Man of the people

In his last act before being arrested on federal corruption charges, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich ordered state agencies to stop doing business with Bank of America until it uses some its federal bailout money to keep a Chicago factory open. Blagojevich also vistied workers who are occupying the factory. The unionized employees will not allow the company or the bank to remove equipment until they receive their severance and vacation pay. President-elect Obama, a former community organizer, says he supports the workers efforts to obtain the benefits they earned (“I think they are absolutely rignt”).

It’s quite easy for me to sympathize with the workers, especially if the company violated a federal law (the WARN Act) that requires 60 days notice before a plant closing absent special circumstances. Here the company apparently only provided three days notice.

Gov. Blagojevich’s order that the state not deal with Bank of America is a different matter, and not just because its author may be a crook. Allocating federal bailout money to this particular enterprise may or may not be a good use of it. However, Congress did not require that the money it appropriated be used to assist failing businesses that the banks have no confidence in. And the state of Illinois did not supply the money, and thus should not have any say (direct or coercive) in where it goes.

The Washington Post’s account notes that the standoff at this particular factory represents a throwback to union tactics rarely seen since the 1930s. They could become depressingly familiar before long.

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