The Bush DOL is threatening to take AFL-CIO unions to court for telling financial firms that they could lose union pension business if they support Bush’s social security privatization campaign. Two firms in the pro-Bush Alliance for Worker Retirement Security, Edward Jones and Waddell & Reed, dropped out of the lobbying group due to the union-led campaign, leading to this attack on union free speech. Coming from an administration massively misusing taxpayer money for partisan lobbying, the threat is Orwellian, but it highlights a broader issue– the general silliness of pension “fiduciary” law which states that worker representatives should only maximize market returns, as if workers have no other interests in use of their money. Capital is power in society and the rich corporations use shareholder money every day to lobby for pro-corporate policies that harm the interests of workers. Yet unions are strung up by various rules to try to bar them from mobilizing the capital they control to fight for alternative investment strategies and political results that are important to the broad interests of working families.
Pensions don’t thrive just by maximizing investment returns. Much or most of their income each year comes from new contributions from existing employees through the companies they work at. If political changes undermine union strength, those contributions fall and benefits for existing retirees may be cut back as well — as has happened with airline workers, for example, who have seen their pensions gutted due to Bush government action. And of course, all retirees have an interest in preserving income from social security, but by Bush administration arguments about the state of pension law, union administrators should ignore the interests of those retirees and stay on the political sidelines — even as corporations use their capital to mobilize to stomp on political rights. The problem in politics is not just that those with money get a disproportionately large voice. Even when workers have money to speak, the corporate right seeks to silence them through legal assault.