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March 19, 2005

GOP Intimidation Against Union Leadership

House Leaders try to chill union actions to protect social security

Check out this press release by House leaders John Boehner and Sam Johnson:

House Education & the Workforce Committee Chairman John Boehner (R-OH) and Employer-Employee Relations Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) today sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, calling on the Labor Department to investigate whether the concerted efforts of organized labor to pressure financial firms and brokerage institutions to withdraw their support of the President’s proposal to reform Social Security have in fact violated federal labor and pension law.

“Recent media reports have raised serious legal questions about whether union leaders are in fact violating federal labor and pension laws by pressuring employers to withdraw their support for President Bush’s Social Security reform plan,” said Boehner. “The debate over how to ensure the solvency of Social Security for future generations should be open and honest, but it shouldn’t be influenced by special interests who may be breaking federal law.”

The letter refers to decisions by the AFL-CIO not to invest member pension funds with companies using such worker investments to lobby for social security privatization.

The GOP talks about an "ownership society" but when unions actually demand that they be allowed to invest their pension funds with companies not hostile to workers, then the GOP wants the government to control their investment decisions.

This rightwing attempt to use ERISA and labor law to restrict worker control of their own pension funds should be a signal of what "private accounts" really mean. While people might nominally "own" their money, decisions on how to use that money will be under the sole control of corporate financial firms.

Policy wonks want to frame this debate about financial returns to investment, but conservatives and unions know this is about power, the power to control capital in our society. Right now, workers through their unions control a chunk of capital that they have been using aggressively to demand corporate accountability. This attack by the House leadership, like Schwartzenneger's attempt to liquidate the California state pension system, CALPERS, with its heavy union involvement, is all about eliminating any power by workers collectively to control how capital is managed in our society.

Posted by Nathan at March 19, 2005 10:08 AM