So write our friends over at the Boston Herald. Major labor union leaders are meeting tomorrow in sunny Florida to review the state of labor and it appears that the Democratic Party might be left back in the chilly North. For sure, organized labor is poised to endorse President Obama again. But it looks like labor leaders are planning to cut back on the Democrat donations this year:
The way in which unions back him [Obama] and other Democrats this year is likely to take a very different form than in past campaigns.
Concluding they need to be more independent of the Democratic Party, many unions are increasingly financing their own efforts instead of writing large checks to candidates and the party.
The shift in tactics is already apparent in this election season: Labor political action committees gave federal Democratic candidates and committees $21 million last year, a drop of 20 percent from the same period in the 2008 election, according to data provided by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Several major unions, as well as the AFL-CIO itself, now have their own “super PACs,” independent political organizations that can raise unlimited funds.
This is an interesting development for employers, no matter which political party you support. Labor’s willingness to donate millions of dollars to Democratic candidates has certainly helped it retain a seat at the table over the years. But it’s hard to see if it has really gotten unions much else. If labor unions could not get the Employee Free Choice Act passed with Democrat majorities in the House and Senate as well as a Democrat in the Oval Office, I am sure many labor union leaders wondered what they were doing spending all of that money in the first place.
It might make more sense for unions to actually spend more money on organizing than politics. The NLRB has handed labor unions major gifts with its changes to NLRB election procedures, as well as the Speciality Healthcare decision which allows unions to organize very small groups of employees. Might it be that unions are now planning to take advantage of these changes and devote resources in these realms instead of just throwing the money at DC politicos? Time will tell, but smart employers should be prepared for that possibility — and plan accordingly.