Barack Obama addressed the nation’s governors today with sympathy over budgetary crises, but a warning not to solve their shortfalls by infringing on the rights of public employees. He also scolded governors for vilifying and denigrating PEUs, which raises the question of whether Obama has bothered to look at the protests in Wisconsin and elsewhere. Besides, the governors in question are mainly fighting to limit collective bargaining rights to a standard that the federal government prohibits for its own employees. RCP has the video:
Kimberly Strassel pre-emptively explained the hypocrisy in her column Friday at the Wall Street Journal:
It will no doubt surprise you to learn that President Obama, the great patron of the working man, also happens to be the great CEO of one of the least union-friendly shop floors in the nation.
This is, after all, the president who has berated Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to limit the collective bargaining rights of public employees, calling the very idea an “assault on unions.” This is also the president who has sicced his political arm, Organizing for America, on Madison, allowing the group to fill buses and plan rallies. Ah, but it’s easy to throw rocks when you live in a stone (White) house.
Fact: President Obama is the boss of a civil work force that numbers up to two million (excluding postal workers and uniformed military). Fact: Those federal workers cannot bargain for wages or benefits. Fact: Washington, D.C. is, in the purest sense, a “right to work zone.” Federal employees are not compelled to join a union, nor to pay union dues. Fact: Neither Mr. Obama, nor the prior Democratic majority, ever acted to give their union chums a better federal deal.
Scott Walker, eat your heart out.
For this enormous flexibility in managing his work force, Mr. Obama can thank his own party. In 1978, Democratic President Jimmy Carter, backed by a Democratic Congress, passed the Civil Service Reform Act. Washington had already established its General Schedule (GS) classification and pay system for workers. The 1978 bill went further, focused as it was on worker accountability and performance. It severely proscribed the issues over which employees could bargain, as well as prohibited compulsory union support.
Democrats weren’t then (and aren’t now) about to let their federal employees dictate pay. The GS system, as well as the president and Congress, sees to that. Nor were they about to let workers touch health-care or retirement plans. Unions are instead limited to bargaining over personnel employment practices such as whether employees are allowed to wear beards, or whether the government must pay to clean uniforms. These demands matter, though they are hardly the sort to break the federal bank.
Perhaps Walker should start arguing that he wants to give public-sector workers greater protection than federal workers. Let’s see how the media covers that.
Just as a reminder, let’s recall exactly who has been vilifying whom in this debate:
Looks like another case of projection.