President Obama has named four members to his bipartisan deficit-reduction commission, including Andy Stern, the influential president of the Service Employees International Union.
Obama has already appointed former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and former Senate Republican White Alan Simpson to co-chair the commission; House and Senate Democratic leaders will name the rest of the spots, each appointing three of their own members.
Obama's members are:
-SEIU President Andy Stern
-Honeywell Chairman, President, and CEO Dave Cote
-former Young & Rubicam Brands Chairman and CEO Ann Fudge
-Brookings Senior Fellow Alice Rivlin
Stern has become an influential figure under the new administration after endorsing Obama in the Democratic primary, while the other main axis of Labor's political power, the AFL-CIO (whose political committee is led by AFSCME's Gerald McEntee) endorsed Clinton. SEIU went on to pour millions into Obama's campaign, and the AFL-CIO (now led by President Richard Trumka) went on to back Obama in the general election.
Oddly enough, SEIU actually lobbied against the creation of a bipartisan deficit commission when it was being considered in the Senate, concerned with the quasi-binding nature of the suggestions that would have been offered under that commission--the Senate bill required congressional leaders to introduce the commission's proposals, which would be produced as a bill, for up-or-down votes in their respective chambers. Under Obama's commission, Congress isn't bound to vote on its proposals: lawmakers can tweak them, allow for amendments, or reject them outright.
Stern has been a fixture of White House summit meetings--perhaps most prominently, he was included in the health care industry meetings at the White House last year.
Stern doesn't sit on any other White House commissions, but SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger, who leads the labor coalition Change to Win (a political brainchild of Stern) sits on the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board and Vice President Joe Biden's middle class task force.
Labor has a lot of enemies, and not everyone is happy about Stern's appointment: "It appears we have moved from the state of the surreal to the land of outright insanity if our leaders are now taking advice from Big Labor bosses who have run their own programs into the ground," said Katie Packer, executive director of the Workforce Fairness Institute, an organization formed as a diametric opposite to union labor-policy initiatives.