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One Reason GOP Loves the Sequester: It Punishes Union Workers

It's a potential big opportunity for non-union employers.

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He said that one U.S. Army publication estimated that the ratio of federal employees to contracted workers subject to the furloughs would be 9 to 1.

Perhaps that favoritism plays a role in the lack of support federal workers feel they are getting from the Obama administration as the Republicans come gunning for their jobs. The Office of Management and Budget, Cox wrote recently in an op-ed, offers little encouragement or instruction for curtailing contracts in its guidance on sequestration, but great specificity on how to furlough government workers.

The Role of Elections

Even if the sequester proves to be helpful to certain contractors in the short run -- including those who support Democrats in political campaigns -- Republicans, in their refusal to compromise, are likely focusing on the long run in their war on federal workers. Specifically, the long run that leads to electoral victories at the national level.

At the Conservative Political Action Conference, where anti-labor activists convened in Oxon Hill, Md., on March 15 at a panel discussion on the anti-union laws passed in Indiana and Michigan, you might have expected the duplicitous right-wing rhetoric that trumpets, as a triumph for workers, laws that allow people to work in union shops without paying for the representation provided by the union. (The panel was titled “Free at Last: When the Right to Work Came Back to the Midwest.”)

But author Mallory Factor, whose favorite bugaboo is public-sector unions, devoted his remarks not to the purported benefits that so-called “right to work” anti-union laws confer on workers, but to the voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts organized by unions -- to the detriment of Republicans.

Factor is the co-author of Shadowbosses: Government Unions Control America and Rob Taxpayers Blind ( described by the authoritative review site, Kirkus, as “[a]n errant stab at vilifying government-employee unions as an elemental cause behind national woes”). At the CPAC breakout session, he didn’t have to spell out his precise meaning; his audience got it: diminish the unions, and you diminish the ranks of Democratic voters who make it to the polls.

“Unions have suffered major setbacks,” Factor told the gathering of right-wing activists. “But in response to these setbacks, unions have doubled down; they’ve doubled down on political spending and built a monumental voter registration, electioneering and get-out-the-vote machine. As a result, my friends, the unions almost single-handedly won re-election for Obama in 2012, and they pose a real threat to the Republicans’ ability to take back the White House and the Senate in the near term.”

Factor went on to terrify his listeners with the story of Ohio where, he said, some 1,800 local union offices, “with deep roots in the community,” provided the means to turn out voters, especially African Americans who, he noted, comprised a greater portion of the electorate (15 percent) than they had in 2008 (11 percent).

Kill the unions, it was implied, and those people will likely stay home on election day.

As the old saying goes, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. The right’s state-level anti-union laws are one way to diminish unions’ power; replacing unionized federal workers with non-union contract workers is another. (Make government work unstable and poorly compensated, and you’ll push federal workers into the shops of contractors.) Neither saves the government much, if any, money in the end, but both approaches diminish the ranks of union members.

In fact, a 2011 study by the Project on Government Oversight found that work performed by federal employees is typically more cost-efficient -- by far -- that that done by contract workers. As described by the New York Times: