While the mass media's attention is focused on the OFA-mobilized hordes storming the statehouse in Wisconsin to protect the unions, President Obama was slipping another one of his union contributors into a prime spot.
On Wednesday, the President announced the membership appointment of UAW President Bob King to the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations:
Bob King, Appointee for Member, Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations Bob King was elected as President of the United Auto Workers Union (UAW) in 2010. From 1998 until 2010, he served three four-year terms as a Vice President at UAW. In his final term as Vice President, he directed the Ford, Severstal, and Competitive Shops/Independent Parts Suppliers Departments of the UAW. Before this, Mr. King served nine years as the Union’s Director for most of Wayne, Monroe, and Washtenaw Counties in Michigan. He also chaired the UAW-Ford Negotiating Committee twice. Mr. King is a life member of the NAACP and a member of the Coalition of Labor Union Women.
The UAW, as most know, is a major shareholder (as is the federal government) in both General Motors and Chrsyler and is currently attempting to bully foreign auto-makers into unionizing their U.S. operations. Apparently, though, the President sees no conflict of interest in having a corporate partner who steers large sums of his members' money into the President's politics, serving as a trade advisor at a time when the UAW is trying to acquire more
assets members from foreign automakers.
In December, King created a significant controversy by siding with the President and the US Chamber on the NAFTA-Style Korean Free Trade Agreement. Obama and King's coziness irked many union bosses, as well as others in the union movement:
Sources inside union headquarters tell Labor Notes that Obama met with AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka, Steelworkers President Leo Gerard, and Communications Workers President Larry Cohen in November, and promised that worker and environmental protections would be included in a deal with South Korea.
The eventual agreement contains none of those provisions—which U.S. unions have insisted must be the bedrock of a new, more humane trade policy. (Obama the candidate mouthed the same words).
But the agreement does have the approval of Bob King, president of the United Auto Workers, who shocked fellow officers—not to mention thousands of members who have agitated against corporate-backed trade rules—by supporting the deal almost immediately.
“This is an about-face for the UAW and is flying in the face of the AFL-CIO,” one UAW official said. “A resolution passed at our last convention calling for fundamental changes to the Korea deal, and it didn’t happen. King just went ahead and approved it. It’s a hell of a thing to do, forsaking everybody’s interest for your own.”
Local leaders were taken off guard by King’s backing for the pact.
Joe Cardona is second VP of Local 174 near Detroit, which has a history of actively opposing free trade agreements. Cardona was surprised by King’s support and said, “There’s not a lot of happy people around here,” but, citing King’s commitment to solidarity with workers in other countries, added, “Sometimes you gotta go down a road you're not used to going down and I hope it’s where we need to be.”
On the question whether King’s stance was quid pro quo for the bailout, he said, “I’m curious as to what was said to our organization when we were on the edge of the cliff.”
Though King was strongly condemned by fellow union bosses for selling out American workers, this appears to have only caused him to cozy up to the President even further. [Hey! It's not who ya know...]
At some point, the hidden agenda will pop up and, when it does, we'll let you know.
“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776