Obama pays his union dues, first installment

The New York Times reports that President Obama signed three executive orders pleasing to unions. The Times quotes Obama directly addressing the union officials at the White House ceremony: “Welcome back to the White House.” The Times summarized the substance of the orders in one paragraph:

The orders Mr. Obama signed, which union officials say will undo Bush administration policies that tilted toward employers, make it more difficult for federal contractors to discourage union activities. And when a federal contract changes hands, the new contractor will be required to offer jobs to workers who were employed by the earlier contractor.

And that’s that, as far as the Times is concerned. It seems highly doubtful that Times reporter David Stout has bothered to read the orders or ask anyone what kind of sense they make. Interested readers will have to look elsewhere for addtional information.

The orders have been posted here by Carter Wood at the Manhattan Institute’s PointofLaw.com site. Wood’s Saturday morning update notes:

Judging by the metadata of one file, one of the regulations was written by the SEIU’s legal counsel, or associate general counsel, Craig Becker — although he may have gone to work for the Administration. (See this Shopfloor.org post.) Remember all those headlines from eight years ago along the lines of “White House lets business lobbyists write the law?”

What sense do these orders make? The Times frames the story as Obama taking a swipe at Bush, consistent with Obama presentation of them at the White House ceremony. Times reporter David Stout is discreetly silent about Obama’s debt to organized labor. The orders are Obama’s downpayment on the debt.

The orders are couched in terms of government economy. Unions are of course well known for their contribution to economic efficiency. Mickey Kaus actually took the trouble to track down the text of the order requiring a contractor to retain the old workers when a federal contract changes hands, to borrow the Times’s formulation. Kaus quotes from the order:

The Federal Government’s procurement interests in economy and efficiency are served when the successor contractor hires the predecessor’s employees. A carryover work force reduces disruption to the delivery of services during the period of transition between contractors and provides the Federal Government the benefits of an experienced and trained work force that is familiar with the Federal Government’s personnel, facilities, and requirements.

Kaus displays a bad attitude toward the order. You might say he doesn’t take it at face value:

[W]hat if the contract got switched because the previous work force, you know, sucked? … P.S.: For example, the Obama administration itself can be seen as having won a new contract to perform the same Federal services, at the same location, as the previous contractor, the Bush Administration. Did Obama keep all of Bush’s employees in order to reduce “disruption” and enjoy “the benefits of an experienced and trained work force that is familiar with the Federal Governments … facilities”? I don’t think so! …

Kaus aptly calls the orders “the labor payoff of the day.” It’s a point that seems to have escaped the Times.

Via Jonah Goldberg.

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