Commentary Magazine


Big Labor Savages Noncompliant Democrats

Big Labor is grouchy and out to throw its muscle around. The Hill reports:

Frustrated at seeing their legislative agenda stymied, unions are becoming increasingly active in competitive Democratic Senate primaries. Across the country, labor groups are using their organizational muscle early against candidates whom they see as having walked away from their agenda. By doing so, they’re exposing schisms between centrist and liberal Democratic lawmakers who have struggled to come through on the campaign promises made to union members. The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), healthcare reform and even a nominee to the little-known National Labor Relations Board have stalled in a Congress controlled by the largest majorities Democrats have enjoyed in a generation.

So the labor bosses are going to “play in the primaries,” backing candidates most enamored of stripping workers of the secret ballot and most infatuated with the special-interest group’s agenda. For incumbents that means they show independence from the Big Labor agenda at their own risk. Unions are making endorsements in the Pennsylvania and Colorado senate primaries and have backed Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s Democratic primary opponent, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.

Republicans no doubt are delighted. They can point to the noxious influence of the special-interest groups (e.g., the Cadillac-plan tax deal), watch imperiled incumbent Democrats squirm, and then potentially face off against even more liberal and Big Labor–beholden opponents in the general election. Some labor officials have figured this out, and moan: “It does not take a pundit to recognize that November is going to be ugly for Democrats and eating our own in primaries makes no sense.”

So in the meantime, organized labor scoops up the handouts. For example, unions have prevailed upon the administration to roll back Bush-era regulations that expanded the financial-disclosure statements required of labor unions and their leaders. So much for transparency. But Big Labor is smart to get what they can now. After November, it’s likely to have far fewer sympathetic lawmakers.