Democrats propose union-supported measures

Congress' Democratic majority has introduced union-backed measures, such as cutting funding for corruption investigators, raising wages and lightening the rules for unionizing workplaces.

House Democrats passed a spending bill in July that would cut 20 percent from the proposed budget of the Office of Labor Management Standards, which investigates alleged union mismanagement; approved legislation that unions say would allow easier organization; passed requirements that stated contractors on taxpayer-funded security, water and energy projects would pay prevailing wages, which can lead to higher union wages; and inserted a union-backed provision into the farm bill that would prevent states from outsourcing the running of food stamp programs.

In addition, Democrats are demanding union-backed changes to U.S. trade agreements with Columbia, Panama, Peru and South Korea.

Although opposition from President Bush and Senate Republicans has prevented the proposed union-supported measures from becoming law, labor lobbyists say they are preparing for when a Democrat becomes president, which they believe will be in 2009.

Some say such measures are a result of monetary support from unions for Democrats, including $57.6 million that labor unions donated to Democrats during 2006. Republicans received $8.2 million.

However, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) says Democrats are making these proposals based on principal.

"Labor is certainly doing much better than it did under Republicans because Republicans are hostile to labor unions generally," he says.

Rick Berman, a corporate lobbyist and public relations consultant who directs the Center for Union Facts, an anti-labor group, disagrees and says Democrats are just paying back the unions.

"It's pure political payoff," Berman says. "The unions said, 'We got the money. You listen to us or you’re going hungry.'"

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks campaign funds, 87 percent of the $65.8 million that labor unions donated to the 2006 elections went to Democrats. In addition, 69 Democratic candidates received more than $200,000 each from labor compared with one Republican.

As of June 30, unions, which represent 12 percent of the work force, had donated $12.8 million to Democrats and $1.5 million to Republicans this year.

Date : 9/12/2007