International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Goes After Bernie Sanders

The Washington Times is reporting that Sen Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, has a fight with yet another labor union on his hands.

“Sen. Bernard Sanders brags about his ties to working people, so it was a particularly harsh shot Tuesday when a California union blasted his idea to have the state take over a large power utility and said they were more disappointed he never ran the proposal by the workers. The criticism from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1425, which claims 25,000 members, is the second anti-Bernie blast from unions. Nevada’s biggest union, the culinary workers, criticized the presidential hopeful’s Medicare-for-All health care plan. The dual attacks could signal weakness for Mr. Sanders among union members as the Democratic presidential race shifts to states where organized labor plays a larger role in picking a nominee.”

IBEW-1425 is upset at Sanders because of his plan to seize government control of the Pacific Gas & Electric Company which the union says would cost $100 billion in taxpayer money, would hike utility prices, and would not improve the environmental costs of producing energy. The union pointed out these objections and chastised Sanders for not consulting with workers in an ad taken out in the Sacramento Bee.

The national IBEW has endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden for president. However, some members, who support Sanders, were upset at the endorsement and wonder why the matter was not put to a vote.

The discontent among some labor unions toward the Sanders candidacy is surprising to some pundits, considering the considerable pandering that the candidate is engaged in to attract the support of big labor.

Sanders has offered several proposals that unions should like, including a $15 an hour minimum wage, which would tend to hike all wages, and an attempt to subvert state right to work laws. The right to work is a system in which employees are not required to join a union to have a job.

Sanders’s ambitions go even farther.

“Mr. Sanders also favors what is known as a sectoral bargaining system, a mechanism present in some European economies. Under that system, one or two of the major players in a sector negotiate a union contract, and then all companies in that sector have to adopt the terms of that contract, fixing wages and benefits industrywide.”

Sanders would also like to repeal laws that prevent some public sector workers from unionizing, something that even President Franklin Roosevelt opposed. Much of the Sanders union agenda would have to pass through Congress and a lot of it, especially ending right to work by executive fiat, would run into opposition in the courts.

Sanders’ agenda, especially his Medicare for All proposal, has divided union households. Some, without a doubt, find the idea of a government-run healthcare system attractive, especially members of healthcare workers unions.

However, many, such as the Culinary Workers Union in Nevada, fear the abolition of health insurance that has been negotiated with employers in favor of a decidedly inferior government system. Sanders has failed to convince the majority of union members that his proposal would be a better deal than what they already have.

Politico notes that unions are split over the Medicare for All proposal. The American Federation of Teachers and the Service Employees International Union are convinced that Berniecare would allow them to negotiate higher wages from employers.

The International Association of Firefighters and the Building & Construction Trade Council in New York are decidedly skeptical that government healthcare would be better than the insurance they already have.

Clearly, the ad placed by the IBEW local in California suggests that union discontent, by no means universal, goes beyond fears of being forced onto shoddy government healthcare with long wait times and rationing. If Sanders becomes president and starts seizing the means of production, long term relationships between unions and some corporations would be disrupted.

How would a government-run electric and gas power company react to union demands for salary increases and better working conditions? Where would the jobs go if Sanders is serious about ending the oil and gas industry in favor of wind and solar?

Sanders has his work cut out for him if he means to get the support of union households. Sanders, should he be nominated, will face a man with long experience in dealing with union workers, President Donald Trump, who depended on such people to build his buildings and staff his resorts. Sanders, whose first real job was that of the mayor of Burlington he acquired at the age of 40, likely does not know what he is in for.