01.15.2012 0

4 chiefs of staff in under 3 years?

NRD Editor’s Note: This column originally appeared at TheHill.com.

By Rick Manning — President Obama announced his fourth chief of staff in his less than three full years in office. Who is the lucky person who is next on the chopping block?

Jack Lew, the just-getting-his-feet-wet Office of Management and Budget head, is the next contestant in the new D.C. game show — “Clean up Barry’s Messes.”

The Obama chief of staff turnover is indicative of a failed management style at the top that sends the most skilled Washington operatives scurrying for the exits as soon as they can find the door, and if similar dysfunction had occurred during the W administration, headlines would have blared: “White House Adrift — 4 Chiefs in 3 Years? Prez can’t get along with anyone.”

The truth is that Jack Lew is likely to find the same problems as the other chiefs.

A president more concerned with his golf handicap than the nation.

A handler, in Valerie Jarrett, who has all the real power without the title and responsibility.

And an inner White House clique that runs things outside of the channels that the chief of staff normally controls.

So into the breach steps Jack Lew, someone whom few know, but someone whom the AFL-CIO knows well from his days as the New York University (NYU) executive vice president. In 2004, Lew emailed full-time NYU faculty to remind them of their duty to report for work even if a strike took place. At the time, a strike by adjunct professors was looming. Lew still expected full-time faculty to do their jobs even if they were personally opposed to crossing picket lines.

The next year, he sent out an email informing the NYU community that the administration would not be negotiating with a union of graduate students. The university had previously recognized the union and negotiated a contract with it, but reversed course after the National Labor Relations Board ruled that NYU did not have to recognize the union.

For months, the campus witnessed loud demonstrations as graduate students went on strike. Demonstrators held up “wanted” posters of Lew and set up a large inflatable rat near Lew’s office. Various union bosses traveled to the campus, and even Jesse Jackson visited to participate in the protests.

Slowly, Lew and the administration broke the strike by unilaterally setting terms of employment for graduate students, refusing to negotiate with the union and raising the stakes for strikers.

At the last minute, the university offered the union an all-or-nothing deal to allow it to negotiate on stipends and benefits, but nothing else. The union rejected the offer as insulting. Shortly thereafter, NYU announced that the union representing the NYU Teaching Assistants would no longer be recognized.

Yep, new Obama Chief of Staff Jack Lew is officially a union-buster. Should make for an interesting nine months on the job — until Obama finds his replacement.

Rick Manning is the communications director of Americans for Limited Government. You can follow Rick on Twitter at @RManning957.

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