Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

SEIU Gets a Hangover After Its Spending Binge in Arkansas

Earlier this year, the Service Employees International Union organized with other labor groups in favor of Arkansas Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter. Halter was challenging Democratic Sen.  Blanche Lincoln in her primary. The SEIU was giddy at the thought of taking out Lincoln because she refused to bow down and kiss organized labor’s…er…because she wasn’t “progressive” enough.

Lincoln beat Halter in a run-off election and went on to lose resoundingly to Republican John Boozman in November. All this apparently sparked a rare round of soul-searching among SEIU bigwigs:

Khalid Pitts, director of strategic communications for the SEIU, said Monday the union might have gotten a better bang for its buck supporting candidates other than Bill Halter, who lost his bid to wrest the Arkansas Democratic Senate nomination from Lincoln.

“In retrospect, we were probably the wrong messenger,” Pitts said. “The message was right,” he added, asserting that Lincoln, who lost the general election last month to Republican Rep. John Boozman, repeatedly opposed organized labor’s priorities. Still, the SEIU has sparse membership in Arkansas and its support may have played into Lincoln’s hands, Pitts conceded, by “allow(ing) Sen. Lincoln to say that there were special interests – and she called it ‘Washington interests’ – who were coming into her state.”

We’re amused that the SEIU admits that at least some of its political spending was a mistake. But that doesn’t change the fact that the mega-union spent almost $3.2 million on a fool’s errand, all of it taken directly from worker paychecks. Arkansas is a conservative southern state and 2010 was a Republican year if ever there was one. Even if Halter was the Democratic nominee, he almost certainly didn’t have a chance against Boozman.

Image courtesy of estherase.

Categories: Center for Union FactsPolitical MoneySEIU