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ObamaCare Clusterfuck: "Labor union officials say Obama betrayed them in health-care rollout"

Shocker! That they said it, I mean. WaPo:

Leaders of two major unions, including the first to endorse Obama in 2008, said they have been betrayed by an administration that wooed their support for the 2009 legislation with promises to later address the peculiar needs of union-negotiated insurance plans that cover millions of workers.

After dozens of frustrating meetings with White House officials over the past year, including one with Obama, a number of angry labor officials say their members are far less likely to campaign and turn out for Democratic candidates in the midterm elections.

“We want to hold the president to his word: If you like your health-care coverage, you can keep it, and that just hasn’t been the case,” said Donald “D.” Taylor, president of Unite Here, the union that represents about 400,000 hotel and restaurant workers and provided a crucial boost to Obama by endorsing him just after his rival Hillary Rodham Clinton had won the New Hampshire primary.

Ha ha. Why, the ingratitude.

A White House spokeswoman declined to comment on the union leaders’ claims that they were misled. A person familiar with Obama’s meeting with the labor chiefs said he “listened to the group’s concerns with empathy” but explained that the law would not permit the administration to take the steps they requested.

Highly implausible. Since when has Obama had empathy for anybody?

Taylor said Unite Here officials have met with White House officials 48 times. At the time the health-care bill was being considered, he said, “we were told that ‘if there were problems, don’t worry, we’ll get them fixed.’ ”

“We thought that if we made the case to the agencies dealing with regulations to correct problems that hurt, really destroy, self-funded nonprofit health plans, it would be resolved,” Taylor said. “That clearly was naive or stupid.”

So here's the bottom line:

[A] number of angry labor officials say their members are far less likely to campaign and turn out for Democratic candidates in the midterm elections.

That's pathetic (or "stupid" and/or "naive"). The only way to get anything out of Obama is to threaten him. That's what the gays and Hispanics did in when it counted, before Obama's nomination in 2012, and they at least got some lip service and "a seat at the table."

Rather than whining and muttering, the unions should give full-throated support to a emergent party efforts in swing states, and with enough money to affect the outcome. Time to stop trying to hold on to what you've got, because -- as ObamaCare proves -- the Democrats are going to try to take it away anyhow, just like the Republicans. So why wait?

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danps's picture
Submitted by danps on

Labor leader outrage is kayfabe. It's been obvious for a while now that supporting an emergent party is labor's best option, but the big unions are comfortable with their seats at the table. Actually wielding influence is, if anything, a frightening prospect for them.

Submitted by lambert on

... are very well padded.

I do have to say, though, that this WaPo story was a little bit more pissed off than usual. Obama betrayed them and pissed them off in the way that only he can do ("Have I mentioned laterly....") And their membership really is going to be hurt.

So, more splits, one might hope.

Silversalty's picture
Submitted by Silversalty on

This reminds me of a post by Nathan Newman, a pro-labor blogger, at the old TPM Cafe calling for support of Obama's forced crappy insurance. I responded then (under a different nick) that I was so happy to have a toilet bowl plunger rammed up my butt in that it would give me added backbone and make me stronger. I haven't heard much of Newman since then. I wonder how he feels about his call for support.

Submitted by lambert on

This link at TPM Cafe is dead; is this copy (?) the article you mean?

Why the Health Care Bill Will Destroy the Conservative Movement

It starts with the "progressive" big lie:

Yeah, the filibuster and the Senate structure sucks-- but some of us
knew that and had low expectations.

As people who pay attention know, the "nuclear option" was just as available to Obama in 2009 as it was to Harry Reid in 2013.

[ObamaCare] will relegitimize middle-class dependence for "security" on
government spending and regulation. It will revive the reputation of the
party that spends and regulates, the Democrats, as the generous
protector of middle-class interests. And it will at the same time strike
a punishing blow against Republican claims to defend the middle class by
restraining government.

Well that turned out to be bollocks, didn't it? Because the policies are crappy, because the bill is an insurance company bailout with a massive and onerous compliance burden on those subsidized. Because markets!

Silversalty's picture
Submitted by Silversalty on

I don't think that was the post in that my metaphor-analogy was quite apt. I do remember that Newman was all for dropping the filibuster, siting the history of its use as almost entirely in protecting conservative and racist causes. But he was too much an apologist for union abuses, and believe it or not, unions are not ideal organizations to use in considering defending the rights and circumstances of average working (and unemployed) people. They are fundamentally self-interested and have no problem screwing regular people (and their own - see the UAW sell-out of new hires).

In NYC I supported the strike of the Transit Workers Union a few years ago. Since then a 50 cent tax on every taxi fare has been added for the MTA (by the billionaire mayor who was challenged by the union and defeated in the face of massive public support). I'm a cab driver and it doesn't please me to have to work to pay about $15 a day to support transit workers who have a much better job than mine with much much better benefits. Also one of the bus depots in Manhattan has been renamed for Michael J. Quill, who famously said a judge "should drop dead in his black robs" after the judge finally decided that the repeated shake downs of the city (and its citizens) was illegal and fined the union for a strike. Quill himself dropped dead a short time latter.

It wasn't a surprise to me that the douche governor of Wisconsin was not recalled when I read that the basis of the campaign against him was support for unions. Unions just aren't that popular, and for good reason. And unlike the suggestion that union dislike is due to jealousy, it's due to union abuses and unions will have to go a long way to reverse that sense.

Silversalty's picture
Submitted by Silversalty on

To quote a union organizer friend of mine, “If the vote becomes “Can we trust the Union?” instead of “Should we unite to solve our problems?”, the boss wins.” I think this is fundamentally what this vote was about.

"I think this is fundamentally what this vote was about." - trusting a union to actually work on behalf of workers.

Submitted by lambert on

There's your problem. And, I suppose, your opportunity...

Silversalty's picture
Submitted by Silversalty on



Criticisms of the UAW

The No 2 UAW campaign used the very neutrality agreement that the UAW signed to argue that the union was making corrupt deals with management without worker input. The anti-union campaign argued that the neutrality agreement seemed to indicate that UAW would not bargain for wages above what was offered by Volkswagen’s competitors in the United States. UAW and Volkswagen agreed to "maintaining and where possible enhancing the cost advantages and other competitive advantages that [Volkswagen] enjoys relative to its competitors in the United States and North America."

"We got people to realize they had already negotiated a deal behind their backs—[workers] didn't get to have a say-so," hourly plant worker Mike Jarvis of No 2 UAW told reporters outside of the plant last night.

Fiorello also cited the UAW’s past concessions in bargaining with other automakers as another example of why she opposed the union. In a series of contract negotiations in the late 1990s and 2000s, the UAW agreed to a two-tier wage system at Volkswagen’s competitors at the Big Three automakers—General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. Two-tier agreements specify that new hires will earn significantly less than existing workers. Fiorello notes that currently, new non-union assembly line workers at Volkswagen start at $14.50 an hour—which, with cost-of-living differences between Tennessee and the Midwest factored in, is arguably slightly higher than the just-under-$16-an-hour starting pay under the UAW two-tier contracts at the Big Three.

“See, that’s the kind of problem. Our guys are being paid more than the union [workers at the Big Three],” says Fiorello.

“What the UAW is offering, we can already do without them,” says hourly worker Mike Burton, who created the website for the No 2 UAW campaign. “We were only given one choice [of a union]. When you are only given one choice, it’s BS. It would be nice if we had a union that came in here and forthright said, “Here is what we can offer.”

“I am not anti-union, I am anti-UAW,” Burton continues. “There are great unions out there, and we just weren’t offered any of them.”

Burton’s argument seemed to mirror that of Sen. Bob Corker, who routinely made statements such as, “"It's not about union or anti-union, it's about the way the UAW conducts business."

When asked by In These Times if the UAW’s history of two-tier contracts hurt the unions’ ability to win over skeptical workers, UAW President Bob King responded, “I don’t know. I am not going to speculate because I wasn’t in the plant.”

Questioned by Lydia DePillis of the Washington Post about why the union had agreed to cost-containment measures as part of the collective bargaining agreement, King responded, “Our philosophy is, we want to work in partnership with companies to succeed. Nobody has more at stake in the long-term success of the company than the workers on the shop floor, both blue collar and white collar. With every company that we work with, we're concerned about competitiveness.”


Read that last paragraph, which is a quote from the president of the UAW, and tell me how it's different from what you'd get from a corporate CEO. Unions don't represent workers. Maybe -- MAYBE -- they represent a core block of a particular union's workers, but even that seems a stretch. With the UAW it has the smell of bought off leaders and why would any worker want to sign on the have to pay dues to a union like that?

Why weren't the workers given the opportunity to form their own union at the VW plant? I don't know that they didn't have that chance but it would certainly seem a better choice than signing on to the UAW.

Silversalty's picture
Submitted by Silversalty on

I happened to catch the WQXR Saturday night show "Movies on the Radio" which included "Over the Rainbow." I happened to look up Yip Harburg, the lyricist for the song and found this interview with Yip's son Ernie.

A quick pull quote: "I’d like to say good things about unions, but they get bureaucratized, and they go right-wing..."



What happened to him during the McCarthy era?


Well, he could not work on any major film that they wanted him to work on from the major studios in Hollywood. The setup was that Roy Brewer, who was the head of the IATSE union — I’m sorry to say that — was the one who -–


What do you mean?


Well, I mean this is a stagehands’ union. I’d like to say good things about unions, but they get bureaucratized, and they go right-wing, you know? They get bad. This was a bad leader, and he terrorized all of the Jewish moguls who were being accused of communism by the House Un-American Activities Committee, and they yielded to whatever he said to them, out of fear that they would get branded as communists or that they’d boycott the film, alright?

And so, when, you know, they called Yip in to do Huckleberry Finn with Burt Lane, then Roy and the guys said, “No, he’s on our blacklist, OK? And you can’t hire him.” And then Yip went away. And they wanted him to work on Dr. Doolittle. “No, you can’t hire him.” And the same thing for radio and TV. And that was known as a, quote, “blacklist,” which wasn’t — that wasn’t the first use of the term, because in small towns we had company corporations going, if you did something that the company didn’t like, you were blacklisted from town. You couldn’t get a job in town. But this was the first time, due to the technology, that a blacklist was national and accompanied by a loaded word, “communist,” that could get you fired anyplace.

For Yip, it was horrible, because his friends, who were artists, suddenly had no income. And there were suicides. There was divorces. There were people who left the country. There were people whose lives were just ruined. And so, Yip supported some of them. Dalton Trumbo, who was one of the Hollywood Ten who were first picked out by the House Un-American Activities Committee to go to jail for a year, a citation. “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” You know, Yip fronted him with money, and so forth. It was a horrible time.


How long couldn’t Yip work for?


For about from 1951 to 1962. He came back to Hollywood in 1962, when he and Harold Arlen did Gay Paris, which is with Judy Garland. She asked them to come back. And it’s a cult animated cartoon now, which you can get in your video. And I remember him putting on a show at the Taber Auditorium. “Welcome Back, Yip,” you know? And he — in ’62.


But that means that The Wizard of Oz made it big during the time that he was blacklisted. That was — and when you consider the social commentary that it was making, that’s pretty profound.



Remember Ronald Reagan boasted while running for president that he'd been the head of a union - the screen actor's guild. He was very much a part of the Hollywood blacklisting. Unions didn't challenge him when as president he destroyed the air traffic controllers union. Instead, Reagan had great support from unions and union workers, easily contributing to the demonizing of liberals and "hippies." The truly disgusting aspect of the union blacklisting of people was that those blacklisted for having been communists and socialists became such to further the power of workers. Unions working to destroy the lives of people who devoted themselves to the right of workers to a decent life.

Silversalty's picture
Submitted by Silversalty on

On Aug. 5, 2011, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey issued a jaw-dropping proposal to immediately raise bridge and tunnel tolls by $4 for E-ZPass subscribers and $7 for cash customers, followed by another increase in 2014. The proposed hikes amounted to a 75 percent increase for E-ZPass users and 112.5 percent for those paying cash.

The authority also proposed PATH fares go up $1, from $1.75 to $2.75.

The reaction was swift and angry, with commuters and lawmakers blasting the increases.

Gov. Chris Christie, who said he had no advance knowledge of the proposal, was among them.

“You’re kidding, right?” Christie told reporters three days after the announcement, describing what he said when briefed on the proposal.

But within two weeks, after a blizzard of 36 press releases by the Port Authority on behalf of toll hike supporters and after public hearings packed with union laborers backing the plan, Christie and his New York counterpart, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, consented to a more modest increase. Even then, the governors conditioned their approval on a top-to-bottom financial review of the agency.

The thing is, a former Port Authority official told The Star-Ledger, “It was all bullshit.”

From the start, the fix was in, said that former official and five others who occupied key Port Authority posts when the toll hike was rolled out and eventually approved.

Just search for "union" in the full article and see just how fully involved union workers were in this obvious (even at the time) shakedown of the public.

"Authorities" are the gold mines of corrupt politicians. They have little in the way of transparency and much in the way of free flowing mountains of cash. It's the place politicians send their cronies to work the people's cash. That Cuomo was a part of this sort of behavior was obvious from before he became governor, running on a 'no new taxes' and help for 'small business' platform. The two then newly elected governors, both anti-tax zealots, quickly got together to fleece average working people with heavy handed taxes. Cuomo now runs around as the great protector of the wealthy saying there's no need for a tax on the wealthy to have the pre-K programs that NYC mayor de Blasio calls for.

But I added this comment because of the union involvement in the shakedown of average Americans. It's a regular occurrence to see how unions don't give a flying fuck about average people, only looking for ways to bleed them. And some people still don't understand why calling for union support is not a winning policy for the left. This ain't the time of Debs or Guthrie - the sort of people unions since then have worked to destroy.

Alexa's picture
Submitted by Alexa on

From what I've read, Cuomo has been a nightmare, if the standard for a Democratic governor is progressivism!

Same for Christie, obviously.

Alexa's picture
Submitted by Alexa on

that unions still have "worth," in spite of today's corrupt leadership, in many instances.

I expect to post my retirement story before I complete my more complicated, or involved, essay, "Baptism By Fire."

(That story is so complicated that it remains in "rewrite," almost two years after I began to write it.)

It will be hard not to see the virtues of unions (I hope), after I get one or both of these diaries posted.


Alexa's picture
Submitted by Alexa on

since while they had "a seat at the table," union leaders actually negotiated the "Cadillac Plan" surcharge or tax with the Democratic Party Leadership in the Senate.

As a matter of fact, they negotiated the 'delay in implementation' of this toxic policy, until 2017. (Or whatever year--something like that.)

I'm "guessing" that Union Leaders are attempting to tamp down massive defections from their perspective unions. IOW, they're just 'playing stupid.'

Hopefully, rank and file union members will take a walk, and consider voting for emergent parties.

The Union Leaders themselves have "made a pact with the Devil," and IMO, wouldn't consider 'moving on.' Considering that many of them make handsome 7-figure salaries, I don't expect them to do anything but continue to attempt to deflect blame off themselves, onto the Dem Party and/or the Administration. (who obviously do deserve much of the blame)

The state of Labor in the US is really "sad." Unless these sold-out Union Leaders can be dumped, I really can't see anything changing, anytime soon.

{Sigh . . .}

Alexa's picture
Submitted by Alexa on

when it comes to unions.

We usually spend a couple of months there--generally, Tennesseans (including educators) are terrified of unions after decades of anti-union propaganda.

I "think" that TN was one of the first states to vote in "right-to-work" legislation after Taft-Hartley became law.

Senator Bob Corker, was a multimillionaire businessman, before he became mayor of Chattanooga, and has always been rabidly anti-union from all that I've ever read and heard.

[Business career: In an interview with Esquire, Corker said that he started working when he was 13, collecting trash and bagging ice. Later he worked at Western Auto and as a construction laborer.[11] After graduation from the University of Tennessee, he then worked for four years as a construction superintendent.[12] During this time he saved up $8,000, which he used to start a construction company, Bencor, in 1978.[13] The company's first large contract was with Krystal restaurants, building drive-through windows.[12] The construction company became successful, growing at 80 percent per year, according to Corker, and by the mid-1980s carried out projects in 18 states.[11][13] He sold the company in 1990.[14] In 1999, Corker acquired two of the largest real estate companies in Chattanooga: Osborne Building Corporation and Stone Fort Land Company.[12] In 2006 he sold the properties and assets that had formed these companies to Chattanooga businessman Henry Luken.[15]

In recognition of his business success, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga named him to their “Entrepreneurial Hall of Fame.”[12] Corker has said that he believes his business background has been valuable in his political career and that experience "gives [him] unique insights and allows [him] to weigh in, in valuable ways".[13] As of 2008, Corker's assets were estimated at $19.19 million. 21.8 Million, more recently.]

And Governor Bill Haslam--for Pete's Sake--he and his family own Pilot Corporation (Travel Centers, Food Marts, Etc.)-- THEY ARE BILLIONAIRES!

Governor Bill Haslam's brother Jim Haslam owns the Cleveland Browns!!!!

Hey, I no defender of the UAW or two-tier contracts, but it is nothing new. The same thing goes on in public employee unions.

Frankly, without them, chances are ALL union rank-and-file would have their benefits cut, since unions have no real negotiating leverage anymore (with globalization, etc.).

The main reason that the State of TN won the first round of "The Race To The Top" was their anti-union stance--which is what Democratic Party so-called education "reform" is partly about--destroying teachers' unions.

I obviously can't know, but would not be surprised if the No2UAW campaign was actually corporate or company sponsored, as opposed to a real "grass roots" campaign.

Believe me, it would not be too difficult to deceive the typical TN worker with this type of propaganda campaign (if that is what it was), because most employers in TN "keep a boot on the neck" of their employees.

Alexa's picture
Submitted by Alexa on

ran across this piece from "autoblog" while checking out something else:

Senator Corker heckled at GM Spring Hill plant ceremony

Corker led the fight against the federal government's automotive bailout in 2009.

He also pushed for further wage and benefit concessions from the United Auto Workers as part of the rescue package.

Those efforts had a direct impact on many of the workers in attendance at the Spring Hill ceremony, and The Detroit Free Press reports that many employees at the plant feel Corker's work didn't do much to keep the plant from going dark earlier this year.

Neither he, nor billionaire Governor Bill Haslam, are "honest brokers."

It is no wonder that many rank-and-file working class Tennesseans were intimidated by their misleading (some would say totally dishonest) statements.

I wish the UAW success if they file a grievance or suit with the US Fair Labor Standards Board.

Alexa's picture
Submitted by Alexa on


Tennessee's Governor (Bill Haslam) and Senator Bob Corker, along with 22 other state and local officials have been served subpoena's for their interference in the unionizing vote at the VW plant in Chattanooga, TN per today's (4/10/14) Times Free-Press.

As everyone knows by now, in the last days before the unsuccessful "do-over" vote (after a majority of workers voted to unionize via card-check), Senator Corker interfered by telling workers that if they voted "no" on the union that VW would expand the plant by bringing a new line of cars to the plant. Senator Corker offered zero proof of his claim and VW said he was wrong. It was a desperate, underhanded, last minute interference by Senator Corker to sway the vote. Unfortunately it worked.

Now we also know that state officials issued incentives to VW to expand in Tennessee with a huge caveat--that the union be kept out of the Chattanooga plant.

As everyone knows, the UAW has appealed to the NLRB over their political interference in the "do-over" vote, which never should have happened in the first place.

And there's still a chance that VW will recognize the original vote by the employees (via card-check) to affiliate with UAW.

Now, with Governor Haslam and Senator Corker and the 22 other officials getting subpoenaed, the NLRB hearing just got way more interesting.

The evidence supporting the UAW's request to throw out the vote due to unfair political interference just got a huge shot in the arm.

Here's hoping the NLRB will do the right thing and set aside the vote.

I second that notion!

[Originally posted at "Voices Carry."]

Submitted by lambert on

... the postworthy comment and the UPDATE are buried in comments, making them almost impossible for anybody but the commenter to find them, thereby greatly decreasing their value not only to the Corrente readership but to the left and the web at large.

I keep saying this. It's true. It never takes. I don't know why.

Alexa's picture
Submitted by Alexa on

Honestly, at times I simply don't have the extra time to go in and set up a separate (formal) post--and do it justice.

There is no nefarious intent, here.

You could say that I come to this hoping that "sharing the information" is helpful to fellow Correntians--even if it's not done in a formal--and in some cases, preferable manner.

(For instance, right now we've got a "boatload" of family here for Easter, and I'm already getting a little good-natured slack about my blogging.)

Maybe once we've completed our relocation, I'll be able to do better than I've done these past months.

I'll try!

Submitted by lambert on

Identical to a comment. Where's the extra time? That's what I'm not understanding.