Tag: labor unions

Socially Liberal but Economically Conservative: Now That’s Funny

In a feature story about left-wing stand-up comics (news flash!), the Washington Post finds one who isn’t:

One of the few right-leaning comics is Nick Di Paolo, who has written for “Saturday Night Live.” Di Paolo, who is socially liberal but economically conservative, has a one-hour special, “Nick Di Paolo Raw Nerve,” airing Saturday on Showtime, in which he takes swipes at favorite targets, such as President Obama and labor unions.

If that sounds like fun, then your Saturday night is planned. And if you’re more interested in fiscally conservative, socially liberal voters, check here or here or indeed this lament.

Finally, a Breakthrough on the Colombia Trade Agreement

To no great surprise, the Obama administration announced today that it has cut a deal with the government of Colombia to address concerns about labor protections and to finally move toward enacting the long-stalled free-trade agreement between our two countries. This is welcome news for trade expansion and for strengthening our ties to a key Latin American ally.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is expected to arrive later this week in Washington to cement the deal. In exchange for the agreement, Colombia has reportedly agreed to expand its efforts to protect union members from violence and to more vigorously prosecute those responsible.

As my Cato colleague Juan Carlos Hidalgo and I documented in a Cato study earlier this year, concerns about labor protections were never a valid reason for holding up this agreement. The overall murder rate in Colombia has declined dramatically in the past decade, and the murder rate against members of labor unions has declined even more rapidly. A union member in Colombia today is one-sixth as likely to be a victim of homicide as a fellow citizen who does not belong to a union. Meanwhile, the Colombia government has increased convictions for homicides against union members by eight-fold in the past three years.

As Democratic Senators John Kerry and Max Baucus pointed out in an op-ed this week that endorsed the agreement, the International Labor Organization has certified that Colombia is complying with its international labor agreements.

The obstacle of labor violence was just a political smokescreen that had been raised by labor-union leaders in the United States looking for any shred of an argument to oppose the agreement. Even the agreement announced this week is not going to win over the AFL-CIO. The Colombia government could have raised a hundred murdered union members from the dead, and organized labor in American would still chant that not enough was being done.

The breakthrough this week clears the path for Congress to approve, by what I predict will be comfortable bipartisan majorities, the pending trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea.

Trying Colombia’s Patience on Trade

Our friends in Colombia have been waiting more than four years for the U.S. government to consider a pending free-trade agreement between our two countries. According to an interview this week with Colombia’s ambassador to the United States, Gabriel Silva, Colombians are “losing patience” with their American ally.

The frustration in Colombia is understandable. The agreement was signed in November 2006, but it has been locked in the cupboard since then by labor unions and their congressional allies who claim the Colombian government has not done enough to curb violence in that country against union members.

My Cato colleague Juan Carlos Hidalgo and I examine the agreement and the claims against it in a new Cato Free Trade Bulletin, “Trade Agreement Would Promote U.S. Exports and Colombian Civil Society.” We found that on the commercial side the agreement would deliver the “level playing field” the politicians always tell us they want. Once implemented, it would open the door to an additional $1 billion in U.S. exports.

As for violence against union members, we report the latest evidence that the number of union members killed is down dramatically in recent years, and prosecutions are up even more sharply. Contrary to the story told by critics of the agreement, the murder rate among union members in Colombia is actually far lower than the rate among the general population.

You can read the full bulletin here.

TSA Unionizing

Worst news I’ve heard lately, via The New York Times:

Seeking to end a debate that has brewed for nearly a decade, the director of the Transportation Security Administration announced on Friday that a union would be allowed to bargain over working conditions on behalf of the nation’s 45,000 airport security officers, although certain issues like pay will not be subject to negotiation.

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) has proposed an amendment to the FAA reauthorization bill that would prohibit TSA workers from collective bargaining. Wicker’s proposal doesn’t go far enough. At the least, the decision to halt privatization of airport security should be reversed. Ideally, the TSA would be scrapped or reduced to merely inspecting the performance of airport security provided by the airports, not the government.

I doubt that allegations of TSA screener abuse are going to be dealt with better in a unionized workplace. I’m reminded of Sal Culosi’s murder. The Fairfax, Virginia SWAT officer that had a negligent discharge into Culosi’s chest at point blank range received a slap on the wrist, which was too much for the police union. And he killed a compliant suspect in an unnecessary SWAT raid. It seems a safe bet that your complaint about a pat-down gone too far will face additional resistance from TSA unions standing up for that agency’s bad apples.

Getting Serious about Antidumping Reform in 2011

The U.S. antidumping law still enjoys broad bipartisan support in Congress and within pockets of the executive branch. Although some of that support can be chalked up to politicians representing the narrow interests of influential constituencies that have mastered the use of antidumping as a bludgeon to cripple the competition, much more support stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose, history, mechanics, and consequences of the law.

Too many policymakers passively accept the anachronistic rationalizations proffered by the steel industry, labor unions, other big antidumping users, and their hired guns in Washington. Too many buy into the idealized imagery of a patriotic, upstanding American producer working tirelessly to ensure the preservation of well-paying jobs for hard-working Americans, but is suffering the ravages of unscrupulous, predatory foreign traders intent on destroying U.S. firms and monopolizing the U.S. market. What politician could oppose a law presumed to protect that kind of a company against that kind of a scourge?

But when the curtain is peeled back, exposing the reality of the operation of the U.S. antidumping law, one discerns a very different reality.  Antidumping measures always raise the costs of firms in downstream industries that rely on the affected imports.  The law routinely claims domestic firms as victims.  The law is often used as a tool by domestic firms waging battle for supremacy over other domestic firms.  Sometimes foreign-owned firms are the petitioners and U.S-owned firms are the respondents.  Rarely does the law lead to job creation or job restoration in the domestic industry.  And never is the allegation of “unfair trade” substantiated, or even investigated.  Myth and misinformation explains the persistence of the U.S. antidumping regime.

Over the next few months, the Cato Institute’s Center for Trade Policy Studies will shine the spotlight on  U.S. antidumping policy and update its large body of research on the subject by publishing some new papers and hosting discussions about the prospects for meaningful antidumping reform. The new Congress should pay attention.  After all, if renewed talk about completing the Doha Round in 2011 is to become action, so must antidumping reform.

The first of those studies is now available on the Cato home page. That paper describes the evolution of U.S. antidumping policy from an obscure offshoot of competition law into the predominant instrument of contingent protection that it is today and provides an account of some of the crucial statutory and administrative changes that have occurred over the decades. Its purpose is to demonstrate that the increase in antidumping activity reflects several developments that have nothing to do with foreign behavior whatsoever, including a progressive expansion of the definition of dumping, relaxation of evidentiary standards, and a pro-domestic-industry bias in the law’s administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce. The arcane mix of statutory rules and discretionary whims that emerged as contemporary antidumping policy is a far cry from the first antidumping law—in practice and intent. Today, antidumping is little more than an elaborate excuse for run-of-the-mill protectionism. And overwhelmingly, U.S. businesses and consumers are its victims.

DISCLOSE Again and Maybe for the Last Time

The DISCLOSE Act, slightly modified, is headed for a cloture vote on Tuesday afternoon. The alterations to the bill have changed few minds outside of Congress. It remains to be seen whether the modification in the bill — the sponsor removed a passage allowing labor unions to transfer funds among its affiliates — will be enough to attract enough support to achieve cloture.

My policy analysis of DISCLOSE applies to the altered bill.

The Center for Competitive Politics provides an analysis of the altered bill here.

The American Civil Liberties Union is sending around a letter of opposition that states “we believe this legislation would fail to improve the integrity of our campaigns in any substantial way while significantly harming the speech and associational rights of Americans.”

The ACLU has four objections to the altered bill:

  • The DISCLOSE Act fails to preserve the anonymity of small donors, thereby especially chilling the expression rights of those who support controversial causes.
  • The DISCLOSE Act would chill not only express advocacy on political candidates, but also issue advocacy.
  • The DISCLOSE Act imposes impractical requirements on those who wish to communicate using broadcast messages.
  • The DISCLOSE Act imposes unjust restrictions on contractors, TARP participants and corporations with minimal foreign participation.