Union leaders on the warpath 

Labor unions contributed something like $400 million to Democratic campaigns, and all they got was a lousy T-shirt. Or at least that’s the way they’re feeling these days. The card check bill which would have effectively abolished the secret ballot in unionization elections is going nowhere and, in retrospect, never was going to pass, and certainly did not in the 213 days from the swearing in of Al Franken to the swearing in of Scott Brown when Democrats had 60 votes in the Senate. Their choice for NLRB Chairman, Craig Becker, who has written that the NLRB can abolish the secret ballot without an act of Congress, got only 52 of the needed 60 votes in the Senate, where two Democrats voted against him. Public employee unions did benefit from the one-third of stimulus funds, nearly $300 billion, funneled to the state and local governments which employ their members; but the union leaders don’t seem to be counting that, at least in public. Now, according to Politico, union leaders are threatening to withhold support for Democrats in the 2010 elections. This threat may be a case of making a virtue of necessity: are union members going to be happy with leaders who spend $200 million of their money on elections which don’t seem to be producing much for them?

In Wednesday’s Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson echoes union leaders’ complaints and points out that the unions have been stiffed by Democrats before—in 1965, Lyndon Johnson failed to press a heavily Congress to pass their bill outlawiong state right-to-work laws, and in 1979, when a heavily Democratic Congress failed to press a bill making it easier to unionize employers (leading the fight then was a freshman senator named Richard Lugar). Meyerson is a longtime principled advocate of unionization and he seems to write in sorrow as much as anger. He argues that you can’t have a prosperous and egalitarian society without mass unionization. I took a different view in my Examiner column last Sunday. Meyerson ignores many of the points I made, but his column is worth reading as the lament of a true believer.

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Michael Barone

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