President Obama’s systematic distancing himself from both the policies of and perceptions about the Bush administration continued full force today as he moved to undo some key Bush administration labor policies:
At a White House ceremony, the president signed three executive orders that he said would “reverse many of the policies towards organized labor that we’ve seen these last eight years, policies with which I’ve sharply disagreed.”
Soon afterward, Vice President Biden drew applause when he flung another dart at former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney (on Mr. Cheney’s 68th birthday) as he told labor officials in the audience, “Welcome back to the White House.”
The orders he signed, which union officials say will undo Bush administration policies that tilted toward employers, would require federal contractors to offer jobs to current workers when contracts change, and would make it more difficult for federal contractors to discourage union activities
….In addition, Mr. Biden said the first meeting of the previously announced task force “to bring together those Cabinet members who have the greatest impact on the well-being of the middle class” would be Feb. 27 in Philadelphia. The task force will look at issues as diverse as health care and college opportunities, Mr. Biden said, and will focus on “restoring the balance in the workplace.”
Biden, had this high concept message: “We’re on your side again.”
What does it all mean?
1. Americans at times seem as polarized on the issue of labor unions as they are on Democratic/Republican politics. Obama had one phrase which will please those who are pro-labor and upset those who aren’t:
““I do not view the labor movement as part of the problem,” Mr. Obama said. “To me, it’s part of the solution.”
This is a huge shift. The Bush years were most notable for the fact that unions felt they were shut out from a government that critics charged was (almost) as oriented to big business as it was to the Republican party’s base. The key question: will those who disagree with Obama feel as shut out as Democrats did from Bush? Obama has to change policies to enact change (duhh) but can he do it without those who disagree feeling marginalized?
2. Taken together with the changes on some environmental polices and several other issues, Obama is moving swiftly to distance himself from the Bush administration. It’s being done with enough care so it isn’t an overt repudiation but it is indeed a systematic shift.
3. This and other changes indicate how difficult Obama’s attempt to instill bipartisanship will be. He’s trying to get people who work with him who, for the most part, liked some main policies of the Bush administration like the way things were. The more changes he actually makes, the more he will likely find that influential segments of the Republican party dig in their heels.
SOME OTHER COMMENT:
—Talk Left’s Big Tent Democrat: ““I do not view the labor movement as part of the problem,” After so many years of listening to the Republican power structure condemn organized labor as if it were synonymous with organized crime, it’s good to hear these words from a president.
President Obama wasted no time paying back his labor union supporters. He signed three executive orders today that he claims will level the playing field for organized labor. One of Obama’s executive orders will ensure that federal contractors be prohibited from doing anything to discourage unionization among their workers. Another is ostensibly aimed at informing workers of their rights to join a union. Both of these orders will encourage unionization in the private sector, which could be costly in this flailing economy. But their real intent is to reward unions for their help in getting him and his fellow Democrats in Congress elected.
So American workers should not know that they have the right to de-unionize? Obama wants to keep Americans in closed shops ignorant of their choices? Keep ‘em barefoot and enlslaved to the Union Boss Bills of the world?
Just detecting another whiff of inconsistency in Hope and Change ….
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.