March 4, 2005


Labor of Politics: The AFL-CIO decides backing Democrats is more important than expanding its membership. (Opinion Journal, March 4, 2005)

Back in their industrial heyday, unions were responding to the needs of workers in the marketplace. As hard as labor leaders bargained with management, they also understood they had a stake in business success. Over the years, however, and especially on Mr. Sweeney's watch, they became much less interested in the creation of private-sector jobs.

Instead, they became part of the ideological left and its regulatory and high-tax agenda. So instead of favoring oil drilling in Alaska, which would create thousands of new middle-class jobs, Mr. Sweeney's shop leaned toward the rich liberals of the Sierra Club. And while many union members are cultural conservatives, the AFL-CIO has spent its scarce political capital fighting conservative judges. No wonder millions of workers look at union organizers and shrug.

Like AARP, they're just another liberal lobby that doesn't represent their putative constituents' interests.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 4, 2005 7:57 AM

What I suggest is going on here is that the Left--the entire Left--has seriously misapprehended the role of the coalition in American Politics. This is not exactly a Poli-Sci 101 error, more of a Poli-Sci 301 blunder, but an undergraduate level mistake for all that.

American government is not European government (Surprise!) One does not assemble a coalition of, say, union members, homosexuals, Negroes and schoolteachers, and then proceed to rule with it. Rather our "coalitions" are of individual voters, who make millions of separate discisions based on issues important to them as individuals. This difference is partly due to cultural issues and partly to the two-party system, which is structural to our political framework.

Thus, when the interests of disparate components of your coalition become antithical, your coalition explodes, and another forms to take its place, which is what we are seeing now. Federalist, Whigs, Democrats: the moving finger writes.

Posted by: Lou Gots at March 4, 2005 1:00 PM

The AFL-CIO is shutting themselves out of politics in the name of ideological purity. That's suicidal. It should play both sides of the aisle in order to get the best legislative deal for it's members. Fastening itself to one political party's fortunes is a recipe for disaster if that party ever tanks. Why should the other party listen to you, help you? What have you done for us lately, say the Republicans?

Very poor strategic planning. May have made sense in 1937. By 1977 it did not.

Posted by: Mikey at March 4, 2005 1:33 PM

The AFL-CIO is mostly public sector unions today, so it is quite understandable that they do not have even a minimal appreciation of the needs of the economy or the ordinary private sector worker is not surprising.

Posted by: Bart at March 4, 2005 6:08 PM

RE: "Federalist, Whigs, Democrats: the moving finger writes."

We are all Federalists, we are all Republicans.

Posted by: J Baustian at March 7, 2005 12:30 AM