The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has become one of the strongest lobbying organizations in the country. They have their considerable influence in a number of areas. Without a doubt, one of these involves restricting the rights of American workers.
The Chamber has been campaigning against unions, fair labor practices, increases in the minimum wage, and legal protections for America’s workers for nearly a century. The Chamber’s anti-union initiatives are just one part of its multi-issue agenda against working men and women. Unlike other anti-union organizations, this prominent lobbying force does not hide its alignment with the giants of Corporate America. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Chamber has an annual budget of $150 million and 300 staff members.
It is most significant that annual contributions to the Chamber from its largest corporate members rose from $600,000 to $90 million in less than a decade. Thomas J. Donohue has built a more aggressive and politically-powerful Chamber since he took office as president of the Chamber in 1997. It’s not a coincidence that the Chamber allows large corporate donors to set the agenda for the organization.
The Bush White House also has had an active role in setting an agenda that has been anti-consumer and anti-worker. The direction taken has actually caused the Business Roundtable and other moderate members of the business community to distance themselves from the U.S. Chamber. At least, that certainly appears to be the case.
In a recent year, 2004, the Chamber spent $24.5 million lobbying the federal government. I doubt seriously if many small business owners benefit from the lobbying efforts. The Chamber works closely with the Bush administration and prominent anti-labor conservatives on Capitol Hill such as Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-GA), head of the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections. Rep. Norwood was given the Chamber’s Spirit of Enterprise Award for his pro-Chamber voting record.
The Georgia lawmaker, who has been an anti-workplace safety zealot, caused controversy this year for his insensitivity during Congressional hearings on the Sago mineworker tragedy, and for lobbying strongly and vocally against renewal of the Voting Rights Act.
The Chamber’s record insofar as workplace issues are concerned has at least been consistent. They have lobbied to oppose pro-worker legislation, including the Family Time and Workplace Flexibility Act, Fair Minimum Wage Act, and an expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Among the Chamber’s legislative priorities is opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act, which would strengthen labor law and provide workers with the right to union representation via the card check process when a majority present signed union authorization cards to their employers. On May 4, 2006, the Chamber sent a letter to all Republican members of Congress urging them to support the Secret Ballot Protection Act, which would outlaw union recognition through card check. The Chamber also operates a website urging its members to pressure Congress on the issue.
A number of key players in the conservative movement have worked for the Chamber, including Grover Norquist, who served as the Chamber’s chief speechwriter in the 1980s. Norquist has also worked as an adviser to President Bush and has tremendous influence over policy decisions in his administration. Over the past several years, the Chamber spent a tremendous amount of money in attempts to control judicial elections. Interestingly, local Chambers don’t buy into everything that the national group promotes. On several occasions, local groups have actively opposed positions taken by the national group.
The fact that the U.S. Chamber doesn’t have to account for their money received to use in elections is not good for most Americans. The real donors are hidden from public scrutiny. The Chamber actually uses shadow groups it sets up to do its dirty work in the state races. Nobody knows how much these groups spend or where the money comes from and that’s never a good thing. I would suggest that our readers take a close look at how the U.S. Chamber operates and what their real agenda and motivations are!
Source: American Rights At Work