As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Citigroup: Your Tax Dollars At Work Lowering Your Wages

Citigroup is, for all intents and purposes, a nationalized company. The government has certainly pumped more money into the bank than its current stock valuation, so the only reason it hasn't bought it outright is that people would get the willies. However, they remain private. And private companies, we are told, are free to determine how they spend their money, even if it's taxpayer money. But I don't think it's "micromanaging," as Neel Kashkari put it, to ask that public money not be used to engage in lobbying.

Embattled financial giant Citigroup Inc., which has received at least $50 billion in federal bailout funds, hosted a private conference call on Wednesday to build opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act.

The call, which came just one day after the labor-backed legislation was introduced in Congress, represents a growing effort on Citi's behalf to air concerns about the bill, which would make it easier for employees to organize. On Tuesday, the bank downgraded Wal-Mart's rating over fears that the Employee Free Choice Act could pass.

Wednesday's conference call was led by Glenn Spencer, a senior executive at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and an ardent EFCA opponent. It was promoted as "An Update on the Employee Free Choice Act," but much of the content was focused on demonizing the legislation. EFCA will "inhibit flexibility," "hamper companies from competing effectively," and prove "cumbersome" for business, declared Spencer. "From the Chamber's perspective, and I would say probably from the whole business communities perspective, there are really no amendments you could make to this bill that would make it acceptable."

The Chamber of Commerce, fresh off bragging about planting an anti-Employee Free Choice story in the press, is going to be against the bill. We know that, just as we know labor is going to be for it. And there will be open warfare between the two groups over it. But why Citigroup, of all companies, is joining this battle is mystifying. First of all, there ought to be a moratorium on their claim to any knowledge about proper business functions for about five years. Second, this makes no sense for the Chamber of Commerce. I don't know if they're paying attention, but Citigroup does not exactly have the most trusted brand in America right now.

Labor is jumping all over this and with good reason. If they can re-frame the debate to paint the opposition as in league with the banksters, they can really turn things around. Workers or Citigroup: which side are you on?

...It's actually a little fun to see Arlen Specter getting the squeeze. Support Employee Free Choice and get labor backing but lose your primary; oppose it and maybe eke out the primary but get swamped by labor money in the general.

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