"We spent a fortune to elect Barack Obama $60.7 million to be exact and we're proud of it," boasted Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, to the Las Vegas Sun this week. The behemoth labor organization's leadership is getting its money's worth. Whether rank-and-file workers and ordinary taxpayers are profiting from this ultimate campaign pay-for-play scheme is another matter entirely.
The two-million-member union, which represents both government and private service employees, proudly claimed that its workers "knocked on 1.87 million doors, made 4.4 million phone calls … and sent more than 2.5 million pieces of mail in support of Obama." It dispatched SEIU leaders to seven states in the final weekend before the election to get out the vote for Obama and other Democrats.
Through a series of local chapter takeovers and bully campaigns to destroy the reputation of executives who refuse to submit to their will, Stern and his scandal-plagued lieutenants have consolidated low-skill service workers to create a 21st century labor empire. The ubiquitous Stern now enjoys a prominent seat at the table of every major policy discussion at the White House, including economic recovery and health care radicalization.
Obama champions the SEIU's top legislative priorities: expansive government health care (paid for with regressive sin taxes) and the "Employee Free Choice Act" to do away with private-ballot union elections in the workplace. He has SEIU-blessed bureaucrats installed in every corner of his administration to carry out the agenda.
The SEIU scored not one but two Cabinet appointees: Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. The SEIU pitched in with maximum donations to Solis' first congressional campaign and lent her nearly 300 canvassers and ground troops. "I wouldn't be here, were it not for my friends in the labor movement," she gushed. Indeed, over four terms in Congress, Solis has pocketed more than $900,000 in union campaign contributions.
Former SEIU chief lobbyist Patrick Gaspard served as the Obama campaign's national political director and transition deputy director of personnel. During the 2004 election cycle, he led the George Soros-funded group America Coming Together (ACT) as national field director. SEIU poured $23 million of workers' dues money into ACT in its failed attempt to put Democratic Sen. John Kerry in the White House. Under Gaspard's tenure at ACT, the get-out-the-vote group employed convicted felons as canvassers and committed campaign finance violations that led to a $775,000 fine by the Federal Election Commission. Gaspard was appointed White House political director shortly after Election Day 2008.
SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger was appointed to the president's Economic Recovery Advisory Board to provide advice on "boosting the sagging U.S. economy" (translation: imposing new employment regulations on companies and expanding union membership rolls).
Within two weeks of moving into the White House, Obama signed a series of executive orders championed by union bosses. The new rules authorized sweeping powers for the labor secretary that essentially blackball nonunion contractors targeted by labor organizers and blacklist nonunion employees in the private sector from working on taxpayer-funded projects. Such regulatory favoritism limits freedom in the workplace and raises the cost of doing business.
Another measure immediately adopted by Obama requires that when a government service contract runs out and there's a new contract to perform the same services at the same location, the new contractor must retain the old workers. Mickey Kaus of the left-leaning Slate magazine dubbed the move the "Labor Payoff of the Day."
The payoffs keep coming. Last week Obama slashed the Labor Department's funding to investigate union corruption a welcome move for Stern, who has seen three of his handpicked deputies resign in 2008-2009 over financial scandals involving cronyism, nepotism and embezzlement.
California officials also reported last week that the Obama White House gave the SEIU an unprecedented role in negotiations over federal stimulus funds. According to the Los Angeles Times, the union lobbied the feds to withhold nearly $7 billion in stimulus money from California unless it revoked a wage cut for unionized health care workers which had already been approved by Democratic lawmakers as part of a budget deal forged in February. Top SEIU officials participated in a conference call last month on the issue; the Obama White House backs the union demands.
SEIU's enforcers have set aside $10 million to un-elect any of its political beneficiaries who abandon their pledges to do the union's legislative bidding. The campaign money was raised by slapping an extra $6-per-member fee on top of regular dues payments and funneled straight to the union's political action committee. Meanwhile, after spending a fortune to put Obama in office, the union laid off a third of its D.C. field staff (in violation of its own employment protections, according to the workers) due to … budget troubles.
The laid-off workers are collateral damage in Big Labor's pursuit of power. The only jobs guaranteed by SEIU's merger with Hope and Change, Inc. belong to the brass.