New Orleans What’s that old saying? It’s something like, if you can’t do, then teach. We may have gotten to the point in the labor movement, where if we can’t seem to organize, then at least we can lobby. Political work in creating leverage, opportunity, and even it seems, increased membership has long been the go-to Plan B driving union organizing and growth in many sectors not only in the service industry, but also in construction and manufacturing. Now according to business sources looking at the Build Back Better infrastructure bill, proposed by President Biden, chopped and diced, and now passed by House of Representatives is a goody bag of large and small victories for unions.
The list is a good one for labor, according to the Wall Street Journal:
- Companies seeking federal tax incentives for green-energy public works would be required to pay local prevailing wages and offer apprenticeship programs. $230 billion of the $300 billion in the bill would include this condition.
- There would be extra tax credits for consumers who buy electric vehicles built by UAW represented auto plants.
- A half-billion was won by the Mineworkers for medical expenses for coal miners suffering from black lung disease.
- The NewsGuild-CWA has managed to insert a payroll tax credit for news outlets that hire local journalists in the US, benefiting union and nonunion companies with a more than $30,000 incentive for the first year and several years subsidy of $15,000 afterwards.
- OSHA would finally have the ability to levy real fines with real teeth biting up to $700,000 for willful or repeated violations, up from $136,532.
- There would be $110 billion for universal prekindergarten, long promoted by the American Federation of Teachers.
- $150 billion would go to extend home care for seniors and the disabled, which has been the key objective for the Service Employees International Union, which represents more than half-million of these workers.
- Oh, and there would be an individual tax deduction off of gross wages for up to $250 in union dues payments for the first time, similar to other deductible business expenses for non-workers.
Credit to where credit is due, this is a pretty good year’s work for labor’s governmental and political staff. Despite the rending of clothes and gnashing of teeth by business lobbyists about what they are seeing as a gift to unions, the truth is that for the last few decades their money and lobbying has pretty much kept Congress and the White House in their pockets, either out of love or fear. Companies like Tesla and the transplant auto makers are no doubt whining about things like the special incentive for purchasing UAW-made cars, but when you look at the incentives they have enjoyed in building and opeating their plants, this is a drop in the bucket. Incentives for local news and real penalties for health and safety violations are hardly self-interested, since they benefit all workers, as do programs in education and home care.
Frankly, we almost need to rephrase the old saying about General Motors, and say that if this is the union infrastructure list, it seems like what is good for unions, is good for America. One more thing though. Once this is mission accomplished, how about everyone getting together to raise the federal minimum wage after all of these years for crying out loud!