Union Leaders Riled Over Obama Priorities, Actions

Wednesday, 16 Dec 2009 01:21 PM

By Dan Weil

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The Obama presidency and Democrats’ control of Congress isn’t working out like labor leaders had hoped.

They are upset with President Obama’s decision to make healthcare his top domestic priority over jobs. They are peeved about a Senate proposal to tax expensive health insurance plans. And they are riled that proposals to ease union organizing rules have gone nowhere.

As for healthcare, labor leaders object to the Senate proposal to tax “Cadillac” health insurance plans, because some union members have them.

Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, told the Senate that the healthcare reform bill must have “no taxes on middle-class health plans” in it, Politico news service reported.

Congress has shown no urgency to act on the bill that would make it easier for unions to organize: the Employee Free Choice Act.

Even after Congress is done with healthcare, there’s no guarantee it will act on the union bill. That’s because moderate Democrats may oppose it, especially with the 2010 elections looming.

To be sure, labor has won some victories under Obama. The National Mediation Board, which oversees airline and railroad worker unions, has proposed a rule change making it much easier for workers in those industries to unionize.

But many on the left are displeased with Obama about issues ranging from gay rights to Afghanistan policy.

And liberal policy concerns might hurt the Democrats in elections next year.

“What will be missing in 2010 is the high energy from liberal activists who raised money, networked online and did the grunt work that got out the vote in 2008, particularly the votes of young voters, African-Americans and Latinos,” pollster John Zogby writes in Forbes.



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