When unions play politics, they throw a significant chunk of their membership under the proverbial bus. While 90 percent of union political contributions go to Democrats and an overwhelming percentage of identifiable contributions to political organizations go to liberal groups like the Center for American Progress, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and Harry Reid’s Senate Majority PAC, exit polls show roughly 40 percent of union households vote Republican.
Rarer, however, is the case where a whole union gets run over. But that seems to be the case with the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA), an AFL-CIO member union that finds itself on the wrong side of the progressive movement’s inveterate opposition to fossil-fuel energy production. And so LIUNA President Terry O’Sullivan is left to grimly note that the efforts of union-backed Democrats to block the Keystone XL oil pipeline (which would in large part likely be built by LIUNA members) “took food off the table of our members.”
And the AFL-CIO—LIUNA’s “parent” federation—is funding the bus drivers. In the AFL-CIO’s most recent federal filings, the union disclosed that it paid $12,000 to Berlin Rosen for political-related communications consulting. (You might remember this firm as the orchestrator of SEIU’s and UFCW’s Astroturf “worker center” demonstrations.) Well, Berlin Rosen also handles communications for “Californians Against Fracking,” a front group for left-wing environmentalists that is trying to prohibit oil and natural gas development in California. And (you guessed it) LIUNA (and, presumably, at least a significant bloc of its members) want the opposite.
And just to make it all more complex, remember that Richard Trumka, head lefty honcho of the AFL-CIO, was formerly a mine worker and head of the United Mine Workers union. He may soon throw his ex-comrades under the bus as well.
Now, it’s unlikely that the AFL-CIO hired Berlin Rosen to consult on oil and gas drilling bans, but the move illustrates a divide in the union movement that continues to develop. Unions like the UFCW and SEIU have thrown their lot in with a political left that comes with numerous side agendas that go far beyond bargaining for wages, benefits, and working conditions. Unions like the Laborers and the United Mine Workers who find themselves on the wrong side of those side agendas will likely be little more than speed bumps to the liberal-labor-Democratic bus.