The big, windowless, electronics-equipped tour buses belonged to the Teamsters, the Boilermakers, the Service Employees’ International Union (SEIU, said to be Barack Obama’s favorite,) and others. And their purpose—happily failed—was to thwart any reform that involved taking back control of Wisconsin government finance from the unions that viewed it as their own ATM.
So it was a why-are-we-not-surprised moment last Friday when the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel reported that the SEIU is to be found at the heart of the dysfunction in the U.S. Veterans Administration.
Strassel notes that in light of the ongoing scandal over substandard healthcare, “The VA battle is only just starting, but any real reform inevitably ends with a fight over organized labor.
“Think of it as the federal version of Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and other states where elected officials have attempted to rein in the public-sector unions that have hijacked government agencies for their own purpose. Fixing the VA requires breaking labor’s grip, and the unions are already girding for that fight.”
Two-thirds of the VA workforce—some 200,000 union members—are represented by the SEIU or the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE). Nobody’s better positioned to observe the failures of government-run health care, nobody’s more aware that remedies could include alternative providers of the service, and nobody’s more determined to block such reforms. To that end, Strassel says, the AFGE is busy demonizing legislation that would formally establish the freedom of veterans to exercise choice of the facilities where they receive care. The union calls it “outsourcing.”
Do the words “public schools” and “teacher unions” ring a bell?