Campaign Promises

Departments -> Labor -> Unions

LA-33 The Promise: "I will fight for...I intend to sign the Employee Free Choice Act when it lands on my desk in the White House."
When/Where: Campaign Speech "Alliance for American Manufacturing," Pittsburg, PA, dated 04/14/08.
Status:The purpose of the Employee Free Choice Act is to "establish an efficient system to enable employees to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to provide for mandatory injunctions for unfair labor practices during the organizing effort..."

Introduced in both houses of Congress on 03/10/09 (H-1409 and S-560) by Congressman George Miller (D-CA) and Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) respectively as the "Employee Free Choice Act of 2009", the requisite Congressional votes to make these bills happen were lagging throughout the 111th Congress. Additionally, constituent employers were generally against them. Given that previous supporters on both sides of the aisles withdrew their support for these bills, they died with the adjournment of the 111th Congress at the end of CY2010.

The promised Act is not to be confused with the "Employer Free Choice Act" (H.R. 2854) introduced on 09/07/11 for the purpose of repealing a rule on the notification of employee rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

The "Employee Free Choice Act of 2016" (H.R. 5000) was reintroduced by Congressman Alan Grayson on 04/20/16. This bill expired with the 114th Congress at the end of CY2016.

This promise was not fulfilled.
LA-34 The Promise: "...I support collective bargaining rights for all workers...I will review decisions by the Bush Administration that have denied these rights to federal employees and seek to restore them."
When/Where: Candidate Obama letter to President, American Federation of Federal Employees, dated 10/20/08.
Status:As of end-CY2011, 37% of public sector workers and 6.9% of private sector workers were represented by a union according to the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.

President Bush's Executive Order (E.O.) 13480 entitled "Exclusions from the Federal Labor-management Relations Program" of 11/26/08 eliminated the collective bargaining rights of numerous organizations belonging to the Departments of Energy, Homeland Security, Justice, Transportation and Treasury on the basis that those organizations "have as a primary function intelligence, counterintelligence, investigative, or national security work."

On 10/28/09, President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2010 (Public Law 111-84). This law repealed the statutory authority for the National Security Personnel System (NSPS) created under the Bush Administration and required the Department of Defense (DoD) to transition approximately 226K civilian employees from NSPS back to the appropriate statutory non-NSPS pay and personnel system by 01/01/12. NSPS would have imposed significant restrictions on regular civil servants' collective bargaining rights. With the return of the old pay and personnel system (i.e. General Schedule - GS), collective bargaining rights were returned as well.

The Transporation Security Agency (TSA) is another organization where 40K employees (mainly airport screeners) did not have collective bargaining rights. In 04/11, under the aegis of the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), employees were invited to vote for union representation by either the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) or the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE). Since less than 50% of eligible employees voted, a runoff election was called by the FLRA. The NTEU won this runoff election as announced by the FLRA on 06/23/11.

The situation is much different for 1,500 Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) employees, however. No known action has been taken by the Obama Administration to reinstate their collective bargaining rights, which could have been accomplished easily by President Obama issuing an executive order of his own.

President Obama will also be remembered as the President who turned his back on Wisconsin public employees who sought to restore their collective bargaining rights in FY2011 but failed. He promised them during his presidential election campaign that he'd have their backs but was a "no-show."

As of CY2015, the percentage of wage and salary workers who were members of unions was as follows according to the website
Private Sector - 6.7%
Federal Government - 27.3%
State Government - 30.2%
Local Government - 41.3%

This promise was not fulfilled.
LA-35 The Promise: "And if American workers are being denied their right to organize when I'm in the White House, I will put on a comfortable pair of shoes and I will walk on that picket line with you as President of the United States."
When/Where: Campaign Speech entitled "A Change We Can Believe In," Spartanburg, SC, dated 11/03/07.
Status:In this promise, then-candidate Obama promised to support the protection of union collective bargaining rights.

An for opportunity President Obama to deliver on this promise presented itself in early CY2011 when the Governor of Wisconsin cut collective bargaining rights of most public employees in his efforts to reduce the state's budget deficit. Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) signed this decision into law on 03/11/11. On 09/14/12, Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas ruled that this law violated both the U.S. Constitution and state equal protection laws, thereby declaring it null and void. This decision was appealed.

Other than statements in support of unions in general, President Obama did not "put on a comfortable pair of shoes and...walk on the picket line" in Madison as promised. This situation led to a recall election on 06/05/12. Republican Governor Walker won (the first governor to win a recall election in history) and the Wisconsin democrats lost. On 08/04/14, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that Governor Walker's initiative did not violate constitutional protections limiting the right of workers to collectively bargain through unions.

This promise was not fulfilled.