Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Shakespeare to White House: Hell hath no fury like a union scorned

The new golden age of the American labor movement was supposed to heralded into being by the hopeful force that is President Obama. . . and control of both the House and Senate.  But months have passed [almost a year], and labor unions have little to show for the hundreds of millions of dollars they poured into the last election cycle.

For the labor leaders, the lack of attention and progress on labor’s prized legislation (EFCA) and other legislative priorities (like keeping their Cadillac health insurance untaxed) is breaking unions hearts. The Boston Globe reports:

“It’s beyond belief to me,” said Robert Haynes, president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO. While Obama and Congress inherited “a big mess” from Bush, Haynes said, “there aren’t any excuses anymore. If you can’t deliver health care, and you can’t deliver jobs, and if you can’t deliver [card check legislation], and you can’t figure out how to take care of the working people of this great city and country, you don’t deserve to stay in office.”

Why are they so far down on the agenda? The Globe continues:

The poor economy and the attention demanded by such issues as health care, Afghanistan, climate change, and the pending closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison have put labor unions’ concerns far down on the list in Washington, analysts and lawmakers say.

The White House wants to send its assurances of its continued affection.

“We’ve been able to make tremendous progress on issues important to the labor community,’’ said White House spokesman Bill Burton. “We have a good partnership, and we’re going to continue to work hard on issues important to the labor community.’’

These overtures are enough to assuage the wrath of American labor in the short run, but it seems unlikely that they will continue to stomach being ignored (at least legislatively) forever.

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