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Posted at 2:35 PM ET, 02/23/2011

National Democrats weren't that concerned about unions before Wisconsin

By Ezra Klein

Josh Barro points out that there's some hypocrisy in Barack Obama's support for the workers in Wisconsin:

The scope of collective bargaining for federal employees is sharply limited. They are forbidden to collectively bargain for wages or benefits; instead, raises are determined annually through legislation. Wisconsin unions would actually have slightly more scope for bargaining than this: they could bargain for cost of living adjustments up to CPI, or more if approved in a referendum. So, if the Wisconsin law is an assault, federal employee unions have already been pummeled.

But instead of trying to strengthen the hand of federal workers' unions, Obama supports aggressive use of the direct wage-setting power, urging Congress to freeze federal workers' pay for two years. He's made no suggestion that such a wage freeze should occur only through a bargaining process, which would be required in states where wages are a matter for collective bargaining.

It's worth noting that neither Obama officials nor their predecessors in the Clinton administration concerned themselves much with strengthening organized labor. Neither the Employee Free Choice Act nor any other serious reforms of the labor laws received serious attention from either White House. Meanwhile, the intervening Bush administration was quite concerned with undermining organized labor (you might remember that the final fight over the legislation creating the Department of Homeland Security had to do with some unionbusting provisions Republicans inserted to make the law difficult for Democrats to support).

I think it's possible that the events in Wisconsin are reminding Democrats of the role organized labor plays in both the political system and leading to a renewed interest in the health of the union movement, but it's really too early to tell.

By Ezra Klein  | February 23, 2011; 2:35 PM ET
 
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Comments

"I think it's possible that the events in Wisconsin are reminding Democrats of the role organized labor plays in both the political system and leading to a renewed interest in the health of the union movement, but it's really too early to tell."


just like tea party folk purport to value the constitution, democrats value american traditions, as well.
democrats value social protections, safety nets, equal opportunity, a voice for those who are unempowered...benefits to ensure health and safety and well-being
.and therefore, the threat of losing an important safeguard, by an upstart governor,has awakened all of us. and the younger ones, also....seeing their families struggling, as they are struggling...and all of us have family members who have been part of unions, and grateful for it.
i think this has been a powerful moment for democrats.
a uniting moment.
an awakening.

Posted by: jkaren | February 23, 2011 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Have you forgotten how Obama gave away substantial ownership in the car companies to the union and orchestrated a bailout that really served to preserve the union's health benefits? That was a many billion dollar gift to the unions.

Posted by: basil2812 | February 23, 2011 2:59 PM | Report abuse

at a deeper, more ideological place, for democrats, this is an issue about social justice, and fairness.
these themes that have been brought to the surface..
governor walker touched a collective nerve, when he closed the door on hundreds of thousands of workers....

he has gotten much more than he "bargained" for!
i think the repercussions will be very positive for democrats.
it reminds us, what we are "about."
i believe,it has been a very good thing.

the governor has suspended the paychecks of the senators, but many democrats will pitch in to help. these senators will be rewarded for standing by their principles.

Posted by: jkaren | February 23, 2011 3:05 PM | Report abuse

I take issue with some of what you wrote here Ezra. While I will agree that President Obama didn't try very hard to get the union election laws changed in 2009, he did put it forth. It was denied by Democrats as well as Republicans in the Senate.

You can pin it on Obama if you want but he at least made the gesture.

Posted by: kindness1 | February 23, 2011 3:12 PM | Report abuse

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