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.
If anyone thought the Obama administration planned to sit on the sidelines after the riots in Ferguson, Mo., those thoughts should be dispelled by now. Last Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder visited the suburban St. Louis community with the apparent ulterior motive of laying the groundwork for a federal criminal indictment against a white police officer, Darren Wilson, who on August 9 shot to death a local black youth, Michael Brown. Wilson, far from being a trigger-happy "racist" cop, very likely had acted in self-defense. Brown allegedly sucker-punched Wilson, tried to take his gun, and then, after walking or running away, stopped, turned around, and then violently charged at Wilson. Holder appears to be putting race above impartial law enforcement. Upon arrival, he stated at Florissant Valley Community College: "I am the attorney general of the United States. But I am also a black man."
Should perpetuating racial grievance be the defining mission of a U.S. Attorney General? Eric Holder, who has held the office for the past five and a half years, really believes it is - and acts accordingly. A new book, Obama's Enforcer: Eric Holder's Justice Department (Broadside), presents a strong case for removing Holder from office as a corrective to his many abuses of power related to racial and other issues. In 256 pages, authors John Fund and Hans von Spakovsky pull no punches in revealing how Holder and other department officials routinely have subordinated rule of law to radical politics, all the while stonewalling Congress and punishing internal dissenters. They also, properly, point a finger at Holder's boss, President Obama.
The National Labor Relations Board has been a model of instability these last half-dozen years. And the drama, though temporarily resolved last July, won't likely end soon. Last Thursday, June 26, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Noel Canning v. NLRB that President Obama exceeded his authority in making three "recess appointments" to the NLRB on January 4, 2012 during a Senate break which, in the eyes of the Court, did not qualify as a recess. "The Senate is in session when it says it is," wrote Justice Stephen Breyer. Yet the ruling was not a full defeat for Obama. By 5-4, the four liberals on the Court, joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy (in photo), also ruled against the near-elimination of presidential recess authority and thus undercut a circuit court ruling in January 2013.
The United Auto Workers may have declined in numbers, but its taste for confrontation appears as strong as ever. And its new leader, Dennis Williams, isn't about to let anyone forget. Last Wednesday, June 4, Williams, the UAW secretary-treasurer these last four years, overwhelmingly was elected president at the union convention in Detroit. Inaugurated the following day, Williams, now 61, replaces one-term President Bob King, who at 67 retired in the face of the union's mandatory age limit. Williams' main priority is ending the two-tier wage system to which the union agreed in 2007 as part of a deal to keep General Motors, Ford and Chrysler afloat. He'll get to test his mettle in contract negotiations next year. The union shouldn't lack for funds in this or any other endeavor; delegates approved a 25 percent dues hike.
Is paying someone an annual salary, as opposed to an hourly wage, a form of exploitation even if the work is identical? President Obama thinks it can be. On March 13, Obama issued an Executive Order directing the Department of Labor to draft a regulation to expand the eligibility of salaried workers on federal contracts to receive overtime pay. The threshold would rise from the current $455 a week to an estimated $970 a week; employees making less effectively would be converted to hourly status and paid at an overtime rate for work done beyond 40 hours in a given week. The president insists the issue is fairness. "Overtime is a pretty simple idea," he said at the White House ceremony. "If you have to work more, you should get paid more." Yet the issue isn't so simple.