Unions eye gubernatorial elections for payback

How will the labor movement rebound from two years of defeats in what had been home turf for unionism?  Politico previews their strategy to organize efforts to defeat Republicans in key gubernatorial elections in 2013 and 2014:

Labor unions, stung by an unexpected setback in Michigan, where Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed a right-to-work law Tuesday limiting their ability to collect dues, are eyeing a large-scale counteroffensive against the conservative state leaders who have slashed away at union power since the 2010 midterm elections.

For national labor groups, the upcoming gubernatorial elections in 2013 and 2014 may be a greater test of their political swat than even the 2012 presidential race. Democrats view unions as having played a key role in boosting turnout for President Barack Obama and other downballot candidates, especially in Midwestern battlegrounds such as Ohio and Michigan.

It’s those states — and others like them — that represent the next front of labor’s national campaign agenda. Strategists in the Democratic and labor communities identified a half-dozen major battlegrounds that elected Republican chief executives and new GOP legislators in 2010 where they believe union muscle ought to be able to power a comeback over the next cycle.

“We’re just going to have to be prepared to fight back like never before,” said Lee Saunders, president of the public-sector labor giant AFSCME. “You look at Ohio, where you have a Republican governor and Republicans control the House and Senate, the same in Wisconsin, and we’re just going to have to be prepared. Not only the labor unions in those states, but we’re going to have to work very hard with our community partners. This is going to be a long-term battle.”

I’m quite sure that the union movement won’t be taking advice from me, but I’ll offer it anyway.  This is exactly the wrong approach for unions to take in the wake of their massive defeats over the last two years.  Clearly, they haven’t learned any lesson from those losses — just like they didn’t learn any lessons from their failed recall effort against Scott Walker in Wisconsin, a special election that should have favored the unions’ organizational strengths.  Instead, Scott Walker won a slightly larger share of the vote than in his first election, and unions blew millions of dollars while failing to damage the state Republican Party in the slightest.  In fact, Walker and the GOP came out looking even stronger than when the state passed the public-employee union reforms in the first place.

The reason that unions have ended up losing political fights is because they have aligned themselves as entirely a Democratic constituency.  They use dues, now mainly collected from public employees, to fight Republicans for public offices at all levels of government.  Did the labor movement not see the danger in becoming the fundraising and organizational arm of the Democratic Party, and especially of entrenched government bureaucracy?

Not only have they subordinated themselves to the Democratic Party, they are pushing an agenda that actually goes farther to the left than many mainstream Democrats will support.  Not every Democrat wants to rob workers of a secret ballot in organizing elections, for instance, but the unions insist on imposing card check onto American workers.  They refuse to deal with the obvious fiscal catastrophes of absurd defined-benefit pensions that are burying American cities and states in massive deficits and debt.  Unions instead push for higher taxes that will rob the US economy of capital needed to fuel job creation to cover the fantasy pension payouts that have some public officials in California getting more in retirement than the Vice President makes in salary.

If the unions want to stop their losing streak, they need to find ways to work with Republicans as well as Democrats, and offer solutions to public-policy issues that make sense.  Or, perhaps even better, unions should stay out of public policy altogether and simply stick with representing workers to management.  By making themselves a participant in partisan warfare, they’re turning themselves and their movement into political targets, and exposing their own abuses and radicalism as a means to their destruction.  They have no one but themselves to blame for their misfortune, and their proposed strategy will result in a kind of political self-immolation at which Michigan’s right-to-work switch only hints.