Why unions are “Astroturfing” health-care town halls

posted at 2:18 pm on August 24, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

After enraged constituents started showing up at Congressional town-hall forums to oppose ObamaCare, the unions acted quickly to counterdemonstrate on behalf of the Democratic agenda item.  In at least one case, union representatives used violence to intimidate and harrass ObamaCare opponents.  The same union, which represents a large percentage of government workers and would be presumably immune from any health-care reform action, issued memos demanding volunteers to “drown out” opposition to ObamaCare. But why?

This report from the Detroit Free Press explains that the unions have a good reason — actually, ten billion good reasons:

Antilabor forces say it’s welfare for the UAW and Democrats’ union allies. Labor supporters say it falls short of what’s needed as tens of thousands of union members are pushed into early retirement as employers cut back health care coverage.

They’re both talking about a $10-billion provision tucked deep inside thousands of pages of health care overhaul bills that could help the UAW’s retiree health-care plan and other union-backed plans.

It would see the government — at least temporarily — pay 80 cents on the dollar to corporate and union insurance plans for claims between $15,000 and $90,000 for retirees age 55 to 64. …

Greg Mourad of the National Right to Work Committee called it “a shameless case of political payback,” saying Democrats and President Barack Obama are trying “to force the rest of us to pay billions to cover those unions’ health care.”

The money will be yet another bailout of Detroit, although the Obama administration and the Democrats have it flying under the radar, buried in HR3200:

Thanks to Detroit’s twin auto bankruptcies and other concessions, the UAW’s voluntary employee benefit association, or VEBA, had to take stock of unknown value for $24 billion in claims, while adding thousands of early retirees to its rolls.

Outside experts estimate the funds have about 30 cents in cash for every dollar of future claims, with no guarantee of what its stock assets will be worth. Lance Wallach, a New York-based VEBA expert, says if the funds “don’t get something, they’re out of business in 12 years.” …

Key provisions in House and Senate proposals set aside $10 billion to pay some claims for early retirees covered by employers and VEBAs, before other cost-saving measures kick in. Critics call it a union giveaway, but the union says the money would keep companies from further slashing coverage.

That’s explicitly a bailout.  It comes on the heels of tens of billions of dollars committed to GM and Chrysler, as well as politically-motivated bankruptcies that violated the rights of senior creditors in favor of the unions.  The unions have overcommitted and underresourced their health plans, and now Congress wants to surreptitiously bail them out from bankruptcy — all while making them more or less immune from the restrictions in the rest of the bill.

That $10,000,000,000 bailout certainly gives the unions a big incentive to crack heads and intimidate people into retreat on ObamaCare, doesn’t it?  That’s the granddaddy of all Astroturfing efforts.

Update: My friend Warner Todd Huston wrote about this almost two weeks ago — be sure to read it.

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Well you’ll be thrilled to know that Section 164 spcifies that all payments under this provision must first go to reimburse the retiree for any out of pocket expenses like deductibles, co-pays, etc. No wonder they were all so quiet when their union was before the tv cameras wailing about their deep [fake] concessions!

And there’s one more happy note.
I read several union blogs during my research. In July they were all bragging about getting this provision included in the Senate bill as well.

This thing is greased unless we can get the blogosphere to blow it up. Over to you, ED~!!!!

jeanneb on August 24, 2009 at 5:28 PM

Well,this answers one of my questions about why the unions would support a bill that (on the surface) appears to be against their best interests.
Thank you for posting this enlightening article.

DDT on August 24, 2009 at 5:35 PM

Anytime a Union does *anything*, it’s for two reasons and two reasons only: money and power.

And they are joined at the hip with the Democrats.

Now if only we would stop bickering amongst ourselves (see also, birth certificate, Sarah Palin, etc.) and KILL this monstrosity DEAD – and follow up by steamrolling every proponent of the beast in 2010 – we will have accomplished something good.


Wanderlust on August 24, 2009 at 5:54 PM

I would like to take a step back and even ask, why are we allowing unions in government offices? Just askin’

karenhasfreedom on August 24, 2009 at 6:31 PM

Not all unions support Obama. Some of us are not Democrat union thugs.

Mike Morrissey on August 24, 2009 at 5:14 PM

You might not, but I bet your Union does. And I bet some of your dues end up in Obama’s (or one of his toadie’s coffers)….but I could be wrong.

BigWyo on August 24, 2009 at 6:33 PM

Update: My friend Warner Todd Huston wrote about this almost two weeks ago — be sure to read it.

I’ve also been commenting about this for the past three or so weeks, ever since this O-Care crud hit the pan.

Lourdes on August 24, 2009 at 6:56 PM

But this explains just WHY Obama and other Democrats continue to refer to this so-called “health care crises” — Obama’s indebtedness to the unions combined with their demands to see these expenses OF THEIRS covered by the U.S. taxpayers is undoubtedly, among THEM, a “crises.” I’m sure Rahm Emanuel’s been cussing a lot about this “crises” of “need” as demanded by the associates.

Lourdes on August 24, 2009 at 6:59 PM

Antilabor forces say it’s welfare for the UAW and Democrats’ union allies. Labor supporters say it falls short of what’s needed as tens of thousands of union members are pushed into early retirement as employers cut back health care coverage.

Bahh, garbage. “antilabor forces” means the American taxpayers overall. Note the distinction, then, as to “labor supporters” while it is the TAXPAYERS who’d be paying for those costs by THEIR labor, not the unions.

This is really crass mentality and disgusting usery in that quote ^^.

Lourdes on August 24, 2009 at 7:02 PM

Is there anyone Odumbo won’t get in bed with? He owes everyone. He might as well keep his pants down as much as he’s putting out.

meMC on August 24, 2009 at 8:24 PM

The UAW, as part of GM’s bankruptcy, got payments into the trust fund for retiree health benefits.

Under this provision the UAW could get reimbursed for those same benefits.


I remember seeing an interview with one of the UAW bosses about the health care trust fund payments, and his comment was “now we have to get universal health care.”

4of8 on August 24, 2009 at 8:50 PM

You might not, but I bet your Union does. And I bet some of your dues end up in Obama’s (or one of his toadie’s coffers)….but I could be wrong.

Some of our dues does go to certain Congressmen and Senators. The majority of my union brothers and sisters are not democrats.

Mike Morrissey on August 24, 2009 at 9:57 PM

I wish Hot Air would move this to top left prominent position. It needs ATTENTION!

jeanneb on August 25, 2009 at 8:48 AM

Obama’s transformation starts with bailing out unions and
making them a permanent, decisive force in the country’s economic and political life. Obama talks about stimulating the economy, creating green jobs, cutting carbon emissions, reforming health care, etc. But deep down, it’s all about empowering unions, and resdistributing power to them, as the cornerstone of his new leftist America.

petefrt on August 25, 2009 at 8:50 AM

Union members need to get a clue. A big part of the reason they pay union dues is for the union to get them things like….good health benefits. From what I’ve seen, most of the major unions support one-payer. Now, doesn’t that really make the unions useless to their members?

My guess….a deal was struck between union leadership & Obama. The union brass supports one-payer and Obama will support card check.

njpat on August 25, 2009 at 8:57 AM

The $10,000,000,000 number comes from section (d)(1)(B). Perhaps an even more worrisome section is the section right below that (C)(ii) which states (emphasis mine):

Amounts appropriated … shall not be taken into account for purposes of any budget enforcement procedures including allocations under section 302(a) and (b) of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act and budget resolutions for fiscal years during which appropriations are made from the Trust Fund.

So, if I understand this correctly, not only is this a blatant payoff to the unions, there is no oversight!!

SeattleConservative on August 25, 2009 at 11:34 AM

In Italian, the term fascisti refers to bundles, or unions, as that was where Il Duce got most of his money and support (meaning labor, envelope stuffers, leg breakers, etc.)

It is important to remember that before he was dictator of Italy, he was one of the foremost “progressive” writers in Europe, even editing the Socialist daily Avanti.

It is impossible to separate Mussolini’s leftist stances, as outlined clearly in his own writings, from his creation of fascism. It is also impossible to separate the importance he placed on union support from what our current beloved leader is doing.

Am I calling barry a fascist? Yes.

runawayyyy on August 25, 2009 at 1:48 PM

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