Meet John Hutchings: Lining Union Pockets with Your Money
John Hutchings, the boss of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, says that New York’s 2009 “Green Jobs/Green New York” law, costing taxpayers some $112 million, is “bulls**t,” according to James O’Keefe’s and the Project Veritas’s latest blockbuster video.
He’s right. According to the New York Daily News, “the law would blow $52 million of the money on a bureaucracy to manage the problem, paying community groups and labor unions to round up customers and train people in the crafts of caulking and weatherstripping.” The New York Post reported that the law could “actually give tens of millions of tax dollars to left-leaning community groups such as ACORN.”
This was all part of the Obama plan to stimulate the economy through weatherization – what he called “real stimulus.” Unfortunately, this stimulus failed to stimulate. The Inspector General—his report has been pulled down from the Energy Department’s website—found that few of the states actually used the money allocated. New York received $394 million and wanted to weatherize 45,400 units but wound up only weatherizing 280, according to CBS.
But this waste of taxpayer dollars didn’t upset Mr. Hutchings. To the contrary – as a member of the Working Families Party, which actually drafted the legislation, he was quite pleased about it. And no wonder; much of this wasted cash went right to union pockets. Green Jobs/Green Work sought to create 60,000 jobs and 14,250 “living wage” jobs, all of them dues paying. The Obama Labor Department, meanwhile, would require any contract doing weatherization to pay union wages.
It’s no surprise that Hutchings seems to be quite pleased with the results of “Green Jobs/Green New York.” After all, he has a long record of pushing government spending toward the unions for which he works. In fact, he does so from the Broome County legislature, where he is chairman of the public works and transportation committee, as well as the public safety and emergency services committee. At last count, 38 of the 41 cities in Broome County were in deficit, and the county has a $6 million budget gap to fill.
In 2003, Hutchings pushed for project labor agreements, which award contracts only to local unions. Project labor agreements basically drive up the cost of producing buildings by cartel-izing labor. That cost is eventually passed on to the consumer. “With the way things are now, it’s a smart thing to keep your local people working,” Hutchings told the local press on February 16, 2003.
In 2006, the Broome County Legislature okayed a 3% annual pay increase each year through 2009 for the public sector union workers. The new contract, which came from Hutchings’ committee, had the workers paying a meager 15% of their own health insurance costs. In 2007, Hutchings’ committee on public works set aside 90% of the work on a $16.9 million renovation for union members only as a part of its new labor agreement. This kept out independent contractors and, of course, promoted the unions at the expense of the middle class. Unionized men often earn 28% more than non-union workers, according to Hutchings’ ally, Marshall Blake of the SEIU.
Hutchings doesn’t just wield power directly from his slot in the Broome County legislature. He and his union buddies do it through lobbying. As he says in the Project Veritas video:
What we do [to get public funds] is we have three lobbying firms. In the city, we have Tom McMahon, whose brother used to be congressman in Staten Island. We have upstate, we have one for the Democrats, we have Tom Harnett, who works for Meyer, Suozzi [a lobbying firm], he used to be the Commissioner of Labor, I believe. And so we have them for the Democrats, that usually takes care of the Assembly. On the senate side, we have Powers & Co., [William D. Powers] who used to be the Republican chairman of New York State, so he takes care of the Senate and that’s controlled by the Republicans… So when we go for a bill, you’ve got to get approval of the Senate and Assembly, then the Governor’s got to sign it, well, we have a lobbyist for the Republicans and we have a lobbyist for the Democrats and that’s how we try to push our agenda through.
The lobbyists worked hand in glove with them of both parties. Or, as Hutchings puts it, “We’re good with Senators [Kirsten] Gillibrand and [Chuck] Schumer… It’s awful hard for anybody to vote against a ‘Jobs’ bill right now.”
Some of these firms have been implicated in dirty dealings. The FBI was investigating Powers & Company for Abramoff-style corruption involving former New York congressman John E. Sweeney until Holder’s Justice Department called it off in late 2011.
Hutchings goes on to list all of the so-called community groups that work with him and the unions. Among them, he names Citizen Action, a scandal-ridden organization whose national organization was shut down in 1997 after an investigation involving illegal fundraising for the teamsters. Hutchings lists CA as among “the types of groups” “that believe… in the kind of things we do, work programs and things like that.” These groups were essential, because for something like “Green Jobs/Green New York we needed a huge lobby,” Hutchings explains.
One of O’Keefe’s men asks, “It just has to say 'jobs bill,' essentially, right?” To which Hutchings and the other union men reply, “Yeah. Yeah.”
For Hutchings and his allies, the interests of the taxpayer come last – even if they’re elected by the taxpayer, and even if they’re negotiating with representatives of the taxpayers. All that truly matters is the amount of dough that lines union pockets. And that holds true even if union members are simply digging ditches and then filling them in again.