I wrote about how unions exert their influence over the Obama Administration when the White House announced it would skip the U.S. Conference of Mayors because it didn’t want to cross a local union’s picket line.
Well, as The Politico reports, that deference has provoked considerable criticism and ire from mayors from across the country who gathered in Providence, R.I. over the weekend:
In its attempt to honor the picket line of a local firefighters union involved in a labor dispute with the city, the administration has inadvertently angered some of its staunchest supporters in urban America, who argue that by declining to send an official contingent to the three-day mayors’ conference, the administration is caving in to labor and snubbing local governments at a time of economic strife.
Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, who actually endorsed Obama last year, had harsh words about the White House’s decision to cave into the unions:
“We have no choice. None of us in this room are insulated from the economic challenges faced by the city of Providence. This will not be the last time this administration will be asked to make a similar choice,” said Diaz, a former Democrat turned independent who endorsed Obama in 2008. “This is why the administration is setting a very dangerous precedent. Our president has called on all Americans to sacrifice. Mayors have sacrificed before, and we will do it again. But we must not be asked to bear this burden alone. Sacrifice often means doing things that we don’t want to do; doing things we don’t like to do; doing things that keep us all up at night.”
Mayor Joseph Riley of Charleston, S.C. – who is a Democrat – expressed disappointment, calling the Obama Administration’s decision a “mistake”:
“It was such a surprise,” said Riley, a Democrat and past president of the conference, “because we’ve worked so closely with them and with the White House. And obviously Vice President Joe Biden has been a longtime friend of many mayors.”
As we noted last week, given the choice between helping local governments implement the stimulus or appeasing labor’s demands, the Obama Administration deferred – not surprisingly – in favor of the more politically influential constituency. What’s disconcerting about this incident is the green light given to unions that they can disrupt governance by promising to show up and picket.