Big Labor Not Looking Good on Labor Day

The president is getting a lot of flack these days for a cardinal sin of politics -- overreach. Yes, he spent too much and tried to aggrandize too much federal power. But he’s not alone, of course. Lots of groups and politicians are guilty of overreach and it’s gotten them, like the president, in a heap of trouble. Chief among them is Big Labor.

Big Labor contributed tens of millions (hundreds of millions if your count state and local races and all that phone banking help) to elect Barack Obama and Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. At the peak of their power they are becoming quite unpopular. Gallup reports that 51% of Americans think organized labor hurts the economy. Where’d they get such an idea? Mickey Kaus writes:

I wish I could say "card check" -- the labor plan to avoid secret ballots when organizing -- but that isn't the most visible of the roles unions have played recently. The most visible would be 1) the auto industry, where the UAW helped bankrupt two of the Big Three and stuck taxpayers with the bill without even taking a cut in hourly pay, and 2) the public schools, which the teachers' unions have helped to degrade in a way that adversely impacts the lives of even affluent Dem yuppies (at least those with kids).

Ruth Marcus is similarly glum that Big Labor has blown its moment to shine, but thinks card check, the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), is to blame. She concedes that Big Labor could have pushed for less extreme legislation:

Labor, however, decided to stake it all on what it describes as "majority signup" and what business calls "card check" -- a provision that would let unions be recognized if a majority of workers sign cards indicating their support. Business mounted a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign against what it portrayed as an un-American assault on election by secret ballot. Labor insisted on the provision, even though it did not have the necessary 60 votes in the Senate.

Yeah, pretty sneaky to “portray” the effort to take away the secret ballot as un-American.

The irony is that after raising a ton of cash and filling Washington with grateful recipients of their largess, Big Labor has now become toxic. Card check isn’t going to come up before health care reform is complete, and not until Sen. Arlen Specter and a few Democrats can be converted to the cause.