Unions May Turn the Tables With Capitalism

Crossposted from Hillbilly Report.

A couple of the things corporate America and the Republican Party are always using to exuse their greedy actions is "The Free Market" and "Capitalism". Both groups are eternally determined to make us believe that having a middle-class in America would destroy both. However, it is nice every now and then to see some truly delicious irony. Now it seems as if working folks might actually use that Capitalist system we always here about against the very people who preach it.

You see, it appears as if the labor unions have one thing that Wall St. constantly covets. Their pension funds. Now it appears as if union workers are tired of making Wall St. investors who fight against their interests rich. They are beginning to question the practices of companies who invest their money, yet fight against the Employee Free Choice Act:

The labor movement is taking square aim at Wall Street with a new tool in its fight to pass the Employee Free Choice Act - the hundreds of billions of dollars in pension funds it manages for union workers and retirees, some of it held by the same firms that are fighting the provision known as "card check."

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/050 9/22895.html

They have sent out questionaires inquiring as to whether investment companies are openly working against the interests of their retirees, and middle-class America:

"Has your company made any public statements in support or opposition to EFCA?" asks one of nine pointed questions in a polite, detailed four-page questionnaire.

"If 'Yes,' please explain."

The detailed questionnaire has three parts. The first asks about fund managers' public positions, lobbying, and political contributions. The second asks managers to "disclose any relationships during the past five years between your company and any organization(s) opposing the passage" of EFCA. The form lists 14 organizations, from anti-EFCA organizations like the Workforce Fairness Institute to trade groups that oppose it, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Roundtable.

A third passage asked whether other any trade association to which the fund managers belong has taken a position on the bill.

The goal of this questionaire is plain and understandable:

While the survey assures managers that it doesn't intend to impose "requirements or limitations" on their political activity, a cover letter from Teamsters union leaders tells another story: The leaders are concerned, according to a copy of the local's letter obtained by POLITICO, that Wall Street is "undermining the interests" of union retirees.

"It has come to my attention that some Wall Street investment managers are raising money , lobbying, or contributing to the lobbying efforts of other organizations against the Employee Free Choice Act," the letter began. "In so-doing, I believe these managers are undermining the interests of the Cleveland Bakers and Teamsters Pension and Health& Welfare Funds."

"As a trustee, I have an obligation to determine whether our fund's asset managers are engaged in partisan political activity that could adversely affect our fund, its participants, and beneficiaries," said the letter, which also "call[s] on you to be a leader among the financial services industry " in supporting pro-labor legislation.

It seems as if they have some reccomendations, not demands to those on Wall St. who would seek to manage the funds of the unions:

"We feel that our investment managers should be taking a neutral position on this," said Galen Munroe, a spokesman for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, who said fund managers with ties to EFCA foes wouldn't - necessarily - be fired. "It's just one of the facts that would go under their overall performance," he said.

The good news is this seems to be part of a greater effort by supporters of EFCA to drum up support and exert pressure for the stalled bill:

"In the coming weeks we will be rolling out initiatives from shareholders, investment groups and businesses in support of the Employee Free Choice Act," said AFL spokesman Eddie Vale, who declined to discuss targeting Wall Street. "This issue isn't just about workers, it's about fixing our economy and growing the middle class."

Of course, some people do not like playing under the rules of capitalism when they are used against them. It appears many in the financial sector feel that they should be able to work against the interests of their own costumers and continue to use their business to make money for them. They were quite upset that their days of exploiting union pensions for profit while working against the union workers that made those profits possible might be numbered:

Financial industry officials took a darker view of the survey. "The fact that union bosses would try and shake down financial institutions by asking that they disclose information" about the bill "is beyond outrageous," said an aide to one trade organization, who - like other industry officials rattled by the letters - refused to speak on the record. He also called it "troubling that Big Labor would use their pension plans as the bargaining chip."

I just want to ask what is so troubling about this?? If EFCA  passses that will mean more workers joining unions and saving for retirement, which will put more money in the funds to be invested which in turn would make more profits for the companies that invest them. In fighting against EFCA these very companies that could stand to profit are not only fighting against the interests of the American middle-class but they are fighting their own interests as well.

Jonathan Tisini summed it up quite nicely:

"It's entirely appropriate for the labor movement to say, basically, 'Look, if you are working to kill our number one legislative priority, we're not going to help you make a buck by profiting from our investments, investments that come from the hard-earned money of union members,'" said Jonathan Tasini, the executive director of the pro-union Labor Research Association.

I think the unions are completely right in doing this and it is a stroke of genius. Having capital does give one power. Why should someone invest their capital with a company that will not try to make them more money, and will indeed fight for LESS union workers and LESS money for them to invest??

I just hope that the unions ultimately exercise this power if they need to and move investments from companies that oppose them, and only use companies that really want to make their pension funds grow. By any stretch it is the American thing to do.

Tags: capitalism, corporations, Employee Free Choice Act, Labor Unions, Union workers, Wall St. Investments (all tags)

Comments

3 Comments

I think you are right, it is fair play for the

unions to use their own capital to "vote with their wallets" with.

For the rest of it, I just don't know.  I need to look at EFCA more to make up my mind on it, I've heard the high-level rhetoric from both sides and with that level of understanding I could agree with either.

However this turns out I wish that the whole matrix of issues could turn to soften the anti-capitalism rhetoric.  The for-profit world of capitalism creates all the big companies people can choose to work for - thereby lowering their risk - and the small companies they can choose to start - thereby increasing their risk (and their reward, when they get it all right).  I just think we're better off fighting to tune the system that employs (and feeds, clothes, cures...) us than we are to fight against it.

by chrisblask 2009-05-23 08:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Unions May Turn the Tables With Capitalism

Why stop there? Although only 12% of workers are unionized, it is still a sufficiently large enough group to undertake boycotts against products made by firms that are openly against the Employee Free Choice Act.

by MainStreet 2009-05-23 08:36PM | 0 recs
I love it

Thanks for the diary.

by desmoinesdem 2009-05-24 08:47AM | 0 recs

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