Critical Condition

Empty Threats from Big Labor

As soon as the Labor Loophole disappeared with Paul Kirk, the threats from big labor resumed:

SEIU chief Andy Stern took a hard shot at Dem leaders just now for considering a scaled-down health care bill, strongly hinting that labor might not work as hard for Dem candidates in 2010 if they failed to deliver real and comprehensive reform.

“It’s gonna be incredibly difficult to stay focused on national politics if by the end of 2010 we have minimal health care and minimal changes on what’s important to our members,” he said in an interview, ridiculing the emerging Dem approach as “fear masquerading as a strategy.”

Stern unloaded on Dem leaders in resonse to reports today that they’re mulling either a scaled down bill to win GOPers or a broken up bill passed in pieces. His anger suggests Dems risk paying a big price with labor if they fail to figure out how to pass the Senate bill and fix it later, as labor wants.

Stern hinted that if House and Senate members don’t move forward with the Senate bill and some kind of fix, they could see union members spending more time on races for governor, perhaps at the expense of their reelection campaigns. “If something significant doesn’t happen in Congress, I hope the legislators appreciate that there are 37 governors races important to our members,” Stern said suggestively.

AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka made this same kind of public threat during negotiations for the Cadillac tax exemption. It worked then, but what a difference a week makes. When the Democrats had 60 votes in the Senate, it made sense to use the lever of union support to pry out an unappealing brick from the edifice of health-care reform. Post Scott Brown, the whole wall is coming down — and no amount of leverage in the world appears likely to change that.

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