.

The AFL-CIO’s unquestioning adherence to leftist environmental dogma can be attributed to its current leadership. Labor’s alliance with the environmental movement has coincided with outgoing AFL-CIO President John Sweeney’s tenure, which has seen the organization progressively radicalized under his leadership.

According to the socialist journal New Politics, Mr. Kirkland, Mr. Sweeney’s staunchly anti-communist predecessor, would have had nothing to do with radical environmentalism.

Mr. Sweeney, together with incoming AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Linda Chavez-Thompson, charted a more radical course than their predecessors.

Although little-noticed outside the labor movement, the current leadership also was instrumental in the 1997 repeal of the AFL-CIO’s rule banning communists from participating in the union movement.

When Ronald Reagan successfully appealed to union members three decades ago to vote for him as an expression of shared patriotic and social values, it was in part because union members felt that their leaders had lost touch with the rank and file, while Mr. Reagan warmly courted them and reflected their ideals. A similar division may be about to occur again, as union leaders embrace a leftist agenda that is increasingly at odds with the economic interests of their members, and thus undermines the very rationale for union membership. The question is who among Republican presidential hopefuls is capable of credibly courting them?

Colin A. Hanna is president of Let Freedom Ring.

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