The Unionized States of America

Last week, President-elect Barack Obama nominated Hilda Solis
to the position of Labor Secretary. This marks yet another time when
Obama has turned to the Golden State for guidance in his cabinet, as Solis is the representative of California’s 32nd district, and I am sure that those people who elected her to this position must be very proud.

I
am also sure that they must have very bad taste, for this is the second
time that Obama has committed such a colossal blunder
that it has deserved mention on this website. And everything seemed to be going so well! Well, except for the house-painter, but one can’t have everything. Solis’s nomination has drawn conspicuously ominous amounts of glee from America’s unions and just as conspicuously unpleasant amounts of gloom from those who have reason not to trust these entities. Their enthusiasm is, sadly, extremely warranted.

There
is no doubt that even a cursory look at Solis’s record would reveal
her as an unabashed union shill. Solis’s anti-enterprise, pro-union
record is so cemented that the Los Angeles Times
could actually call her “pro-union” in a headline without breaking the
rules of journalistic objectivity. Not only that, but the Times also
calls Solis “one of the most reliably pro-union voices in the
House” and cites the fact that the AFL-CIO has rated her with a 100 percent
voting score. That means that not once did Solis vote against union interests in the entirety of the last congressional year.

At
any other time, this sort of appointment would not mean much more than
what it looks like: a cynical ploy by a Democrat to cement his
relationship with one of his most reliable voting bases by appointing
one of their most prominent off-the-books advocates to his cabinet.
Given Obama’s shaky relationship with working Americans in his own
party during the primaries, this sort of move would seem doubly
important for him politically, though it should be noted that any time
something is done for political reasons, it tends to have an inverse
relationship with the amount of courage the relevant actor should have had. Still, if this were an ordinary term, Obama might have been excused.

But this is not
an ordinary term. For one thing, a lot of the less attractive elements
of blind pro-unionism are either coming home to roost or finally
emerging from their coffins, eager to drain our economic life force.
The first reason why increased care for union interests is a bad idea
is that it is one of the elements that makes the Detroit automakers so
impotent that US News and World Report can sardonically note
that “Detroit can’t compete with Alabama, let alone China.” At a time
when this sort of noncompetitiveness is literally killing not only the
economy, but the Federal Budget, more obeisance to labor interests is
hardly appropriate.

But
the much more sinister threat that Solis’s nomination poses is that Congress is still sitting on a pro-union bombshell, the
Orwellian “Employee Free Choice Act.” One of the primary effects
this act has is arguably to strip employees of the right to a secret
ballot. This means that the door is thrown open for unions to
intimidate, coerce, bribe and otherwise bully workers into signing up.
Setting aside the adverse economic effects of such behavior (higher
inflation, more strikes), this is unacceptable purely from the
perspective of individual rights. Unions may occasionally be a valuable
counterweight to corporate power, but what they need now is a good dose
of antitrust law, not more excuses to dunk scabs’ heads in the toilet.
Moreover, the act is so dangerously anti-individual that one leading constitutional scholar has even suggested that it is unconstitutional.

And, of course, Solis supports it.
One would expect nothing else from a woman who spends her time in
Congress shilling for union interests. The
President-elect was on record saying he wouldn’t appoint lobbyists
to his cabinet. And it’s true that Solis is not technically a
lobbyist. But as the old saying goes, if it quacks and has webbed feet,
it’s a duck, even if you call it a goose. I don’t mean to compare
Solis to poultry, but there’s no doubt that unfortunately,
Obama has appointed yet another quack.