Let no one say that President Obama doesn't remember his friends. Shortly after Big Labor took credit for the get-out-the-vote efforts in key swing states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Obama began doing his Christmas shopping for the unions.
Earlier this month, the Associated Press reported that the Labor Department will introduce a new rule requiring employers to divulge all information on labor consultants they hire. The AP also reported that the National Labor Relations Board -- which is nominally independent but whose majority the president appointed -- will issue a new rule requiring employers to turn over all employee contact information during union organizing drives.
Individually, these actions may seem fairly innocuous, but they represent significant stocking stuffers for union bosses. With most workers turning away from unions, Obama is stepping up his long-standing effort to keep them alive as a political force by making it easier for unions to recruit members. It is clear that the "card check" law will never get through Congress, so this is their consolation prize.
"They are all about strengthening the right to organize within the confines of what's politically possible," Amy Dean, a former top official with the California AFL-CIO, told the AP. Both build on existing laws. For example, companies must currently disclose when they hire labor law consultants during organizing drives, but only in cases in which the consultant has any contact with employees, i.e., explaining to employees why joining a union may not be in their best interest.
There are other consultants, though, that merely advise employers on the law. The new rule would require businesses divulge their contracts with them too -- many of whom are small firms that would fear being targeted by unions and would likely get out of the business altogether. Which would suit Big Labor just fine.
There is also the question of defining exactly what "consulting" would mean in this context. Under Obama, the Labor Department would probably interpret it broadly, forcing employers to divulge contracts with firms only tangentially involved in organizing campaigns.
The NLRB maneuver would expand an existing law giving union organizers employees' name and addresses to also include phone numbers, email addresses and their shift times. This would make it easier for union organizers to track down individuals who'd rather not give part of their paycheck to someone as dues and "persuade" them otherwise. The ones who try to resist can count on multiple visits and a stream of emails targeting them.
Understand, the employee won't have any say in giving this information out. If the employer has it, they'll have to turn it over.
Elections have consequences and Obama won, so no one should be surprised that he is using the opportunity to reward his friends and punish his enemies, such as the Chamber of Commerce's Tom Donohue, who fought card check vigorously when there was a chance it might pass.
But let's not entertain any illusions that this is a helpful reform. Workers will have to deal with it when they hear the knocks on their doors and their inbox is clogged with union organizers trying to reel them in.