Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

A Brotherhood of Convenience

If you’ve ever questioned if labor unions are inherently self-interested, just take a look at any union-versus-union showdown.

The latest face off is playing out in the federal courts and on Capitol Hill. But don’t let politics distract from the real story: Unions are only looking out for themselves.

President Obama’s immigration policy is forcing a wedge between the AFL-CIO and one of its member organizations. The “deferred action” policy instituted by the Obama administration says that illegal immigrants under age 31 who arrived here as children will not be immediately deported. Chris Crane, the president of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Council, the union that represents ICE’s law enforcement agents, says that the order makes it difficult for union-member agents to do their jobs and actually forces them to break the law.

Crane says that the job of the agents is to just arrest illegal aliens and let the judicial system take care of the rest. Under these new rules, agents are supposed to pass over anyone who claims to fit the rule—making their job much more difficult.  Crane thinks that his union has been neglected for the sake of political gain. Now, Crane is leading a lawsuit against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and ICE Director John Morton to enforce the law as it was before the policy change.

Crane must have missed a memo: the AFL-CIO has firmly endorsed a “roadmap to citizenship.” AFL-CIO’s leadership had thrown its full support behind the administration’s “deferred action” policy. So rather than speaking up in favor of one of their member unions—or even just ignoring them—the union told Crane to get in line:

“I told him that the AFL-CIO strongly supports deferred action,” [AFL-CIO lobbyist Andrea DiBitetto] says. “I asked him to follow the AFL-CIO position.”

Crane is most concerned with protecting his agents from suspension and the possible negative results of a major change in policy. But the AFL-CIO is focused on the big-picture goal of growing its ranks. Its stance on immigration is not just new-found altruism and compassion. Supporting new immigrants and lobbying for their path to citizenship is a sure-fire way to pick up more dues-paying members.

Categories: AFL-CIOCenter for Union Facts