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  • Morning Bell: Killing Colombia Is Just the Beginning

    Any doubt that the Democratic Party is completely beholden to organized labor is now over. Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) unprecedented step to strip the up-or-down vote requirement from the Colombia Free Trade Agreement undermines the spirit of fast-track trade law and deals a death blow to any administration’s ability to conduct good-faith trade negotiations with foreign nations.

    Pelosi reportedly told a closed-door meeting of Democrats that she was not doing this at the behest of organized labor, but every fair-minded journalist covering the story reports that opposition to free trade from organized labor was the driving force behind Pelosi’s move. Also undercutting Peolsi’s credibility, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney rushed to praise Pelosi’s move: “We applaud her for taking decisive action to reassert congressional authority over trade.”

    The case for the Colombia Free Trade Agreement is strong, and labor’s arguments against it are shrinking and weak. First negotiated in 2006, the administration renegotiated the treaty last year to accommodate labor demands for tougher environmental and labor standards. Now labor is falling back on claims that Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is not doing enough to stop violence against trade unionists. What organized labor fails to acknowledge, though, is that the number of unionists killed in Colombia has dropped 75% since Uribe took office, and there have been only three killings so far in 2008. Even many Democrats acknowledge the benefits of freer trade with Colombia since killing the accord will only open Colombia’s market for American competitors.

    But killing trade with Colombia is not about protecting American families like Pelosi claims. It is about protecting the existing jobs of current dues-paying labor members. And to that end, Pelosi’s rejection of free trade with Colombia is just the latest evidence that organized labor has completed its takeover of the Democratic Party. One needs only to look to the two remaining presidential candidates’ promises to unilaterally pull out of NAFTA to see that “Free Market Clintonism, RIP.” But labor has plans to remake the U.S. economy well beyond trade, including the elimination of the secret ballot in union organizing elections, the elimination of section 14(b) of Taft-Hartley, which would gut all state “right to work” laws, and legislation to make union officials the exclusive bargaining agent for most police, fire and rescue personnel.

    The last item is perhaps the biggest threat to the U.S. economy. Already public sector unions are bankrupting local governments across the nation. Most Americans do not realize that public sector unions are the modern face of organized labor. Only 7% of private sector employees belong to a union compared to 36% of public sector employees. Almost half of all union members now work in the public sector. The typical union member today works for the DMV, not on the assembly line. Turning mandatory and involuntary union dues into political power, public sector unions win elections at the local level, setting up contract negotiations where union interests are on both sides of the table and the American taxpayer is not represented at all. As a result, just in the education sector alone, the total cost to states for paying for all teacher retirement health and pension obligations is now estimated at $3 trillion, and growing each year.

    Quick Hits:

    • Police arrested a California Nurses Association organizer accused of slapping a Service Employees International Union organizer as the CNA campaign to wrest control of 6,000 county-employed nurses away from the SEIU turned nasty.
    • The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 47% of likely voters give Congress a poor rating compared to just 13% who say Congress is doing a good or excellent job.
    • In an effort to alleviate the stress on the military, the Army will cut combat tours in Iraq from 15 months to 12 months, returning rotations to where they were before last year’s troop buildup.
    • Heading into a second and decisive round of voting for the presidency, 28-year incumbent Robert Mugabe is spreading violence throughout Zimbabwe.
    • Civil liberties groups determined to keep the military tribunal system from gaining legitimacy are delaying tribunals for Guantanamo detainees.
    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

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