Democratic Senator Blasts Union Boss

It’s not every day that a Democratic Senator blasts a labor union, which is why the recent mini-controversy surrounding the nomination of United Transportation Union General Counsel Daniel Elliott to the Surface Transportation Board is not only amusing, but embarrassing for the Obama administration. The controversy erupted last week, when, as the Journal of Commerce reports:

Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., denounced a claim by the United Transportation Union of leveraging influence with the Obama administration from its political affairs committee for the appointments of Elliott at STB and Joseph Szabo to head the Federal Railroad Administration.

The UTU is the largest rail labor organization, representing mostly train conductors along with some other railroad workers. The FRA oversees rail safety, while the STB regulates economic issues including rail mergers and disputes with freight shippers.

Rockefeller called the union claim “this UTU idiocy,” said the statement was “totally inappropriate, absolutely inexcusable” and said UTU International President Malcolm Futhey should “write a letter of apology to this committee.”

Rockefeller further called the UTU statement, “one of the most embarrassing, ridiculous, self-aggrandizing, inappropriate, harmful — and a few other words – press release I can remember.” At the suggestion of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Rockefeller placed a hold on Elliott’s nomination. Futhey did apologize, and the Senate confirmed Elliott soon after, but it’s so rare to see a prominent Democrat so strongly blast a union, that the UTU statement is worth quoting here:

“The selection by President Obama of Dan Elliott and Joe Szabo to head major transportation regulatory agencies is tribute to the political influence of the UTU, which flows from the UTU PAC,” said UTU International President Mike Futhey. “We have good reason to expect President Obama to reach into the UTU ranks for other appointments in the near future.”

Obama critics have accused his administration of being too cozy with organized labor, but it’s not often that a union says the same thing. This should put the onus on the administration to show some daylight between itself and Big Labor, but I won’t be holding my breath.

For an egregious example of Obama-union ties, see previous posts on the appointment of union ally Hilda Solis as Labor Secretary. (Thanks to Iain Murray for the tip.)