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  • Morning Bell: Stop Obama's Big Union Onslaught

    What does it take to bring an airline to its knees? Uncompetitive union-negotiated labor contracts and a fundamental unwillingness to recognize that in a down economy, unions have a hard time raising wages without destroying jobs.

    That was a lesson that unions refused to learn in the case of American Airlines, which yesterday announced that it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, making it the last large U.S. full-fare airline to seek court protection from creditors. American was forced to take that action when the airline pilots union refused to budge on its demands for massive signing bonuses and wage increases. The airline’s competitors are flying high in profits after restructuring union contracts in their own bankruptcy proceedings.

    Unions also didn’t learn any lessons after taxpayers bailed out General Motors and Chrysler, and then-White House “auto-czar” Ron Bloom gave the UAW preferential treatment in the restructuring process despite their contracts being largely at fault.

    And, this is a lesson that still has not penetrated the walls of the Obama White House. The President’s appointees to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) want businesses to be unionized at all costs, even if it means harming both workers and the economy. They’re trying to make it happen by ramming through measures that would help expand unionization in America.

    Today, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on the Workplace Democracy and Fairness Act, introduced by Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN). The bill protects the right of workers to decide whether or not to unionize. That’s a right that the NLRB would like to drastically weaken.

    One tack the Obama NLRB is taking is implementing “snap elections” which Heritage labor expert James Sherk says are designed to prevent employees from making an informed choice about unionizing.

    The policy shortens the election period from six weeks to as little as 10 days, depriving companies of their ability to explain to workers the darker side of unionization, including strike histories, dues increases, and union corruption. Meanwhile, union leaders would have months to try to sell workers on their side of the story through rose-colored glasses.

    The NLRB is set to vote on the new rule today, but it’s possible that their efforts could be forestalled if the lone Republican on the board resigns or withholds participation in the vote, depriving the NLRB of the quorum it needs to issue regulations.

    Their earlier gambit — known as “micro unions” — redefines who gets to vote on unionizing a particular workplace. Instead of workers with a shared “community of interest” forming a single bargaining unit and voting together on unionizing (think cashiers, shelf-stockers, and greeters at a grocery store), now the Obama NLRB has allowed unions to form cherry-picked bargaining units of their supporters. Sherk explains how the new rule would impact workers:

    If most workers at a store oppose unionizing, but a union has majority support among the cashiers, it can now form a union of just the cashiers. The shelf-stockers and greeters would not get a vote.

    Unionizing brings risks to the entire workplace. The Obama NLRB has allowed unions to selectively disenfranchise the workers who do not want to take that risk.

    All of this is occurring despite the fact that only one in 10 non-union workers say they want to unionize. What’s more, unionized companies invest less, are less competitive, and create fewer jobs than non-union companies. Given these facts, it’s no surprise that union membership has shrunk to just 7 percent in the private sector. Likewise, though, it’s not surprising that the Obama NLRB is digging in and trying to foist unionization on all companies while it still can.

    Kline’s bill attempts to prevent that from happening by guaranteeing that union elections are not held until workers have at least 35 days to hear from both sides, ensuring that employers have at least 14 days to find legal counsel before any legal proceedings begin, preventing unions from cherry-picking which workers can vote, and protecting privacy by letting workers decide which contact information to release to union organizers.

    Kline says, “It’s very clear to me that we’re seeing the rights of employers and employees under attack.” And he’s right. Workers have a right to organize unions, but they should have a right not to organize them as well. Reforms like the ones Kline is proposing help protect that right.

    Quick Hits:

    Posted in Economics [slideshow_deploy]

    51 Responses to Morning Bell: Stop Obama's Big Union Onslaught

    1. rosey kidd says:

      The Obama WH NRLB Unions have not learned from Europe ,They have just bailed out socialist Europe .I do hope Americans wake up for next years elections .So the unions continues to hurt Americans companies ,no one says get rid of them ,Unless we really do something there will be one collapse after another.

    2. WAYNE LAMBERT says:


    3. Paul says:

      Flying with a major US airline two months ago, I saw the impact of unionized workers. We landed at our destination just after a thunderstorm had passed. Two hours later, we sat at baggage claim waiting on our luggage and watching bags from at least a dozen later flights arrive on the carousels. The reason our luggage was late? Our particular airline's union was not permitted to be on the tarmac when storms were within 10 miles of the airport. My direct experiences as a customer of union services and 23 years of working in unionized factories? Unions don't care about efficiency, the viability of their employers, or the customer. Rather, they focus on "what's in this for me."

    4. @AskMoreQ says:

      Right, it wasn't falling car sales, building cars no one wanted to buy or the Wall Street crash that resulted in the automakers falling on hard times. It's too easy to blame union contracts. Did you even read the details on the newly negotiated contracts between the UAW and GM, Chrysler and Ford? No raises, more workers hired at the lower wage, etc. Please quit blaming unions for the problems companies face. It's getting old.

    5. Denis Breslin says:

      The headline about unions failing to learn a lesson here is disingenuous – especially with regard to American Airlines. In 2003 the same set of circumstances (rising fuel costs, plummeting stock price, dangerously low cash reserves) put AA on the brink of Chapter 11. The unions (all 3 of them) took huge pay and benefit cuts to keep AA solvent. (Note: pilots took disproportionate hit because in addition to 24% pay cuts, 2500 pilots lost their jobs and many captains were demoted to copilots which meant a 50% pay cut). Not 2 years later – while AA and unions were on the cusp of an industry-leading turnaround effort, AA's management took huge bonuses – effectively killing – actually killing dead, any cooperative effort from unions. Corporate Greed is what shot AA out of the skies, not union intransigence. After 5 years of bonuses while pilots and other union workers labored under pay rates negotiated in the '90's, – the unions rightfully demanded recompense. AA is not filing BK because of union demands, in fact Tom Horton's long-held desire to quash unions by abrogating their contracts through Chapter 11 is a dream come true for him. This is a sad, pathetic end to what once was a great company, run into the ground -not by labor – but by inept, incompetent, greedy managers. For comparison, Southwest pilots are paid far more than AA pilots – yet SWA is managed well and continues to thrive.

    6. CiaoGino says:

      This entire matter – the bankruptcy of American Airlines, the effort to give workers some authority over their union participation should be front and center in every possible venue! Any upcoming debates come immediately to mind as appropriate.

    7. Ben C. says:

      We are on the well on the path of tyranny. Government micromanagement of business and the health industry only solidifies the left's postion of "big government is best." If the Levin / McCain Bill is approved by Congress giving the President power to arrest without due process those who he/she feels is a threat to the country the path will be complete. It is beyond scary – it is terrifying.

    8. Casey Carlton says:

      Here is another tactic Obama and his minions are using in what appears to many, including me, to be a deliberate effort to destroy the American economy.

    9. Sel says:

      Most people know how the greedy and corrupt unions operate, but some don;t care how it hurts most hard woeking taxpayers who foot the bill for all those extra perks and benefits that union workers get. As long as they get their piece of the pie they'll get it any which way they can… But the bullet will come back to bite them when the private sector goes broke and cannot afford these high taxes. Then everyone pays the piper – not just the taxpayers, but the union parasites that feed off of them.

    10. Frank says:

      Once upon a time, I think labor unions were probably a good idea so as to prevent employer abuses. Nowadays, labor unions are more of the part of the problem in America than part of the solution to our problems. We now have labor laws to prevent employer abuses. Labor unions now reduce business profit margins, which reduce business investments in research & equipment making (over the long run) American businesses more uncompetitive in the global market. Labor unions also "buy" politicians. Government corruption increases. Government inefficiencies get worse. Americans again lose out in the global economy via corrupt government, high taxes, bad economic policies & bad monetary policies.

    11. Greg says:

      When will the Unions realize that there place in America is no longer needed. They were handy back when employees were treated and paid poorly. However, thanks to government growth and the creation of such bureaucracies as the Department of Labor, OSHA, and the such, employees have government protection from mistreatment. Unions are a thing of the past and there is no need for them other than a lobbying tool for the Democratic government representatives. I am curious, if the Unions through some miracle gave all their campaign contributions to Republicans, how fast Democrats would vote to strike them down. Faster than you could imagine.

      • RalRus says:

        I believe that Greg has hit things on the head. A lot of us out here have been asking the same questions since back in the seventies… I've only had one encounter with possible union activity a place of employment..When the organizers were told in no uncertin terms that their brand of employment was not needed they began to give impressions of using force and they were told by us the workers that it was not the way of the future..We said no way and that was the end of that.. Greg is correct, if the unions started paying into the Republican coffers the democrats would jump on that idea very quickly…Unions have out lived their usefulness…

      • Adam says:

        Yea Greg, kinda like if Rich people and big business and the Koch brothers stopped supporting Republicans….I get your drift. The minute the Unions are done will be the demise of all American workers. It will be a race to the bottom with wages and working conditions my friend, but you probably sit in an office all day counting someone elses money for them.

        • Mutantone says:

          you forgot to add It is all Bush's fault

        • Bobbie says:

          wow, Adam. what no faith you have in a man you're not who has the intellect and dignity to work without thinking to pay for an organization to negotiate a pay unions decide one fits all regardless of any work ethic individuals have where others lack making it harder on those that have who are forced to pick up their slack.

          Today real men speak for themselves and would rather do for himself making an honest living by proving his worth where there's accountability then paying money for today's corrupt union negotiated one.

          Real Americans work to provide for their families and livelihoods, not work to pay for unions to do something the American worker can do for themselves. Unfortunately real Americans are becoming outnumbered by government tokens. It's obvious union demands are one cause of the business collapses another cause is the unconstitutional government supporting the union over the government's duty to protect the freedom of the people to conduct business under the peoples' business policies.

          usually the lefty always accuses the right what the lefty is already doing so I bet you probably sit in a chair all day counting or awaiting your money from government. What happened to the stereo type of the American man that showed personal strength, positive attitude and above all endurance? today they need a union? WOW! 21ST CENTURY!!! if men had grown stronger, today of all previous is the day they wouldn't need to pay a union to look to the union who protects, promotes and provides for itself regardless of anything else.

        • eagle275 says:

          oh, and why have companies left the US? Because of govt regulations and union greed. Just ask the Chinese, moron.

        • eagle275 says:

          one more thing – if unions were so popular, why do they have to force people to join and pay dues? HHHHHMMMMMMMMMM.

        • Atomizer says:

          Adam… your a Union tool huh!…. gettin paid way to much to push that green button every fifteen minutes…

      • Jack W Estes says:

        Spot on Greg. I was involved in union labor organizations from both sides and I have to say unequivocally that the rhetoric about union "brothers and sisters" banding together for the good of all is a bunch of hooey.

        For example, the hooplah about foregoing big pay raises and holding the line on demanding exhobitant benefits and lucrative stipends to avoid layoffs of remaining employees is BS. Every instance in which this happened in my experience it quickly became a game of "every man for himself", never mind compromise to save jobs for those with less seniority; those at the bottom of the union food chain.

    12. Carol M Kite says:

      It should never be alright for a president of any country to be in bed with the public sector union leaders, lobbyists, special interests, CEOs of insurance or bank groups, Wall street execs, etc. because they bought his way into office. We taxpayers don't get the proper leadership we signed on for when voting said president, after listening to his empty promises, to learn he has no interest in a better economy, helping the job situation, utilizing America's resources, etc. instead too busy enjoying the high as president & all the "toys" & spending like he never had money before while focussed on one thing only: a 2nd term of more of the same. Those who think he's a good leader to a better America need to wake up and pay attention!

    13. DJ Golio says:

      The lone Republican should resign his post to avoid the negative consequences of the proposed changes to union related rules.

    14. zygote 1331 says:

      I would strongly argue that the big three auto makers suffered "largely" because of union contracts. Indeed they were hammered by making fuel inefficient, large size cars when foreign competitors understood the market far better. And why not take a look at management where there were far too many VP's making far too much money for driving their companies into a ditch. Had those genius management people created a more competitive product those union contracts would have never been an issue, much they had never been a problem during the glory years of Detroit.

    15. J E Houser says:

      This is precisely the reason we need to limit members of Congress to two terms. Unions take money from workers, then award themselves a nice income and benefits, then give money to politicians for reelection. The benefit to workers? Destruction of jobs for their offspring.

    16. Mustang says:

      I for one do not want some fat slobn of an unkempt Union manager, sitting back in his chair smoking a cigar with his feet up, living the good life off of mine and others dues. While we toil they reap the profits and my family would have to go without so they can strike and shout.

    17. Gene says:

      Sounds like the Unions are learning from the CEO's and their Million dollar bonuses.

    18. Mike Mead says:

      It would be nice if an entity with the reputation of the Heritage Foundation would actually check the facts regarding the AA bankruptcy before it blames "big unions" for AA's filing. AA pilots are represented by the Allied Pilots Association which is an independent union for AA pilots who are on a seniority system. APA is in no way "Big Labor". In this capacity it functions the same as SWAPA which represents the pilots of Southwest Airlines. Southwest flourishes under the same system as AA operates. AA management squandered over $1 billion in annual concessions given by AA pilots in 2003, and actually offered AA pilots pay raises and bonuses less than 2 weeks ago while they were busy preparing bankruptcy documents and the CEO was finding a new job. The new American Way: get mine, get out of town, and blame labor. The fact that the Heritage foundation says nothing about AA pilots 2003 sacrifices, or the true status of the imminent bankruptcy process at AA, and just jumps on the blame labor band wagon leaves me skeptical of any of the Foundations proclamations in the future. I was formerly a fan…

    19. Denis Breslin says:

      The headline about unions failing to learn a lesson here is disingenuous – especially with regard to American Airlines. In 2003 the same set of circumstances (rising fuel costs, plummeting stock price, critically low cash reserve) resulted in AA on the brink of bankruptcy. The unions stepped up and negotiated huge pay and benefit cuts to keep AA solvent. Pilots took a disproportionate share of the cuts. 2500 pilots lost jobs. 25% pay cuts were doubled for pilots demoted from captains to first officer resulting in 50%+ pay cuts. Not more than 2 years later in the midst of a potentially enormous turnaround prompted by "best in class" analysis and union cooperation was killed stone cold dead – when management took huge "performance" bonuses (even as AA lost $800M). The result was that corporate greed while the union workers who sacrificed got nothing – began a downward spiral of mismanagement and inept corporate leadership. New CEO Tom Horton is getting his wish – to abrogate union contracts and eliminate protective work rules. Unions balance corporate power. If one gets too far out of balance – the collective bargaining or bankruptcy forces the pendulum back to the center. In this case American Airlines corporate management took their power and greed beyond the limits – ultimately screwing the very workers that kept it solvent for the past 8 years with $1.6B in annual give-backs. And it screwed millions of share-holders, vendors and financiers. Don't be blaming the unions here – they were trying to get back some tiny piece of their original sacrifices in 2003. Blame Tom Horton, Gerard Arpey and the rest of the "team" who ran AA into the ground while other airlines found merger partners, sharpened their route structure and found a way to make a profit. Southwest has higher pay rates of any airline – yet they are thriving. It is not the cost of labor, it is the price AA paid for pitiful management that resulted in AA's filing.

    20. Jeanne Stotler says:

      I agree, Unions had a place when bus drivers, train operators and other employees were FORCED to work long hours, little time off and low pay.. Time has come for a National Right to Work Law. We have federal laws as to breaks, lunch periods etc. and most CEO's and Pres. do not remember the long hours etc. so they are only interested in their BIG golden Parachutes etc. and Unions areonly interested in collecting dues so they can support a corrupt administration.

    21. Jerry Walker says:

      Agenda driven writers are nothing more than purveyors of half truths or rather half lies which any mother will tell you is just a lie. Mr. Brownfield would do well to actually interview Mr. Horton, barring that he could at least read what Mr. Horton had to say about the reasons AMR filed for chapter 11 protection. But if Mr. browning were to actually do his homework he would not be able to write his anti-Union article.
      Mrs. Browning should tell her son stop writting what he feels and get the facts before making up his mind on a subject.
      Mr. Browning, be a responsible journalist. Remember, don't belive everything you think.

    22. Michelle says:

      The Heritage article blames the bankruptcy on the pilot’s union, and yet, AMR corp, which filed for bankruptcy protection, does not. “AMR was determined to avoid Chapter 11 as air travel fell and losses mounted after the 2001 terrorist attacks, even as peers used bankruptcy to shed costly pension and retiree benefit plans and restructure debt. Rival carriers later combined, giving them larger route networks that were more attractive to lucrative corporate travel customers.” The last thing the pilots got from American was a 23% pay CUT, and that was in 2003, when the management took a 23% pay RAISE. Consider gas prices, fuel inefficient airplanes, poor management and management costs before blaming the pilots.

    23. Bahz2k11 says:

      It is Interesting how the Left views rights. You have the right to abortion, you have the right to unionize, therefore you MUST exercise that right or you're dirt. Must be why they don't like the right to bear arms (because what if WE ALL exercised that right?!?).

      • eagle275 says:

        they agree to a law that prosecutes the attacker of a woman that is pregnant and/or murdered,etc. but that same unborn is fair game when it comes to abortion. Hmmmm.

    24. meekee says:

      Unions are designed to blackmail employers and destroy the capitalist system of market forces. Whatever industry and whatever occupation, a union seeks furtherance of its ideology at the expense of the customer or the recipient. They have a comfortable bedfellow in Obama.

    25. Lloyd Scallan says:

      When will we understand this "union onslaught" is not about workers or their rights. It's about power, the same power as rape, that is not about sex, it's about control. This's about the power that allows the union bosses to give billions of union members dues dollars (without their approval) to Obama which gives him the power to allow them to continue controling the industries of this nation. Why can't we see this is pure
      communism and Obama is at the heart of it.

    26. PADDY O says:

      A politician should be made to recuse himself from voting on any issue involving an organization which has donated to his campaign chest! This of course will never happen because they all accept BRIBE MONEY and nobody would be left to vote! Also like judges they would be the only one to decide on recusal and not a damned one of them is honest enough to do that. Look at Kagen. She will lnot recuse herself from passing judgement on
      Obamacare, A law she helped Write.

    27. Brad - Detroit says:

      I have no problem with private sector unions. They can collectively bargain themselves right out of a job when the company files bankruptcy. I don't believe in unions in the public sector because they can collectively bargain for more money out of my wallet, and I'm not even allowed to be at the negotiation.

      • Jay says:

        Amen Brad. The USA is going down fast with Obama. Just look at Fast and Furious, Holder should be thrown out and the other cronies, if they were Republican they would be charged!!!!
        I am changing from D to R. I want a Pres. who can speak without a prompter, and one who will unseal his College Records (the first President to do this-wonder why??) History will tell! I think we will be shocked, I will not. Also look at$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ going everywhere, UK, etc not to the American citizens, and people out of work. God help America.

    28. Carey Page says:

      AA pilots gave back a lot in wages and benefits in 2003 as part of an effort to keep AA out of bankruptcy. Their remunerations have been stagnant since. AA has reliably lost money almost every quarter….BUT, BIG BUTT….their management consistently got huge bonuses….Aprey, the most.

      Private sector unions are legal. There is enough stupid to go around, but I lay most of the problem at the feet of management this go around.

    29. Jeff Lenhart says:

      I agree with Mr Mead and Breslin. Mr Brownfield's two line comment showed no more understanding of this issues at American Airlines than I would expect of any drive by media attack on conservative issues. Mr Horton himself has said that the American bankruptcy was not due to labor but rather to fuel costs and inefficient jets. As a 23 year American pilot, Air Force veteran, and life long conservative, I know that employee and union greed was not the reason for American Airline's bankruptcy filing. Mr Brownfield would do himself and his readers more justice researching his statements rather than going for an easy shot to illustrate the point he was trying to make. As an avid follower of the Heritage Foundation it disappoints me to see the kind of misinformation as I now have to wonder about how accurate their take is on other subjects of which I have no personal knowledge.

    30. GRACE E. PRATTI says:


    31. Blair Franconia, NH says:


    32. Bob Withers says:

      Sadly, the author of this article did very little research prior to writing it. There's almost no similarities between APA and the supposed "Big Union Onslaught" referenced in the title. A little research would reveal that labor unions like APA are governed by the Railway Labor Act vs. the Nation Labor Relations Act that "Big" unions are governed by. RLA renders unions almost powerless by virtue of the fact that their contracts never expire and they can't go on strike without govt. permission.

    33. Donald mehus says:

      I personally boycott any service, or retail that I suspect are union, that includes all auto dealers.

    34. D. Sarkisian says:

      Mr. Brownfield,

      I am a supporter and member of the Heritage Foundation. However, your article laying the bankruptcy of American Airlines at the feet of the American Airlines Pilots has caused me to take a step back. Where is the Heritage tradition of extensive research and honest reporting of the facts? You make no mention of management missteps, global downturns, $100 barrels of oil, or the plain fact that the American pilots have been working under major, voluntary, company saving pay cuts for almost a decade. Your misguided efforts to weave the AA bankruptcy and the Allied Pilots Association into your anti-union message in this posting casts a shadow over any future posts you make, as well on the Heritage Foundation's reputation in general.

    35. bassboat says:

      It is always amazing and at the same time scary when you ask a union person to name one company that has been made more competitive and better by being unionized. You either get a blank stare or they evolve into children working in coal mines for twelve hours a day talking points. My question above all of this is simply this, when are we as a country finally realize that unions are killing companies and allow people/companies to be created without having to allow unions to organize people. I know that if I were going to build a factory that required an investment on my part I would not do it if I had to deal with a union, it would be economic suicide. We need to talk about this elephant that is in the room. If I would not pay the workers enough money for their talents they would not work for me, they do not need a union. Companies face world wide competition today because of unions and not as a result of company greed.

    36. Mike,

      You need to check your facts before you publish. The American Airlines Pilots took a 23% pay cut in 2003 to "Save the Company from Bankruptcy". From then till now Management has taken over $500,000,000 in bonuses. That is half a Billion in cash! This Management Teem is stealing the company and Stock Holders blind. Check your facts, how much did Lorenzo take from Eastern before it died? How much did Icahn take from TWA before it died.

      Well I can tell you a little about that, I was a TWA Captain. Icahn net worth increased almost exactly the same amount the TWA employees gave up to "Save the Company". Icahn went from a Multimillionaire to a Billionaire. I don't fault anyone from succeeding in life and making a Billion but I don't like Management that exploits it's Management Position to enrich themselves at the expense of the owners/stock holders of a company.

      If Pilots were as loose and careless as your are with the facts. The country side would be littered with airline wreckage and bodies.

      Respectfully submitted,

      Capt. Emmett Conrecode
      Currently, furloughed First Officer American Airlines

    37. art wissing says:

      all unions are past their point of being useful , in a global economy. the competion is brutal coming at us from every corner of the world. let the market forces work like they should and have from the begining of time. then we wont have artificily inflated labor costs . they will be more in line with the rest of the world we compete with…. what industry , or state is more competitive with unions than with out….answer,NONE. every industry that is heavily unionized,eventualy ends up in bankrupcy. so does every state,ie michigan ,california ,new jersey toname a few. every country that is heavily unionized goes broke,ie europe. guess which states in this country create more jobs by far, the right to work states, less unions equal more jobs, less expense for the towns,counties, states.tell me again why we need unions…..with out lying now……

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