I don’t think unions will ever give up on Democrats. The party will always be more friendlier than Republicans. In big, populous states, union endorsements still matter.
But I do predict, based on conversations I’ve had with labor leaders here, that, to get attention, labor will take a page from the Tea Party movement and try to become more militant and more focused on income inequality. Because Americans support labor’s causes, by and large, but don’t like the labor movement as a spokesman for them, I also predict that the labor movement will go through several more circular firing squads, where forward-thinking union leaders call for the movement at large to devote less political attention to the specific, contractual concerns of their own workers and more to campaigns that non-union workers can rally around, like state minimum wage campaigns, and a call to reduce concentrated corporate political power.
Then again, maybe not. Democrats will do better in 2016 than they’re likely to do in 2014, owing to a number of cyclical and historical factors. If there is a competitive Democratic presidential primary season that year, then labor will once again allow itself to be courted, and then hitched. Proximity to power doesn’t only infect journalism.