Obama’s union goon squad

NRD Editor’s Note: This column originally appeared at the Washington Times.

AFL-CIO members with cardboard ObamaBy Howard Rich — This month’s decision by aircraft manufacturer Boeing to cut a deal with the International Association of Machinists (IAM) will likely result in President Obama’s National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) dropping its unprecedented anti-free-market lawsuit against the company.

That’s too bad.

Not bad that the NLRB is dropping its action, obviously, but that Boeing’s decision to cave to union demands effectively preserves the ability of this rogue agency to intimidate other companies into similarly untenable situations in the future. Thanks to the Obama administration, unions no longer need thick-necked heavies with brass knuckles and surly dispositions to impose their will – they’ve got taxpayer-funded lawyers and bureaucrats to do their dirty work.

The Boeing-NLRB case could have produced a landmark decision in which the free market reclaimed some of its lost liberty, just as the Obamacare lawsuit, hopefully, will provide an opportunity for American citizens to reclaim some of their lost individual liberties (as well as hundreds of billions of their tax dollars).

So why didn’t Boeing fight for its right to open future manufacturing facilities wherever it pleases – free from government interference?

That’s easy: The company couldn’t anger its biggest customer. According to a 2011 CNBC report, Boeing did $19.4 billion worth of contract work for the federal government in 2010 – nearly a third of its total revenue for the year. Through the first quarter of 2011, it had already done $6 billion worth of contract work.

No wonder the NLRB was so brazen in pushing Boeing around – and no wonder Boeing settled with the union rather than allowing the issue to go to court.

Such thuggish tactics are sad but not surprising coming from our “spread the wealth around” president, who is engaging in full-time command economic class warfare against American job creators on an unprecedented scale.

“We need to level the playing field for workers and the unions that represent their interests, because we know that you cannot have a strong middle class without a strong labor movement,” Mr. Obama said shortly after taking office.

Mr. Obama has done that and then some, appointing a union backer to run the Department of Labor, a Teamsters’ attorney as chairman the NLRB and a labor operative to lead his political office. He also stripped away Bush-era disclosure requirements for union leaders, bailed out the United Auto Workers in Detroit at taxpayer expense and is using his executive agencies to compel union membership under the guise of “environmental protection.”

Then there’s Obamacare. Even though this socialized medicine monstrosity has yet to be fully implemented, state governments and public-sector unions have already received $2.7 billion through one of the law’s early retiree reinsurance programs.

This steady flow of taxpayer-funded largess and preferential treatment is obviously a return on the $100 million cash investment and massive mobilization effort union leaders made on behalf of Mr. Obama and congressional Democrats in 2008. The payoff is ongoing, too, as earlier this month, Mr. Obama’s NLRB trampled on its own rules governing majority opinions in order to further limit the ability of employees to respond to union recruitment efforts.

In decrying “the overt, special-interest political agenda” of the NLRB, columnist Geoffrey Burr summed up Mr. Obama’s endgame: “The goal is simply to manipulate the rules of the game in order to increase unions’ market share,” he wrote.

Threats and manipulation are nothing new for unions, but the fact that these tactics have been adopted by government agencies tasked with impartially upholding the law and serving as neutral arbiters of disputes is appalling.

Mr. Obama has turned the federal government into a glorified union goon squad – and Boeing’s decision to acquiesce to its demands guarantees that similar threats and intimidation will be used on other companies in the future.

Howard Rich is chairman of Americans for Limited Government.

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