Big Labor's 2012 Landscape: Big Money, Dirtier Politics

Big Labor's 2012 Landscape: Big Money, Dirtier Politics

The largest American labor federation promised this week it would launch the most aggressive campaign effort in the labor movement’s history, tapping at least 400,000 union members to fill the voter contact and get-out-the-vote voids in the larger Democratic operation.

AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka formally endorsed President Barack Obama on Wednesday, though it came as no particular surprise: labor’s 2008 contributions to Democratic candidates neared a record half-billion dollar threshold.

All while draining pension funds, the same groups have pledged to contribute another $400 million to the president’s reelection effort later this year, putting Big Labor’s total contribution to Barack Obama’s political career at well over a billion dollars. But the presidential contest is just one front of a grand operation wherein a number of marquee statewide races — gubernatorial and legislative bouts in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Minnesota are said to register atop their agenda — will be targeted.

On the top of their list is Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Because of his successful efforts to renegotiate public employees’ collective-bargaining rights, unions are spearheading the effort to recall Governor Walker. According to Politico, special interest groups spent $18.6 million backing Democrats in the most recent recall elections of Wisconsin state legislators. $10.75 million came directly from We Are Wisconsin, a union-funded group. Who knows how much Big Labor will fork out against Governor Walker?

Labor groups are also targeting a number of gubernatorial contests. In Indiana, whose legislature and term-limited governor recently adopted right-to-work legislation, unions are gearing up for a nasty contest with GOP gubernatorial hopeful Rep. Mike Pence. And in Missouri, where the state’s Democratic governor blocked efforts to transition the Show Me State into the right-to-work column, the corollary is true: Labor groups will invest hugely to shore up Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon. Races for the governor’s mansion in Washington and New Hampshire also promise to be hotly-contested by unions.

From statewide races to those of municipal interest, Big Labor is spending to wrest Republican control of state legislative bodies in Wisconsin and Ohio while maintaining the Democratic grip on Iowa and Nevada. Unions are also squared to make an aggressive push in legislative campaigns in Minnesota and Missouri, where floated right-to-work initiatives would circumvent the states’ Democratic governors, and California, which is considering an initiative that bars the automatic deduction of member dues for political purposes.

Even a cursory read of the 2012 political landscape makes clear: Rather than devoting resources to the improvement of work conditions or the solvency of pension funds, union bosses are looking to exact revenge on the GOP — and the business groups that vaulted them to power — for little more than petty politics.

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