State of the Unions

Washington, D.C. is under about eight feet of snow, the federal government has called it a week already, and the House has started their Presidents’ Day Recess a few days early.  Heck, the Metro isn’t even running trains to outdoor stations.  With no action on Capitol Hill, a Quinnipiac University poll showing that Republicans are gaining public trust has become the big political news of the day.  Analysts have pondered the falling support of the Obama administration among independents and speculated about what that means for the electoral chances among Democrats.

It’s a valid question, but Politico brings up an even more relevant issue: falling support of Congressional Democrats among their own Big Labor base:

Union leaders warn that the Democrats’ lackluster performance in power is sapping the morale of activists going into the midterm elections.

“Right now if we don’t get positive changes to the agenda, we’re going to have a hard time getting members out to work,” said United Steelworkers International President Leo W. Gerard, in an interview.

Please note that the term “work” in Gerard’s quote refers not to the members’ day jobs, but their efforts on the campaign trail.  As many jokes present themselves about this being the only time a hardcore union activist actually works, this is an important source of energy for a Democratic campaign.  These are the folks that make phone calls, knock on doors, march in parades, and do all the other things that are so important leading up to election day.  And even though many snide remarks could be added about using a blackjack as a get-out-the-vote program or a beat down rod as a debate strategy, the truth is that boots on the ground that know what they’re doing make those things unnecessary.

Now, Democrats have some tough choices.  Pushing the Big Labor agenda means things like removing secret ballots from union formation elections and other ways to drum up union membership – meaning more union dues are siphoned out of paychecks, meaning more money in the coffers of the AFL-CIO, UAW, and their fellow travelers.  After unsuccessfully trying to sell the health care overhaul as a matter of “the people” versus “special interests” how does a Congressman face his or her constituents with a vote to whip up union membership fresh on the voting record?

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