From the most deserving recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize comes… the most deserving recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom! John Sweeney, President Emeritus of the AFL-CIO, can now boast the nation’s highest civilian honor.

What exactly has John Sweeney done to warrant this award for freedom? Well, about as much as Obama did for peace his first few weeks in office. From 1955 until five years ago, the AFL-CIO represented nearly all unionized workers in the US, particularly public-sector unions. The second half of the 20th century, of course, saw a tremendous boom in public-sector unions. Prior to the 1960s, unions represented less than 15 percent of the state and local workforce but in 2009, 39 percent of state and local workers were members of unions (more than five times the percentage of those in the private sector, or 7 percent). Public-sector unions are notoriously one of the most powerful special interest groups. They personally benefit from large-scale government expansion and “influence” quite handsomely with their exceptionally large war chests. For instance, AFSCME (AFL-CIO’s largest group) has been the second largest contributor to campaigns in the US for the past twenty years!

Now that I think about it, though, President Obama’s personal definition of freedom is entirely in line with that of the AFL-CIO’s John Sweeney. After all, public-sector unions fight against school choice, privatization, and other policies that cut the size of government.

(Regardless, Samuel Gompers is rolling in his grave.)


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