Framing the Dialogue

Sunny Side of the Street

As we limp through this arduous winter toward spring I look forward to warmer weather and sunshine. Something about shining light on stuff has a healing affect. Perhaps that is why laws requiring that government meetings and hearings are open to the public are referred to as “sunshine” laws. A common rule-of-thumb about personal behavior used to be for you to consider whether you would want your mother to read about your actions in the local paper. Today I guess it would translate on whether she would learn about your activities on FaceBook.

Andrew Breitbart, Framingthedialogue True American Hero, has done a lot to shed light on some of the darker sides of politics. In this case dark doesn’t always necessarily mean evil, but just things that are not well known and should be. Breitbart TV recently uncovered a video of then candidate Obama speaking to a gathering of Service Employees International Union (“SEIU”) members a few days before he was elected. For those of us who recognized President Obama’s leftist leanings his words are not surprising. For those on the left who love President Obama’s leftist leanings his words affirm your expectations of his mission. For those of you who were in the dark, by choice or by default, President Obama’s words should be chilling.

“do they [his political opponents] have the track record helping you organize so you can build more and more power”

“I’ve been working with SEIU before I was elected to anything.”

“and now the time has come for us to do it all across this country.”

“we are going to paint the nation purple with SEIU”

 Unions are no worse than any other lobbying group who seek political favors in return for campaign contributions (cash or volunteers), but they are also no better. Their claims to be for the American worker seem hollow when you have examples like when the United Mine Workers Union supported Obama who was quite clear on his desire to shut down coal mining. Unions should have no fewer rights than other lobbying groups, but that is what they have become as so much of their dues goes toward political functions. Again they can do what they legally want with their money, but it should be in the light of day.  More than a few things jump out at me from this video of candidate Obama’s speech:

  • Why did it take nearly two and a half years for this speech to surface? Would candidate Obama’s words to SEIU have pushed voters toward McCain?
  • Why doesn’t Obama, king of new media, put all of his speeches on the Internet?  My problem with politicians in general is that they very often say different things and often contradictory things to different audiences. Their conflicting statements sometimes get out, but are not always high on the list of media priorities. President Obama should be proud of his words and make them readily available to the public.
  • The United States as a representative republic rather than a democracy does not favor “mob rule” and has a structure to govern. That said, elected officials have a duty to enact policies that reflect the desires of the public majority. Obama can choose to cheerlead for SEIU as seen in the video and for unions in general, but his choice to seek “more power” for unions that represent only 7 percent of working folks is at his elective peril.
  • The statistics for union membership by the Bureau of Labor Statistics have union membership for private companies at 6.2 percent and union membership for public employees at 36.2 percent. I would like to see a study about how many of these union members belong to the union solely because they have to belong in order to keep their jobs.
  • I never considered that public sector union power was much of a threat to our country. Recent events in Wisconsin are starting to sway my view…significantly. It is not beyond comprehension that should more and more of the public sector become unionized their power will, at some point, be insurmountable. Consider a scenario where fire, police, EMTs, teachers, public works employees, clerks, payroll/social security workers, transit drivers, postal workers, airport security workers, etc. are all unionized. Unions support unions. Unions won’t cross picket lines. Any one union can cause mayhem by striking and calling upon other unions for support. I would not have considered this a national issue except that the events in Wisconsin are causing unions in other states to protest. This is a small look into our future. Do we want control to be in the hands of union officials rather than elected officials?
  • I had a discussion with a friend yesterday. We both work for government and are not required to join a union, but they take a “fair share” of our pay (1 percent) for their role in negotiating for us. You can join the union for another half percent of salary. My colleague belongs (I do not) and expressed some angst about the turmoil in Wisconsin and in particular about Governor Walker’s actions against the unions. I explained what he was really proposing rather than the misleading stories that are being bandied about. We contribute towards our retirement and contribute towards our health care (I pay little less for health insurance now than when I worked in the private sector) and would be willing to pay more to help the budget crisis. I suspect many feel the same way, but cannot voice this through current union leadership.
  • As a public employee I am not allowed to advocate for any candidate. I cannot volunteer on my own time for a candidate; I cannot put a sign in my yard; I cannot wear a campaign button.

I am troubled by public officials being paid by tax dollars which are paid to unions in the form of dues some of which are given to candidates or used to directly promote or oppose candidates. Just because the tax money is passing through several hands doesn’t change the fact that it is tax money. Perhaps the term “laundered” is appropriate. During the last election cycle our public employees union (AFSME) ran numerous commercials that contained outright lies about a Republican candidate who lost. Your tax dollars were used to influence an election in favor of a candidate who will support union policies.

A statement to unions promising to seek more power for unions by the President of the United States who received hundreds of millions of dollars in contributions and probably hundreds of thousands of “volunteer” hours from unions has to be troubling for us all.

Hiding his views/plans should scare the hell out of us.

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