They feel empowered because a radically pro-union president has been elected for a second term. An Investor’s Business Daily headline (Nov. 21) proclaimed, “With Obama Win, Big Labor Feels Its Oats.” The article explained,
Unions are feeling their oats after the re-election of President Obama. It’s comparable to the perception of powerful political patronage after Congress’s passage of the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933, which triggered a wave of strikes prolonging the Depression.
Unions also feel desperate because there is an active backlash against their cushy benefits and perks, especially the privileges of the public-sector unions, which are financed by taxation. The list of cash-strapped cities looking for ways to dump pension obligations is increasing by the week. If the recession deepens, as it almost certainly will, then the backlash will grow. The next few years may be a wild ride in terms of where and how unions will try to drive America.
The empowered and desperate unions.
Unions are expressing this new sense of empowerment through strategies in which they flex big muscles. For example, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) — spearheaded a nationwide Walmart strike on Black Friday, November 23. The UFCW has over a million members, but given that it is not the official union of Walmart, the move is remarkably bold. (Of course, Walmart has assiduously discouraged an official union in North America.)
Nevertheless, on the biggest sales day of the year, one of America’s most powerful unions pitted itself against the world’s largest private employer.
It is unclear whether the strike or other work disruptions will eventually lead to collective bargaining or any other concessions. But some messages are clear: an emboldened UFCW is playing hardball. And Walmart is standing firm. The retailer filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in which it accuses the union of organizing illegal work disruptions. The complaint was a public statement of Walmart’s intention to resist union demands.