Politics & Policy

Barack Obama, President of the SEIU

Obama and public-sector unions profit from illegal immigration.

Unions — particularly public-employee unions — support illegal immigration because it serves their interests to have a permanent class of people who are financially dependent on the government.

The sad secret about private-sector unions is that they are dying. There used to be a reason for private-sector unions — like, for instance, protecting people like my dad from inhaling the toxic materials at the munitions plant, which eventually killed him. But in today’s world, such unions have become basically obsolete. All they do now is drive up the cost of doing business, thereby preventing their own members from getting hired. Arizona is what we call a “right to work” state. As mandated by the Arizona Constitution, Arizonans are free to join a union or not — it’s their choice, not some union boss’s command. And interestingly enough, when employees are given the choice of whether or not to join a union, they increasingly say no. These workers understand that the rigid workplace rules and regulations that unions promote are bad for growth, bad for competitiveness, and bad for jobs.

More and more workers recognize this. That’s why in the private sector, where employees have a real stake in the success of the businesses they work for, only 7.5 percent of workers are unionized. By contrast, more than 36 percent of public-sector workers are unionized, and more than 42 percent of local-government workers. That’s because public-sector workers in the federal government don’t have to worry about unemployment. Ever. In many federal agencies, the primary threat to job security is actually death. The job security for all federal workers in 2010 was 99.43 percent. It’s even higher for workers who have been on the job for more than a few years. With the government this bloated, the best guarantee of never-ending employment is a government paycheck. The average government worker has a tenure nearly twice as long as that of the average private-sector worker.

Democratic-party bosses love government workers because each of those workers must rely upon the health and growth of government to pay his salary and guarantee his benefits. If the government contracts or shuts down for any reason, those workers are out of a job. And public-sector unions love the Democratic bosses because they keep on growing government. The more people the Democrats can put on the payroll, the more voters they can lock up for their candidates.

That gives public-sector unions like the SEIU (which includes huge numbers of public employees) unbelievable leverage. Because the party bosses want to keep government workers employed and happy, they’ll give the unions just about anything they want. And the best part (for them) is that it doesn’t cost them a thing. The taxpayers pick up the tab. Liberal politicians spend taxpayer money to grow government; the unions keep voting for (and contributing to) Democrats, and the Democrats stay in office so they can spend more of the taxpayers’ money growing government. It’s a simple, corrupt, mutual back-scratching circle.

How does illegal immigration play into this? Most illegal aliens work hard. That is not in dispute. But the unfortunate fact is that most illegal aliens are also unskilled and uneducated.

Unskilled workers have higher unemployment rates and lower earnings. Many rely on government programs to help support them and their families. Either that or they rely on government jobs — if they can get them. In either case, they are more dependent on government than either legal immigrants or the native-born. Households headed by illegal aliens collect more welfare, due to their generally lower education levels and incomes compared with native-born households. Much of this access to the welfare system by these households is gained through their American-born children, who are U.S. citizens. That means more government, which means more public-sector-union members.

Even if, in the short term, more illegal immigration means fewer union jobs, the unions are okay with that. It is a strategic cost they are willing to bear. Because they know that if the Democrats keep winning, they will give the unions subsidies, grow government, and employ more union members.

Some of the unions’, especially the SEIU’s, massive opposition to SB 1070 may have a more personal motivation. As we waited around for Janet Napolitano to resign and leave, she gave a parting gift to the public-employee unions. She issued her final executive order granting something called “meet and confer” status to many of the public-employee unions. That mandates that the union’s chosen representatives meet at least once a quarter with state agency heads. I repealed the executive order as soon as I became governor, citing its potential impact on trimming our bloated budget and its conflict with our state’s right-to-work guarantee.

Whatever their motivation, it is unforgivable for public-sector unions and the Democratic party to use illegal aliens as a way to ensure their power base. But use them they do. In the condescending belief that illegal aliens will become prompt and permanent clients of big government, thus adding to their power, unions spend their members’ dues (which in the case of public-sector unions are provided by the taxpayers) overwhelmingly on Democrats. Unions are by far the biggest contributors to political candidates and parties. In the 20 years between 1989 and 2009, the unions gave almost $500 million in political contributions, and about $450 million of that was to Democrats. It will surprise most mainstream-media-consuming Americans to know that the unions’ closest competition for political influence, the financial-investment industry, gave less than half of what labor contributed between 1989 and 2009. Unions are the country’s biggest political investors, and they have invested big in the Democratic party.

This investment has been handsomely rewarded. It’s why Democrats kill free-trade bills. It’s why they push “stimulus” bills for less than “shovel-ready” jobs. It’s why they support the program known as “card check,” a kneecapping method designed to allow union intimidation of anti-union workers. And the unions’ support of Democrats is why it came as no surprise to us that, when Arizona voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to our state constitution to require unions to allow members to vote by secret ballot, the Obama administration filed yet another lawsuit against Arizona to stop it.

President Obama has forced the auto companies to hand over the keys to the United Auto Workers instead of to the creditors who were first in line. The administration has used the National Labor Relations Board in an attempt to shut down a Boeing plant located in South Carolina because South Carolina is a right-to-work state.

And when it comes to immigration, President Obama has made no secret about where he gets his marching orders. As a candidate, Obama spoke to the SEIU and announced, “Your agenda has been my agenda in the United States Senate. Before debating health care, I talked to Andy Stern and SEIU members. Before immigration debates took place in Washington, I talked with Eliseo Medina and SEIU members.” This was a frank admission that the Obama administration would be run by the SEIU. It wasn’t a tacit deal. It was open and clear-cut. Support me and I’ll do your bidding in Washington. And when you think about it, it’s a win-win proposition. Open borders and amnesty for illegal aliens create more voters for President Obama and more members for the SEIU. This larger power base allows them both to pursue their shared agenda: bigger, more expansive government. That may be a win-win for the president and the unions, but it’s a big loser for the American taxpayers. It’s also dishonest. If President Obama and his allies really wanted to have an honest debate about illegal immigration, they would say openly that they believe our country’s future should be determined by an uncontrolled, illegal influx of immigrants. But they won’t say that. Instead they pretend to care about border security while working to actively undermine it. It’s dishonest, dangerous, and undemocratic. America’s fate should be in the hands of Americans, not human smugglers and drug cartels.

— Jan Brewer is the Republican governor of Arizona. This is excerpted from her new book, Scorpions for Breakfast: My Fight Against Special Interests, Liberal Media, and Cynical Politicos to Secure America’s Border, with permission of Broadside, an imprint of Harpercollins.

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