Republicans See Opportunity in Labor Rift. - Battles between the two will divert cash, energy and resources away from politics.
The political consequences of the split within the AFL-CIO began to reverberate nationwide Tuesday, with Democrats fretting that it will dilute the importance of labor endorsements while Republicans looked for opportunities to make inroads.
Democratic strategists and union operatives noted that the split will change the dynamics of presidential and state elections. Presidential candidates will now seek endorsements from two separate and competing labor groups, the AFL-CIO and the newly formed Change to Win Coalition, they noted.
"It's going to be like figuring out who to stay friends with after a divorce," one Democratic presidential operative said. In addition, he and others noted, there will be strong incentives for the two wings of labor to pick different candidates as each tries to outdo the other.
Republican operatives are watching the splintering of the AFL-CIO carefully to see if the divisions offer opportunities to gain a beachhead in labor. "This cuts the legs out from one of their main GOTV [get-out-the-vote] groups," a Republican Party official said with undisguised pleasure.
While the GOP is eagerly watching the internal labor battles, conservative groups are announcing plans to step in to try to further weaken the union movement. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation announced plans to raise $2 million for "free legal assistance" to workers seeking to end their union membership and to stop paying dues.
In addition, the bitterness that has already begun to surface in the wake of the Teamster-SEIU defection is, according to many on both sides of the fight, almost sure to escalate into open warfare when such unions as the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and SEIU compete to organize such prime union targets as home health-care workers without the AFL-CIO as a referee.
"It's not going to be pleasant to watch," said Gerald W. McEntee, president of AFSCME, noting that such battles will divert cash, energy and resources away from politics.
The 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance law severely limits the amount unions can give to national political parties and federal candidates. Organized labor does, however, remain a key source of cash and manpower at the state and local level, especially in areas where contribution limits are high or absent altogether.