ThinkProgress filed this report from the Conservative Principles Conference in Des Moines, IA.
The defining political story three months into 2011 is the spread of anti-union legislation in the states. Now, a leading senator on the right wants to eliminate collective bargaining rights at a federal level.
During an interview with ThinkProgress in Des Moines this weekend, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), a leader of the Tea Party movement and veritable kingmaker for conservative candidates, made no bones about his desire to diminish the power of public employees. DeMint told ThinkProgress that he “doesn’t believe collective bargaining has any place in government…including at the federal level.” The South Carolina senator then went on to call public employees’ unions an “unelected third party” that enjoyed “monopoly power” in negotiations. “It just doesn’t make any sense,” DeMint quipped:
KEYES: Senator, would you like to see some of these bills that we see at a state level curbing the collective bargaining rights of public employees’ unions, would you like to see those on a federal level?
DeMINT: I don’t believe collective bargaining has any place in government.
KEYES: Including at a federal level?
DeMINT: Including at the federal level. That’s what elections are, collective bargaining, for people who are [inaudible]. I think it just doesn’t make sense. When we’re elected as representatives, to determine the fiscal condition of the government, then to have an unelected third party bargaining at the table with monopoly power, it just doesn’t make any sense.
Currently, most federal public employees — with the exception of the postal service and some others — are only permitted to collectively bargain to improve their working conditions (their pay and benefits are set by Congress). However, DeMint is apparently seeking to take away even the meager rights that federal employees currently have.
The South Carolina Republican’s push to strip public employees’ unions of all their collective bargaining rights is part of a larger battle by the GOP against labor unions. Currently, the right is targeting labor unions in states across the country, from Maine to Missouri and elsewhere, with nearly-identical legislation crafted by the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Earlier this month, Wisconsin State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) even admitted to Fox News on air that the goal is to defund labor unions and hurt President Obama’s reelection chances.
Now, as the fight over public unions expands to more states, Sen. Jim DeMint is picking up the torch for at a federal level.