Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Falling-Out Among Thieves?

Teamsters Union President Jimmy Hoffa (the one who isn't among the missing) has threatened the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats that the Teamsters will "hold them accountable" for passing the three free trade agreements that had languished on President Obama's desk for over two years.

How he plans to do that is yet to be determined. Cement overshoes, perhaps? Does he plan on singling out Obama only, or will he need a large cement mixer for the Democrats who voted for the agreements as well? At least now I know why the Fox Movie Channel keeps showing Blood Feud, the TV mini-series about the elder Hoffa and Bobby Kennedy. There hasn't been this much bad blood between the big union and a Democratic administration since 1968.

Hoffa (who prefers to be called James P. Hoffa) did lay out part of his plan. He said "the Teamsters will hold members of Congress accountable at the ballot box for their votes on these damaging trade deals." How democratic. He went on to say: "Our representatives just voted to damage our economy, raise unemployment and lower workers' wages. These trade deals protect the profit of multinationals at the expense of American working families."

Obama, in contrast, signed the bills the moment they were returned to him. He said that the agreements would support tens of thousands of American jobs while protecting the environment, workers' rights and intellectual property rights. Rather than simply remove trade barriers such as tariffs, the agreements require mutual cooperation in raising the standards for labor and the environment in the three contracting nations. They didn't simply open up additional markets in America for the products coming from the three nations (Colombia, Panama, and South Korea) without corresponding concessions. For a more complete discussion of the trade agreements and Obama's belated support for them, go here.

Several think tanks on both the left and right estimate that the free trade agreements will produce about 77,000 new jobs in America and make American products more appealing to the other three nations. Hoffa wasn't going to take that lying down, so he attempted to pander to his Occupy Wall Street counterparts by saying: "This is one of the reasons people are marching in the streets of dozens of American cities. Their government is betraying them, and they're furious."

How real this dispute is remains to be seen. Hoffa may just be trying to shore up support among his own cadres and those of the other big unions. He may very well have spoken with Obama and told him "don't worry, we're just putting on a show, but we're still in the tank for you." After all, who else is his union going to support in 2012? The Republicans? The Blue Dog Democrats? The battle between his father and Bobby Kennedy was much more personal, so Jimmy the Elder's support of Richard Nixon is not likely to repeat itself with Jimmy the Lesser.


Tennessee Jed said...

There are those who say Smoot Hawley was one of the big causes of the Great Depression. I guess organized labor is not among them. Typixally, labor costs represent the single biggest component of most products. Somehow, though, I think Barrack knows O.L. will not hold him accountable. Kind of like most of us with Romney

Tehachapi Tom said...

What has happened? Unions all about politics?
Wasn't the origin of unions to represent labor to management?
Now we have unions behaving like lobbyists and attempting to direct or representatives. Since they have resources that allow very large financial support of politicians looking to get elected they can direct how these politicians vote.
This is just plain wrong.
When union bosses have such sway with our representatives they of course use it to their advantage.
Their advantage does not always mean the same thing the rest of the country endorses and in many cases is contrary to the majority of their union members.
These union bosses are akin to dukes and earls in a feudal system.
With members being the peasants.
We need change.

Unknown said...

Tennessee: The common view among non-keynesian economists is that Smoot-Hawley was the final blow to an economy already burdened by trade barriers.

Americans are already aware that union labor, particularly the big ones like the Teamsters and the SEIU and government unions increase costs by quantum leaps. They realize that union labor demands wages and benefits far above those being received by those in the non-union sector. That disparity only makes competing with foreign nations more difficult. These bills will help by requiring improvements in the three contracting countries, but without a corresponding realistic wage for American union labor, we will still not be competitive in many areas. GM immediately comes to mind.

Obama will never demand that unions start to negotiate in good faith, and his appointments to the NLRB have been a union boss's dream. They won't abandon him.

Unknown said...

Tehachapi Tom: And let's not forget that Andy Stern, former president of the SEIU, spent more time in the Lincoln Bedroom than Lincoln, on the invitation of his socialist buddy Obama.

AndrewPrice said...

Oh good luck! I can't imagine the unions separating from the Democrats. This sounds like an idle threat and I'll bet you the Democrats call their bluff.

What's amazing is that most of these free trade agreements actually help the US because they lower more tariffs from the other country than we lower because we're already a low tariff country! You'd think the unions would be happy. But no... this ideological.

patti said...

hoffe is a dunce on so many levels. one of which was believing barry had his back. barry has barry's back. the end.

Unknown said...

Andrew: I have no doubt. The Democrats won't actually chastise them, they'll just say it's a minor disagreement among family members. Then they'll ask for the money.

Unknown said...

Patti: How true that is. Obama only signed the bills because he thought that would gain him more votes than he would lose. And he's probably right. He doesn't believe in free trade and capitalism any more than I believe in socialism. But he'll vote for it for the sake of a few stray votes. He is the most robotic, calculating politician to sit in the White House in a very, very long time.

StanH said...

Not a worry, thick as thieves are these two. They need each other to continue the shakedown of the American people.

Unknown said...

Stan: I'm sure you're right. When the unions are no longer needed because the government has taken over every facet of the economy, including management and production, the union bosses will just get even bigger-paying jobs with the government. Then they can screw everybody, not just their forced dues-paying members.

tryanmax said...

There's no parting of the two. Tehachapi, I'm sure you are just being ironic about the origins of unions. The greatest fiction of the industrial era is that unions came up merely to represent labor to management. Really, unions were political entities with political aspirations from the start.

Post a Comment