Friday, April 01, 2005


John Boehner: Guarding Social Security . . . from its supporters

From today's NY Times:
The nation's labor unions stepped up their campaign yesterday to stop President Bush's Social Security plan, staging demonstrations in New York, Washington, San Francisco and 70 other cities.

The protests are part of a huge effort that labor has mounted, packing congressmen's town meetings with union members, pressuring investment firms to stop backing Mr. Bush's proposal and collecting tens of thousands of signatures to denounce his call for personal Social Security investment accounts

[. . . ]

The president's supporters are firing back by accusing unions of using unfair, and possibly illegal, tactics. Representative John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, who is chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, has urged the Labor Department to investigate whether labor's tactics violated the ban on secondary boycotts - boycotts against any party not directly involved in a labor dispute - and other laws.

"The debate over how to ensure the solvency of Social Security for future generations should be open and honest, but it shouldn't be influenced by special interests who may be breaking federal law," Mr. Boehner said in a letter he wrote along with Representative Sam Johnson, Republican of Texas, who heads the House Subcommittee on Employer-Employee Relations.

[ . . .]

Damon Silvers, the A.F.L.-C.I.O.'s associate general counsel, said the demonstrations did not violate the ban on secondary boycotts, since that involves job actions like strikes, while the Social Security protests concerned a public policy dispute.
Actually, we think Boehner is objecting to another effort where the unions are using the proxy voting power of their pension plans to initiate shareholder communications and initiatives targeted at companies supporting the phase-out of Social Security.

Regardless, Boehner - along with Deborah Pryce, Oxley, Portman and Gillmor - is finding himself more and more isolated. For example, of the two Republican congressman who agreed to be quoted yesterday, both sounded like they didn't want any part of the Bamboozlepalooza:
Representative John M. McHugh, a moderate Republican from upstate New York who has met with labor leaders, said, "They're right about their concerns about the cost of the plan and the fact that it doesn't fix the problem."

Representative Sherwood Boehlert, another Republican from upstate New York, said he had met three times with union leaders about Social Security. "I told them what I told the president: Count me as being skeptical about the plan," he said.
The most hypocritical comment, however, came from Tracey Schmitt, press secretary for the Republican National Committee:
"Today's theatrics once again reveal that many labor unions are more concerned with partisan politics than the interests of their own members. Recent activities to intimidate organizations that support the president's Social Security efforts amount to thuggery and do nothing to encourage public discourse." [emphasis added]
Uh, Tracey, is that in comparison to the thuggery and discouragement of public discourse in Colorado on March 21 when three non-Bush-loyalists were given the heave-ho at the Bamboozlepalooza event in Denver, or the 40 people who were banned from attending another Bush Social Security event in February in Fargo, North Dakota?


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