How did big labor do in Tuesday's election? Not well, in two words. So poorly, indeed, that even the New York Times picked up on this angle: "On the Democratic side, organized labor, which invested millions into the races in Pennsylvania and Arkansas, did not achieve a victory in either state," the paper reported.
In Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter, big labor's favorite candidate in the Senate Democratic primary experienced an embarrassing upset. And big labor was heavily involved, supporting Specter with tons of dollars and institutional support. The Workforce Fairness Institute claimed Specter's demise as a sign that voters don't want the Employee Free Choice Act passed -- and that voters don't support big labor in general. Here's WFI's executive director, Katie Packer:
Voters in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania voted against the state’s longest-serving Senator in an unmistakable rebuke of Arlen Specter’s inability to take a principled stand on key issues like the Employee ‘Forced’ Choice Act (EFCA). In spite of previously claiming the job-killing EFCA would take Pennsylvania backward, Specter, in a crass political move, decided to place union bosses above his constituents, and tonight, he suffered the consequences...Senator Specter should serve as an example to his colleagues on Capitol Hill: when you stand with Big Labor, and ignore the wishes of working families and small business owners, you do so at your own peril. The Obama Administration and their Big Labor pals should heed the message sent tonight in Pennsylvania and take the Employee ‘Forced’ Choice Act off the table for good.
In truth, labor won't be displeased with Joe Sestak, the Democrat who dispatched Specter and was the favorite of progressives all along. But Sestak is not who they backed and funded.
In Arkansas, the other state where big labor played a big role, they backed the only candidate in the Democratic primary who didn't come out against card check: Bill Halter. Halter didn't quite lose yet, but he didn't win -- he will go to a June 8 primary runoff against incumbent Blanche Lincoln. (My prediction: Halter's likely to lose the runoff, since Lincoln will gather most of the third candidate's votes, since they are more ideologically congruent.) The big loser in this primary was, again, big labor, which helped bankroll Halter's campaign.
Interestingly, Halter hasn't publicly come out in favor of the Employee Free Choice Act, but his closeness to big labor has led many to speculate that he fully supports their agenda.
Here's some of the help unions offered Halter:
A major labor union said Friday it will help retire the 2006 campaign debt of Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, a Democrat who’s been touted as a potential primary challenger to U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln next year. The Service Employees International Union said it is soliciting contributions to retire the debt along with the help of other labor unions. Halter reported in October that his campaign still owed him more than $444,000 that he had loaned it.
According to the Arkansas Secretary of State Campaign Contributions and Expenditures Report (from 2/15 and 4/15), the CA State Council of Service Employees donated at least $10,000 to Halter's campaign.
The Communications Workers of America (CWA-COPE) donated at least $8,000 dollars to help Halter pay off campaign debt from his 2006 bid for lieutenant governor. The United Steelworkers provided the same dollar amount to Halter for the same cause.
The Arkansas AFL-CIO endorsed Halter, saying:
After a lengthy discussion about Senator Lincoln’s position on Healthcare, the appointment of Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board, the Employee Free Choice Act, and trade issues, the Arkansas AFL-CIO Executive Board voted to support Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter for his candidacy in the Democratic Primary for the United States Senate. We believe that Bill Halter will listen to Arkansas’ working families and support their issues in Washington as he has done as Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas.
The International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental & Reinforcing Iron Workers donated $5,000 to Halter on March 3.
Union heads promised $1,000,000 to Halter in the beginning of March.
So on, so forth. The point is, big labor threw all it had at Blanche Lincoln. All their support went to Bill Halter. For one reason: Their number one priority is the Employee Free Choice Act. If they weren't sure that Halter was on their side, there isn't any way they'd support him like they did.
Many will debate the primary winners and losers in great detail, but this we know for sure: Big labor's payments didn't pay off.