Thursday, February 19, 2009

Get real, unions

Restaurant employees’ union to Burger King: You’re cheating taxpayers.

Romeo to union: Oh, shut up.

Sorry, but I’m really tired of watching the Service Employees International Union and its fellow the traveler, Restaurant Opportunties Center of New York (and now Maine), try to manipulate public sympathy with their preposterous Grassy Knoll take on reality. They twist the facts to turn restaurant employers into the sort of mustachioed villains who once tied matrons to railroad tracks.

This time around, for instance, SEIU is hoping to convince the public that Burger King Holdings is siphoning off some of the federal bail-out funds that were channeled to banks. Follow closely, because this has more twists and turns than a day in Illinois politics.

One of the big stakeholders in BK, the union notes in a statement issued yesterday, is Goldman Sachs. And the one-time broker, now reclassified as a bank, was a recipient of some $10 billion from the TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) kitty.

Up to this point, we’re still reality-based. But now the acid kicks in.

The Obama Administration and Congress want more accountability for how TARP dollars are used, notes SEIU. But an additional $273 million of taxpayers’ money is being siphoned off by BK. The Bernie Maddoff-like scheme: Not providing healthcare benefits and paying “sub-poverty wage levels.”

Let me review: BK doesn’t provide health care, which means employees have to find other ways of affording medical attention. A significant stake in the company is held by Goldman Sachs, which was given $10 billion in TARP funds. Ergo, Goldman and BK are cheating the American public.


But it gets worse, SEIU says. BK CEO John Chidsey collected $5.4 million in 2008 compensation, including bonuses. Goldman Sachs paid out $6.5 billion in bonuses, the union says. If just the Goldman Sachs performance-based pay had been given instead to BK’s workers, SEIU says, all 360,000 of them would have collected $18,000.

Never mind that BK is a publicly owned company in which Sachs merely holds a stake, albeit a big one. And that BK’s employees aren’t paid by Sachs. Indeed, there’s no flow of money from Sachs to BK, never mind to Chidsey.

I’m not saying that Sachs should have paid big-buck bonuses when it’s collecting government bailout funds. But I’m not sure what that has to do with BK. Might it be because SEIU would like to enlist its employees as members?

Similarly, whether or not BK should provide some type of health-insurance support is a legitimate topic of discussion. If SEIU wanted to start a reality-based conversation on the responsibility of minimum-wage employers, we’d be in a whole different realm. But, here again, it’s just trying to look like the white-hatted cowboy who unties Snidely Whiplash’s knots and frees the maiden from the oncoming locomotive. It’s trying to curry favor by manipulating the facts to make it look like a bravo fighter for right.

Instead, it’s accusing BK and Sachs of “opposing efforts to stop rebuilding the economy” while “taking billions of dollars through taxpayers.”

Why not just accuse the pair of kicking puppies and trying to outlaw American flags?

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