Tuesday, June 9, 2009

It Must Be Frustrating to be a Union Boss

Dear Readers:

We hope this post finds you well and securely employed.

As we've been saying for several months, unemployment will likely reach into the double digits, assuming the unions have their way with the U.S. government and, based on last week's 9.4% unemployment rate, it appears we will be proven right.

Though we are not economists, we believe Americans should brace themselves for an unemployment rate of around 11% and, if EFCA and some of the other job-killing pieces of legislation unions are pushing for come to fruition, unemployment may reach 15% or more.

Money isn't buying union bosses any love these days…

It must be frustrating to be a union boss these days. In fact, it must be downright humiliating. You see, after spending a cool (est.) $1.4 billion in 2006 and 2008 to buy the most anti-free market government in American history, union bosses are just having a hard-as-hell time getting the neanderthalically-named Employee Free Choice Act passed.

In fact, just this morning, Politico is reporting that there are some key votes still missing in the Senate. Al Franken (the SNL writer-comedian-turned-author-turned-failed talk-show host-turned-filibuster-breaking politician) is having a heck of a time killing off Norm Coleman, which means the elusive 60th Senate vote is MIA.

Then, there are the two missing Senators who are as nearly as old as the Senate itself, Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd. They both have ailments that are rendering them unavailable to inflict any more damage on America's economy--like voting for the delusionally-dubbed EFCA, or forcing our nation in to socialized medicine.

Although we do not wish these two lions of the Senate any ill will, we are not hoping for speedy recovery either, as their absence enables our nation's workers to enjoy the freedom to have a secret-ballot just a little longer and denies union bosses the ability to kill more companies (and jobs).

The Not-So-Dynamic Duo & EFCA Compromise…

While Sens. Kennedy and Byrd are laid up, and Al Franken awaits Norm Coleman to give up the ghost, the junior Democratic Senator from Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter, was out this past weekend kissing babies and union butts in an effort to make himself attractive for re-election. [You can view the video of Specter kow-towing to labor bosses here.]

At one point over the weekend told a union crowd (in reference to EFCA): "You'll like my vote."

Then, there is Specter's partner in the EFCA-compromise camp, Sen. Tom Harkin.

In a Workday Minnesota article over the weekend, as the latest EFCA compromise was being reported, a stunning revelation was made.

Whether unionists would accept a mail-in ballot compromise is open to question. David Bonior, president of American Rights At Work, which is leading the pro-worker information and advertising campaign for the bill, said that if the mail-in is inserted, “He (Harkin) will bring it back to us and we’ll decide if we can support it.”

Harkin, it seems, is not taking his orders from the American people but from an advocacy group funded by union bosses.

Out with the old, in with the new? Who will Replace the Boss of Union Bosses?

That's the question union bosses are grappling with this summer as AFL-CIO boss and Democratic Socialists of America member John Sweeney retires in September.

Top contenders include the AFL-CIO's #2 dude, Richard Trumka and Machinists' President Tom "Blowhard" Buffenbarger. Neither are being enthusiastically endorsed by other union bosses since Trumka represents the old and Blowhard Buffenbarger shot himself in the foot with President Obama and his supporters during last year's primaries (view video here) calling then-candidate Obama "Janus, the two-faced Roman god of ancient times" and his supporters "latte-drinking, Prius-driving, Birkenstock-wearing, trust fund babies…"

The Purple Pimpernel Andy Stern is also out of the picture, as his union, the SEIU, is attempting to fend off numerous battles from within and without. [See LaborUnionReport.com's column Battle of the Bosses here.]

With all the drama and infighting going on within the House of Labor, it is becoming readily apparent that, for all the money spent, today's union bosses may just irresponsibly see their prize slip through their fingers.

To Make Matters Worse: A National Union Pension Predicament

For months, we have warned that the next looming 'crisis' that we may be asked to bail out is the union pension fund crisis. You may recall that when Wall Street imploded last September, Teamsters' president Jimmy Hoffa wrote a letter to Congress to urge Congress to change the rules for union pensions.

Ironically, while union pensions had lost enormous amounts of money in last year's market meltdown, many (including several major Teamster funds) have been under funded for years (as this article from 2002 demonstrates). This makes Mr. Hoffa's request seem rather suspect. Indeed, prior to UPS' 2007 withdrawal from the Teamsters' Central States Pension Fund (for which UPS paid $6.1 billion), for every dollar UPS contributed to the ailing pension, 60 cents would go to pay non-UPS retirees.

Last week, in preparing a PowerPoint for employee consumption, we researched the funding levels of two union pension funds, the United Association of Plumbers & Pipefitters (UA) and the Sheet Metal Workers National Pension Fund.

Interestingly, the data we found for the Sheet Metal Workers National Pension Fund (from 2008) showed that the fund is over $3 billion underfunded; while a review of the IRS 5500 forms for year-ending 12-31-2006 (the most recent available) filed by the Plumbers & Pipefitters showed an underfunding level of more than $3.5 billion. In this latter case, the data examined was prior to the market collapse of 2008.

Over the weekend, the Washington Examiner reported that Almost Half of the Top Union Pension Funds are Under Funded, which may be, in fact, another reason union bosses are pushing so hard for the hallucinogenically-named Employee Free Choice Act.

Union bosses may be figuring that, if EFCA's binding arbitration is part of the law, government arbitrators will likely impose contracts that include employers paying into under-funded pension plans.

If this is, indeed, the case, then there is little wonder that all rationale employers are opposed to binding arbitration. In addition to the economic peril that binding arbitration would place many smaller employers (and their employees) into, funding underfunded pension plans is another reason how EFCA will kill jobs. For a recent listing of union pension plans the Department of Labor considers 'critical' or 'endangered,' go here.

Given the fact that the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp (PBGC) is itself running a $33 billion deficit, the federal agency that insures pensions similar to the FDIC (except the payout is usually around 40 cents on the dollar) will likely be looking for Congress to bail it out as well.

As a result of huge influence that union bosses have over Washington these days, we should expect talk of bailing out union pensions to begin sometime within the next three to four months.

More news than you can shake your fist at…

While the above is a synopsis of the news and our views of what is going on in the world of labor unions this week, it is but a small fraction of the news we're posting for you on LaborUnionReport.com.

For more news and views, please go to LaborUnionReport.com.

On behalf of all of us at LaborUnionReport.com, best wishes for a safe, productive and secure week.

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