Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Union leaders try to spin away election results

Democrats took a severe beating last night, losing over 60 seats in the House of Representatives, and at least six Senate seats. Republicans also had momentous pick-ups among governors and state legislatures. Exit pollsters found that voters thought the government was too big and that they disliked Barack Obama’s agenda.

The results are very bad news for the country’s labor unions. Organized labor broke the bank this election season trying to stem the Republican tide. The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the largest public-sector union in the country, spent an astonishing $87.5 million to get Democrats elected, the biggest contribution in the race. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) donated another $44 million.

It made very little difference. Now comes the day after. Just how will America’s most lovable labor leaders try to rationalize their way out of this one? Some did better than others.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka:

“We did our job. No matter what demographic, you look at our membership, we had large margins for progressive candidates approaching 30, with Harry Reid it was higher. … I think [Democrats] are cognizant of what we did and if they aren’t they should pay heed to it.”

In other words, don’t blame us…or else.

SEIU President Mary Kay Henry:

“[W]e are looking to the new leaders elected tonight to show up in January ready to work for the American people — not for the agenda of the nameless, faceless corporations who poured hundreds of millions of dollars into our political process.”

I.e. please ignore the millions we pumped into campaigns.

United Food and Commercial Workers President Joe Hansen:

“In stark contrast to 2008, the election of 2010 will be remembered because the results were fueled not by hope, but by anger, frustration, and fear. … Empty and inflammatory rhetoric that derides health reform as ‘Obamacare’ and demonizes leaders as socialists will not right the imbalance in our economy or help working people make ends meet.”

In other words, we’re angry that you’re angry.

National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel:

“NEA stands ready to work with the new Congress to put students first and ensure that education is the engine that moves America forward. We will work with all policymakers to maximize the achievement, skills, opportunities and potential of all students, to make sure they are prepared to become creative and productive citizens in our democratic society and diverse world.”

Because the NEA is all about students, not teachers.

AFSCME President Gerald W. McEntee:

“The loss of the U.S. House of Representatives is a real setback for working families. Washington Republicans have done nothing since the last election to curtail the Bush recession and bring down unemployment.”

It’s also a real setback for our wallets, which are feeling pretty empty this morning.

Whatever stages of grieving union leaders are at, soon the reality will set in.  With a Republican-controlled House, labor legislation will get very little traction over the next two years.

Categories: AFL-CIOAFSCMECenter for Union FactsPolitical MoneySEIUTeachers UnionsUFCW