These are heady days for America's biggest unions as they flex their muscle from coast to coast. In a preview of what's in store for 2012, big labor is pulling out all the stops to control the electoral process.
And they're having some success.
A consortium of organized labor groups called "We Are Ohio" raised $30 million repealing a Wisconsin-styled collective bargaining law for public employees in the Buckeye State.
Fresh off their victory, "We Are Wisconsin" (creative, aren't they?) now has its sights set on the architect of that state's successful effort to rein in the power of government unions.
Democrat-aligned groups have already begun collecting signatures in a second round of labor-sponsored recalls -- this time targeting Gov. Scott Walker in Madison. They've got 60 days to collect some 540,000 signatures so as to send a message to any other politician who might harbor thoughts of challenging the country's most intransigent unions.
Forget for a moment that Wisconsin's reasonable contract alterations, such as asking state employees to pay about half as much in health care premiums as their private sector counterparts, have already enabled Walker to erase a $3.6 billion deficit without raising taxes, or that collective bargaining reform saved state and local governments $765 million.
The usual suspects are having none of it.
The AFL-CIO, AFSCME, SEIU, NEA and AFT are all still smarting over having to ask their members for dues, instead of having the state automatically withhold them. And the idea of government workers actually contributing 5.8 percent of their salary toward their own pension plan (they previously paid 0 percent), why, that's just insult to injury.
School boards, however, apparently like it. The Appleton area district, liberated from the old collective bargaining rules forcing it to purchase health insurance from a union-owned firm, is now set to save taxpayers over $3 million on competitive bids from other providers.
But that's Wisconsin. On this side of the river, AFSCME and SEIU have hired Mark Dayton to unionize in-home day care in Minnesota. It's a nifty plan considering that the governor's executive order excludes 7,000 licensed providers from voting on the issue.
It's even niftier when you consider what Dayton is attempting to do: Form a business cartel of 4,300 providers (they're not employees) who receive state subsides so their newly funded union can lobby the Legislature over rules that affect more than 11,000 businesses.
If this power play survives a legal challenge (a Ramsey County district judge has temporarily blocked the election), it's the end of affordable day care in Minnesota. So-called "fair-share" fees and new pro-labor legislation on all providers will ultimately be borne by parents.
Just take a look at child-care rates in the 14 states that have already unionized in-home day care.
No matter, Democrat politicians are going all in for big labor. The Obama administration has unleashed a barrage of pro-union rules so transparently brazen that even union bosses are snickering.
First came the recess appointment of SEIU lawyer Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board, which has subsequently ruled against employer free speech rights in several cases.
And just this week, the machinists union in Washington state appears to have extorted a new four-year deal at Boeing after the NLRB filed a complaint on behalf of the union over the company's decision to open a new assembly plant in South Carolina.
Under the anachronistic language of the 1935 Wagner Act, an "unfair labor practice" is apparently anything the administration says it is. Indeed, federal labor law is so fundamentally biased that it can make (at least in non-right-to-work states) firing or refusing to hire a union member a crime while legally protecting the refusal to hire a worker for not joining a union.
According to the outgoing AFSCME president, the nation's largest public employee union spent $90 million (backing Democrats of course) in the 2010 elections -- more, by the way, than the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent. If recent trends continue, there will be plenty more where that came from.
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Jason Lewis is a nationally syndicated talk-show host based in Minneapolis-St. Paul and the author of "Power Divided Is Power Checked: The Argument for States' Rights" from Bascom Hill Publishing. He can be heard locally from 5 to 8 p.m. weekdays on NewsTalk Radio (1130 AM) or online at jasonlewisshow.com.