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    Repiglican Roast

    A spirited discussion of public policy and current issues

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    Location: The mouth of being

    I'm furious about my squandered nation.

    Sunday, May 11, 2008

    Ronald Reagan's War on Labor

    [...]
    Republican presidents never have had much regard for unions, which almost invariably have opposed their election. But until Reagan, no GOP president had dared to challenge labor's firm legal standing, gained through Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the mid-1930s.

    Reagan's Republican predecessors treated union leaders much as they treated Democratic members of Congress -- as people to be fought with at times, but also as people to be bargained with at other times. But Reagan engaged in precious little bargaining. He waged almost continuous war against organized labor.
    [...]
    Reagan's Labor Department was as one-sided as the NLRB. It became an anti-labor department, virtually ignoring, for instance, the union-busting consultants who were hired by many employers to fend off unionization. Very few consultants and very few of those who hired them were asked for the financial disclosure statements the law demands. Yet all unions were required to file the statements that the law required of them (and that could be used to advantage by their opponents). And though the department cut its overall budget by more than 10 percent, it increased the budget for such union-busting activities by almost 40 percent.

    Union-busting was only one aspect of Reagan's anti-labor policy. He attempted to lower the minimum wage for younger workers, ease the child labor and anti-sweatshop laws, tax fringe benefits, and cut back job training programs for the unemployed. He tried to replace thousands of federal employees with temporary workers who would not have civil service or union protections.

    The Reagan administration all but dismantled programs that required affirmative action and other steps against discrimination by federal contractors, and seriously undermined worker safety. It closed one-third of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's field offices, trimmed its staff by more than one-fourth and decreased the number of penalties assessed against employers by almost three-fourths.

    Rather than enforce the law, the administration sought "voluntary compliance" from employers on safety matters - and generally didn't get or expect it. The administration had so tilted the job safety laws in favor of employers that union safety experts found them virtually useless.

    The same could have been said of all other labor laws in the Reagan era. A statement issued at the time by the presidents of several major unions concluded it would have been more advantageous for those who worked for a living to ignore the laws and return "to the law of the jungle" that prevailed a half-century before.

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