Public-employee unions plotting their post-Wisconsin comeback

Donohue, 67, seeks more spending at the state level, funding affiliates to push back against local politicians that propose Wisconsin-like legislation. This would be a strategic shift from McEntee who has pledged to increase support for Democrats in federal campaigns 2012.

“We need to re-evaluate how we spend money,” Donohue said in an interview. “We have become a top-town organization.”

The union should aim to build relationships with city councilmen, mayors and governors where money can go further than on the national level, he said.

Understanding the tight state and local government budgets, some unions have cut deals before more draconian legislation is imposed. Last month, the mayor and union leaders in Providence, Rhode Island, agreed to cut pensions for workers including police and firefighters, while preventing bankruptcy for the city.