Unions were a key piece of President Obama’s winning campaign puzzle in 2008, but some say they’ll change their strategy for the 2012 elections.
“We’ve decided to freeze all contributions to federal candidates, federal committees and federal candidate PACs in order to really refocus on battles we are experiencing in a number of states,” Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Firefighters, told FOX News.
Analysts say there are a number of reasons unions are shifting their resources, including frustration with the White House. Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia told FOX News that unions and “the left generally” are showing signs of dissatisfaction with Obama – “There is no question about that.
It’s a sentiment Schaitberger confirms.
“There is some dismay and disappointment in the administration's efforts on behalf of workers and American workers and America's middle class,” he said.
Unions are also feeling emboldened by what happened in Wisconsin, where Republican Gov. Scott Walker and his efforts to limit public employee collective bargaining power were met with fierce opposition by government worker unions. Labor groups essentially took over the Wisconsin State Capitol for days, drawing in thousands of protestors and emboldening Democratic state lawmakers who fled the Badger State to prevent the state Senate from functioning.
“It really galvanized us and it energized us and it became a rallying point for us to understand that we've got to be willing to now fight back,” Scheitberger said.
Even if unions are more concentrated on funneling resources into state fights, Sabato predicts the president will still benefit indirectly as Democratic turnout increases.
“Even if they're giving to state legislative races, or gubernatorial races, or congressional races, there's a spillover into the presidential contest,” Sabato said, describing a “ripple effect” that winds up helping all Democrats on the ballot.
Unions are getting a boost from recent activity by the National Labor Relations Board, the executive-branch agency charged with regulating labor disputes. Last week, Acting NLRB General Counsel Lafe Solomon, an Obama appointee, issued a complaint against aircraft maker Boeing after the company decided to locate a new plant in South Carolina because it is a “right to work” state in which workers can’t be required to join a union as a condition of having a job at a unionized workplace.
In opposing the plans, Solomon said, “A worker’s right to strike is a fundamental right.”
Boeing has spent three years preparing to open the $2 billion facility that would reportedly create 1,000 jobs there. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley says she’ll fight to make sure that doesn’t change. “We are not going to get bullied by the unions one more day,” she told reporters.
The NLRB has also set its sights on Arizona and South Dakota. Solomon says he’s directed his staff to launch lawsuits against the two states because of recently passed amendments to their state constitutions. Those measures require secret-ballot elections when employees vote to decide whether or not to unionize companies. That stands in contrast to the so-called “card-check” method, which simply allows unionization when a majority of employees at a company sign authorization forms allowing a union to represent them.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne maintains, despite Solomon’s assertion that the amendments violate the Constitution, that the state provisions are valid.
“Imagine what would happen if the Obama administration told [Americans] that normal elections would be no longer secret ballot, but they’d have to sign something that would be open to other people to see how they voted?” Horne said in an interview with FOX News. He argues voters would be intimidated and feel that one of their most basic rights had been “violated.”
In committing to fight the Arizona and South Dakota measures, the NLRB has also indicated it is reserving the right to institute lawsuits against two other states with similar provisions: South Carolina and Utah.