TARGET: WORKING PEOPLE
Workers who dare to strike in the late 1990s face the threat of permanent
replacements, a threat often backed up by private security armies, not to mention the
economic might that gives companies seemingly unlimited ability to resist strikers
In the minds of some bosses, that makes this the right time to further
cripple the labor movement with legislation that would subject picket-line activity
to federal prosecution, for example.
And so the "Freedom from Union Violence Act," all but forgotten
since introduced last year by Republican Senators Orrin Hatch and Strom Thurmond,
received a valuable boost last month from the Cato Institute with a 37-page
research paper and a press release barrage alleging an "epidemic" of
Cato is one of several think tanks providing corporate America and its
political allies with research, "expert" testimonials, and most importantly,
ideological direction. In a city thick with think tanks, these Washington-based outfits
stand out for the seriousness of their opposition to union goals.
Founded in 1977 by industrialist Charles Koch and financial analyst
Edward Crane, the Cato Institute presently boasts a full-time staff of 35, more
than 60 adjunct scholars and a $4.5 million annual budget. Catos board of directors
brings together heads of a variety of companies, from Holiday Health Spas to Tamko Asphalt
Products. The heavyweights, though, are billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch,
president and CEO of The News Corp. Ltd., and Frederick W. Smith, chairman and CEO
of Federal Express Corp.
Cato believes the market should be "free" from the pesky
interference of unions or government. Catos interest in "individual
liberty" goes only as far as corporate interests: individuals are "free" to
contend by themselves with big business, big banks and "market forces."
Cato publications offer high-sounding arguments against the minimum-wage
law and plant-closing legislation, equal pay for jobs of comparable worth, affirmative
action and environmental regulations. Cato blames the government, not insurance or drug
company, hospital or doctor greed for the health-care crisis.
The think tank criticized the report issued in December 1994 by the
Commission of the Future of Worker-Management Relations (chaired by former Labor Sec. John
Dunlop) for an "inappropriate focus on the organized labor sector." Cato
rejected any proposals for labor law reform that would allow unions to survive and grow.
In Catos view, private-sector unions face an inevitable demise, which would be
hastened by legalization of employee participation committees. Not surprisingly, the
institute favors enactment of the Teamwork for Employees and Management (TEAM) Act, which
would legalize company unions posing as employee committees.
Cato extols the MSA (medical safety account) scam and destabilization of
public schools through "choice." But the institutes pet project is
privatization of Social Security.
PRIVATIZING SOCIAL SECURITY
The first issue of the institutes publication, Policy Report,
in 1979 argued for privatization of Social Security. Cato followed this the next year with
a 500-page attack on our old-age and disability insurance system. In 1995, the institute
launched the Cato Project on Social Security Privatization, co-chaired by Josι Piρera,
the man responsible for privatizing Chiles pension system while his country was
under a ruthless military dictatorship.
(In one document, a Cato researcher admitted the real "problem"
with Social Security: "It has the power to crowd out private capital
accumulation." In other words, its not being used to make the rich richer.
Privatizing Social Security, said Martin Feldstein, is the elites "$10 trillion
Cato has targeted union members for special recruitment to the anti-Social
Security cause; so has another inside-the-Beltway biggie: The Heritage Foundation.
HERITAGE OF REACTION
The Heritage Foundation is where right-wing bosses get a noticeably
big bang for their big bucks. This influential think tank, with important ties to the
Republican majority in Congress, promotes an aggressively anti-labor agenda. At its
website the Heritage Foundation has its own "Labor Home Page" which extols the
TEAM Act, the misnamed "Payroll Protection" Act, so-called OSHA
"Reform" and repeal of overtime protections.
According to Heritage, workers are "demanding" more workplace
flexibility, while "employers are straining under unnecessarily burdensome
regulations... Reform of Americas labor laws is long overdue."
This think tank uses its Labor Home Page to oppose a ban on the import of
products made in violation of another nations child labor laws. Free trade is
"probably part of the solution to eradicating child labor," Heritage says; and
besides, "not all forms of child labor are exploitive or cruel."
"Experts" on labor listed by the Heritage Foundation include
strident anti-union foe Reed Larson, head of the National Right to Work Committee
and Rex Reed, executive vice president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense
Foundation, who specializes in providing legal assistance to scabs and freeloaders.
FREEDOM FOR SOME
The Heritage Foundation, together with the Wall Street Journal,
published the 1998 Index of Economic Freedom. Countries are ranked by 10 factors,
including trade policy, taxation, government intervention in the economy, capital flow,
regulation, property rights and wage controls. Trade union rights or the right to decent
housing, quality health care, adequate retirement income or a job with family-supporting
wages do not enter into this computation of "economic freedom."
The United States holds fifth place, after Hong Kong, Singapore, Bahrain
and New Zealand. Canada ranks 14th and Germany 24th, while France and Italy are tied for
The Heritage Foundations foreign policy web page mixes nostalgia for
the Reagan-era military build-up with reports touting "NAFTAs Positive Impact
on the United States" and arguing for the importance of fast-track authority.
In August, Heritage urged Congress to act favorably on fast track in
September (the vote failed.)
Other Heritage publications oppose the minimum wage, promote tax cuts for
the rich; titles include "The Myth of Widespread American Poverty" and "Take
This Job and Love It: Exposing the Lies About Low-Paying Work."
MASTERS AND MISTRESSES
Not surprisingly, the work of the Heritage Foundation is directed by
monied right-wingers. Richard Mellon Scaife, Heritage vice president, is an heir to
the Mellon fortune and a media tycoon known for his conspiracy-theory addiction and
ruthless streak. New trustee Holland "Holly" Coors is a socialite
daughter of the wealthy and notoriously right-wing beer-making dynasty. Jay Van Andel,
the founder and senior chairman of Amway Corp., is joined on the board of trustees by his
daughter, Barb Van Andel-Gaby, Amways vice president for corporate affairs.
Heritage Foundation Secretary J. Frederic Rench is chairman and CEO
of Racine Industries. The board of trustees also boasts: J. William Middendorf II,
who is credited with being an intellectual force behind NAFTA; former Treasury Secretary William
E. Simon; Thomas A. Roe, the former chairman of the board of Builders Marts of
America, and the founder of the Roe Foundation, which provides grants to conservative
organizations; Thomas L. Rhodes, president and chairman of the board of directors
of National Review; Douglas F. Allison, chairman and CEO of Allison-Fisher Inc., an
automotive marketing research and consultancy firm; and Preston A. Wells, a
commercial real estate and ranching entrepreneur.
More impressive still is the board of
trustees of one of the nations oldest and largest think tanks. The American
Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI) boasts14 corporate chief
executive officers on its board, among them the heads of Aluminum Company of America,
American Express, Cigna, CSX, Dow Chemical, Motorola, Procter and Gamble and State Farm
Insurance Presidential aspirant and flat-tax promoter Steve Forbes, president and
CEO of Forbes Inc. is on the American Enterprise Institute board, as is George R.
Robert of Kohlberg, Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR), the infamous buy
em-and-close em artists. Former President Gerald Ford and failed
Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork are institute fellows.
LOFTY PLOTTERS OF POLICY
Founded in 1943, the AEI presents itself as a dedicated defender of
private enterprise. (A recent article entitled "Was the New Deal
Constitutional?" gives a clue as to its origins.) Unlike Heritage, "AEI is
strictly nonpartisan and takes no institutional positions on pending legislation or other
policy questions." The corporations behind AEI are too interested in charting the
direction of the global economy to waste the think tanks resources on the details
and deals of everyday politics.
AEI hosts frequent conferences, seminars and lectures; its publications
are distributed to policy-makers and trend-setters in government, business, the news media
and academia. AEI boasts that its scholars frequently testify before congressional
committees "and are cited and reprinted in the national media more often than those
of any other think tank."
A speech by the director of AEIs trade policy studies, delivered at
the University of Costa Rica in March, examined the "Politics of Trade and Fast Track
in the United States." Claude E. Barfield pointed out that there is less
support among Congressional Democrats for fast track now than there was when NAFTA was
approved in 1993. Democrats elected in 1994 and 1996 "were more likely to come from
core areas in the inner cities with heavy minority makeup and/or from labor-dominated
Analysis that offers leaders of big business the basis for policy
decisions is AEIs stock-in-trade.
Topics covered by AEI lean heavily to international finance, law and trade
and foreign policy. A scholarly rationalization of European colonization received
respectful attention. Articles published by AEI have supported replacement of Social
Security with IRAs, advocated the regressive flat tax, opposed time-and-one-half after 8
hours, and claimed that workers compensation encourages workplace accidents.
WRITING ANTI-LABOR LAW
On the other hand, the Employment Policy Foundation and its
lobbying arm, the Labor Policy Association (LPA), have no problem with direct
involvement in the political process. The organizational twins are connected to the law
firm of McGuiness and Williams, with offices near the White House. LPAs more than
200 members include human-resource officials at firms as large as Eastman Kodak,
Honeywell, Motorala and Texas Instruments.
"Helping companies deal with external influences over human resource
policies and practices" is how LPA, a membership organization of personnel bosses and
management attorneys, describes its mission. What that means is preparing and promoting
anti-union legislation like the TEAM Act.
LPA has enjoyed access to power since the Republican victory in 1994
transformed the House Labor and Education Committee into the Economic and Educational
The Wall Street Journal reported in February 1995 how the labor
agenda of newly renamed committees chairperson, Rep. Bill Goodling (Rep.,
Pa.) "closely matches that of the Labor Policy Association, a business lobbying group
representing some of the nations biggest employers."
In addition to the TEAM Act, that agenda includes repeal of Davis-Bacon
and elimination of the 40-hour work week in favor of "flexibility."
"Probably fearing the loss of chance to hire union-busting lawyers,
fire union supporters and intimidate and lie to their workers, an employers group
has issued a report attacking card-check recognition," reported the AFL-CIO.
"The Labor Policy Associations 92-page diatribe against workers choice
even sheds tears for the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. When previous management refused
card-check recognition and mounted its anti-union campaign in 1994 against workers and
their unions, HERE Locals 165 and 226 fought back with tactics decried by LPA, such as an
information campaign, demonstrations and even opposition to hotel expansion plans."
The AFL-CIO report added, "Apparently LPA doesnt think
its a fair fight unless workers have both hands tied behind their backs."
LPA keeps a relatively low profile, offering no information on its
activities to the Internet-surfing public.
Delegates to the 1995 UE Political Action Conference knew enough about
LPAs involvement in the TEAM Act to picket the organizations Washington
headquarters. For now, at least, such picket lines are not subject to federal prosecution.
UE News - 10/98