Charlie Leonard: Can the U.S. tolerate more help from the Labor Department? |

Charlie Leonard: Can the U.S. tolerate more help from the Labor Department?

Charlie Leonard
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

Given the fact that the U.S. Department of Labor is responsible for reporting unemployment statistics each week, and those numbers remain pretty dismal despite some recent gains, you would think the folks running that agency would be bending over backward to help promote and create new employment opportunities. Instead, it’s U.S. businesses that the Labor Department has bent over – and it’s not to help them get some exercise or stretch their job-creating muscles.

Let’s review just a few of the major Labor Department announcements during the past three years of the Obama administration.

When the president took office, his No. 1 labor priority was to advocate for a union-favored election tactic called “card check,” which would have eliminated secret ballots in union organizing campaigns. So, instead of our long-honored tradition of allowing workers to cast their votes for or against joining a union with secret ballots or in the privacy of a voting booth, union “representatives” would be permitted instead to approach workers – on or off the job – and request that they cast their vote – up or down – in front of the union representative on a union voting card.

There are two things that are especially astounding about this idea. The first is that it was advocated by a black president who no doubt is keenly aware of our shameful history of voter intimidation prior to the Civil Rights Act (and probably since). The second is that it was proposed at the same time the government was trying to rescue the auto industry from the unsustainable union contracts that had bankrupted two of our three largest car companies.

For American businesses caught in the grips of a terrible recession, this was hardly the jobs and labor message they wanted to hear. Little did they know that this was just the beginning of the administration’s hostile posture toward business and private-sector job creators.

In 2010, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), led by Obama appointees, announced it was suing Boeing for building a new airplane manufacturing facility in South Carolina. The NLRB said Boeing’s decision to build a new factory in a “right to work state” like South Carolina (translation: a state that allows workers to opt out of union membership if they go to work in a unionized company) was made in retaliation for a union strike that occurred at Boeings main production facilities in Washington State in 2008. (In case you had any doubt, Washington is not a “right to work” state).

For the country’s only competitive builder of commercial aircraft, moving to South Carolina was not an act of retaliation, it was an act of survival.

Never before in our history had the government attempted to prevent a private company from choosing, for whatever reasons, where to locate a factory or business. Needless to say, as American companies watched this drama play out in the courts, they were not exactly being encouraged to take new risks, create new businesses and hire new workers.

I guess you could argue that there is no tangible proof that “card check” and the Boeing lawsuit were discouraging businesses from hiring. A whole lot of people in business would disagree, but I guess you could argue it.

And, as it turns out, neither “card check” nor the Boeing lawsuit were the last or most misguided labor department job killers.

For the past two years, the Obama labor department been engaged in what it calls a “crackdown” on unpaid internships.

Seriously, a “crackdown” on unpaid internships?

To fully appreciate the absurdity of the government trying to stop businesses from giving inexperienced young people the chance to acquire some marketable career skills in this difficult job market, one need look no further than last months jobs report.

With literally millions of young people desperate for work and an opportunity to prove themselves to prospective employers, the government is stepping in to prevent entirely private transactions between entirely willing parties where both stand to benefit.

To put this nonsense in even clearer perspective, consider the fact that any number of colleges and universities can charge tens of thousands of dollars for educational curriculums that result in no marketable skills. But should a business or individual wish to train someone in a skill or profession – free of charge – the government intends to “crackdown” on the practice.

Did I mention that both Congress and the White House are exempt from the “crackdown” on unpaid internships? Need I ask if that surprises anyone?

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