The good old days of union nepotism never really went away – not in Chicago anyway. According to published sources, International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 727, long a virtual candy store for boss John Coli Sr. (in photo) and extended family, has been providing lavish compensation for a law firm whose managing partner is one of Coli's sons. The firm has been busy as of late. In July, a Cook County judge ruled that the elder Coli and Teamsters Local 700, of which he is a trustee, were jointly liable for $2.3 million for breaking a building lease. That's not even taking into account a now-dismissed RICO suit charging the Colis and Local 727 with stiffing a funeral employee pension plan out of contributions. If the family needs allies, it knows where to look, especially Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
By now it is settled judicial opinion: A private-sector union can’t force nonunion employees under contract to pay dues for purposes beyond those related to collective bargaining. The Supreme Court cogently expressed this view in its landmark 1988 ruling, Communications Workers of America v. Beck. Yet it is almost as if the decision never happened. A new law journal article by prominent Right to Work attorney Raymond LaJeunesse, Jr. explains why. He points a finger not only at the unions, who at least act out of recognizable self-interest, but more importantly, at the ostensibly nonpartisan National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB, he argues, using a variety of tactics, over the years has acted more as a de facto advocate for unionism than as a guardian of the public trust. And the situation has gotten worse under President Obama.
“I want to make a difference” is a common statement of purpose for coming to work in the nation’s capital. Al Sharpton, no stranger to Washington during the Obama years, wants to make a difference. But given his track record, it will be the wrong kind. Last Wednesday and Thursday, July 8-9, Sharpton, under the banner of his New York City-based nonprofit National Action Network, sponsored a “Legislative and Policy Conference” on Capitol Hill. The well-attended event amplified his campaign to expand race-based affirmative action to uncharted areas of voting, sentencing, welfare reform and other policy areas. A parade of guest speakers urged the audience to pressure Congress to act. Like all of Reverend Al’s gambits, the campaign flies under the flag of “justice.” But given the planned core activity – lobbying – he may be skirting the law.
Access to reliable, high-speed Internet is almost given in today’s America. But should it be subsidized? The Federal Communications Commission thinks it should, now more than ever. On May 28, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced a proposal to expand the agency’s Lifeline program to include broadband Internet. Costing about $2 billion annually in recent years, Lifeline defrays the cost of landline or mobile phone service for low-income subscribers. Carriers and consumers share in the cost; Internet service providers soon may join them. Funding has risen so much under Obama that the program often is called 'Obamaphone.' Given the rampant fraud, the main issue would seem less the proper funding level than the program's very existence.
In Baltimore, the ashes have cooled; the curfew has ended; the National Guardsmen have left; and Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have gone home. But the apparent normalcy is misleading. For the orgy of looting, vandalism and arson last week following the death of a black petty criminal, Freddie Gray, may return with a vengeance if the six arrested local police officers, three white and three black, are not convicted. Gray died on April 19 of spinal injuries sustained a week earlier while in custody. Last Friday, State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced arrests for one count of second-degree murder and several counts of manslaughter, assault and misconduct. Yet treating this case as a homicide, racially motivated or not, isn't just premature. It's also a capitulation to mob rule.
Nothing underscores the Obama adminstration's failure on race relations more than its reaction to the wounding by gunfire in the wee hours last Thursday of two St. Louis-area cops at a Ferguson demonstration. Police Saturday night arrested Jeffrey Williams, a 20-year-old black who admitted to firing the shots but claimed he was aiming at someone else. Civil rights activists, predictably, are condemning Williams and denouncing “racist” police. The Department of Justice, which helped create this situation, is responding similarly. The outcome could be a nationwide law enforcement disaster.
Given the roiling conflict in Wisconsin these past four years over the limits of public-sector unionism, it only was a matter of time before the scene would shift to the private sector. This Monday, Governor Scott Walker signed Right to Work legislation. The law, which took effect immediately, bars unions from forcing private-sector employers to fire workers who don’t pay dues. Two dozen other states have similar laws. Yet what really is getting under the skin of organized labor is the triumph of their nemesis, Gov. Walker. More than ever, he looks like a top-tier Republican presidential candidate in 2016. Union leaders are preparing accordingly. And they’re getting help from President Obama.
President Obama traveled to Michigan this week to declare the auto bailout a success. Interestingly, he toured a Ford plant. The company did not participate in the bailout. GM is still trying to shake the Government Motors moniker, and that was certainly the reason for Obama's nonvisit.
Labor officials are about the last people to be impressed by evidence that hiking the minimum wage drives up entry-level unemployment. These last several weeks they've been putting words into action in targeting fast food restaurants. Unions, led by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), are retooling their campaign to establish a $15 an hour minimum wage for fast food employees, more than double the current $7.25 an hour basic federal minimum. Hundreds of protestors, though not necessarily union members, were arrested for blocking traffic on Labor Day. President Obama voiced his approval of the campaign that day in a speech. And the SEIU has called for a nationwide strike.