The labor movement takes its pound of flesh

Every time the White House changes hands, there is a flurry of executive orders regarding things like funding overseas abortions and labor rules for federal contracting.  Substantively, their impact is pretty limited, but they have broad symbolic value.

Obama signed the changes to labor provisions today:

-Require federal contractors to offer jobs to current workers when contracts change.

-Reverse a Bush administration order requiring federal contractors to post notice that workers can limit financial support of unions serving as their exclusive bargaining representatives.

-Prevent federal contractors from being reimbursed for expenses meant to influence workers deciding whether to form a union and engage in collective bargaining.

As a matter of policy, it seems ridiculous to give federal contractors money to lobby against a union.  On the other hand, taking down notices that workers have rights against the union seems to be frankly pandering.  The rhetoric about unions always focuses on the workers, but an awful lot of the actual policy seems designed to enhance, not the power of the workers over their employers, but that of the union over the workers.


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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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