Attorney-client privilege is a basic protection of liberty. Yet this Friday, people may begin to find out how little the Obama administration thinks of it. That’s when a Labor Department rule, issued in March and launched in April, fully kicks in, forcing employers to divulge the identities of outside legal help on how to avoid unionization. This "persuader rule," also requires such consultants to reveal their own client rosters. Union officials laud the rule as a blow for transparency and a corrective to “union-busting.” In reality, it is a power play designed to minimize the opportunities for nonunion workers to hear an employer’s side of the story during a union organizing drive. Conveniently, the regulation doesn’t apply either to unions or their consultants. As employers gear up to comply, they've gotten unexpected help from federal judges.
The Obama administration sees it as the middle class getting a raise. The details suggest it's a demotion. On May 18, the Department of Labor published a final rule hiking the annual income ceiling for overtime pay eligibility of salaried employees from $23,660 to $47,476. Set to go into effect December 1, the regulation would benefit an estimated 4.2 million workers. However, it also may produce unintended consequences such as: loss of scheduling flexibility; pay cuts; benefit cuts; fewer work hours per week; higher employer compliance costs; and needless litigation. A group of lawmakers, led by Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., have responded with bills to nullify the rule and make it difficult for the DOL to offer a substitute.
Anyone doubting the influence of the loosely-knit band of demagogues known as Black Lives Matter probably wasn't at the White House last Thursday, where President Obama met with black leaders to discuss race, crime and policing. Among the attendees were Al Sharpton, National Urban League President Marc Morial, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and Black Lives Matter activists DeRay McKesson and Brittany Packnett (in photo). Obama invited McKesson and Packnett as a gesture to young blacks. Their inclusion underscores the summit's unspoken assumption: White lives don’t matter.
“Card Check: The Sequel” has arrived. No, it’s not a movie. It’s a congressional bill. And labor unions are counting on a happy ending this time. On October 6, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wisc., unveiled the Workplace Democracy Act (S.2142, H.R. 3690). The measure would force nonunion private-sector employers to recognize a union as a bargaining agent if it obtains signed pledge cards from over half of all potentially affected workers. This organizing tactic, known as a “card check,” is legal. And unions often use it as a prelude to, or a substitute for, a secret ballot representation election. The bill’s name is misleading. It’s no more about democracy than its almost identical forerunner, the Employee Free Choice Act, was about freedom of choice. And its economic effects are not likely to be salutary.
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.