The Unionized States of America

Enemies of America overseas take their measure of an American president from the way he handles his domestic political bargains.

Early in his first term., President Reagan established his image as a strong leader by firing air traffic controllers who broke the law by going on strike. He warned their union, the Professional Air Traffic Controller Union, that he would do so, but also promised to retain any controllers who ignored the picket lines and continued to show up to their jobs.

Despite dire predictions, Reagan and his team were able to field replacements --some military, some managers -- and train new controllers. No accidents occurred. The union, led by a radical, failed its members and was eventually decertified. Controllers who were fired often remained unemployed for years (Bill Clinton overturned a ban on their hiring as controllers).

Regan took a strong stand and earned his image -- one that proved fruitful to him on the world stage as he confronted a Soviet Union that had run rampant around the world while Jimmy Carter lamented the decline of America. Reagan's firm stand encouraged businesses and industries to take on unions that were wreaking havoc in America, and reportedly impressed the Soviets with his toughness.

That was then -- when Presidents were leaders and not lackeys -- and this is now. We have Barack Obama as President. He is showering dollars on the air traffic controllers and sending a message to labor unions: their man is in the White House and will follow their marching orders. What wonderful image.

Christopher Conkey writes in the Wall Street Journal:

Labor is gaining clout inside the Federal Aviation Administration -- and hoping to do so elsewhere.

Late last month, the FAA signed a three-year deal with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association valued at $669 million. A new contract for Natca had been a top priority of the Obama administration after years of impasse in negotiations with the union that represents about 20,000 employees.

The deal will elevate the union's influence on aviation policy and signals a growing role for public-employee unions at other federal agencies. [....]

The FAA says the average annual cash compensation for fully certified controllers will rise to $157,990 in 2012 from $142,101 now. The FAA estimates the average pay for fully certified controllers will rise by at least $14,906 over three years and less-experienced controllers could see an average pay boost of at least $27,358 during the three-year period.

The new contract also contains articles that ensure greater union participation in technical and procedural changes as well as implementation of the new satellite-based air-traffic-control system...

When you realize that lavish government employee benefits typically add 40% or more to cash salaries, the average air traffic controller is earning a substantial multiple of the average American income. Not bad for a job which requires a bachelor's degree.

The work rules imposed by unions were one of the prime reasons the auto companies went belly-up when they competed against non-unionized foreign auto companies. Now the air traffic controllers will get a huge raise (anyone else in this weak economy seeing raises?) and will have newly granted powers to use work rules to minimize their work load.

Barack Obama: union man, weak leader.
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