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Don’t look for the union label

By
October 22, 2007

Democrats and unions may go together like politics and corruption, sin and scandal, baseball and hot dogs but many union power players are taking a wait and see attitude towards the crowded field of Democratic candidates for President.

The Democratic wannabes have done everything but genuflect in front of big labor bosses in the pre-primary season but few endorsements have come out of their begging, whining and pleading.

So far the response from most unions has been the old version of “don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

Reports The Associated Press:

Despite the candidates’ pleas for endorsements, some of the most powerful labor unions are sitting on the sidelines until the presidential primaries begin to thin out the Democratic field.

It is a tough call for the unions, analysts say, because the eight Democrats are all friends of labor.

Unions still are feeling burned after they went out on a limb early in the 2004 contest, only to watch as their anointed candidates crashed and burned.

The 2008 candidates “might like labor to come out and endorse in the primary, but the labor movement is only going to do that if they see some great advantage for them,” said Paul F. Clark, head of the department of labor studies and employment relations at Penn State University. “Not all unions think that that is something that will benefit them.”

Leading the pack of fence-sitters are politically powerful unions such as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which gave Democrats $3.1 million in the 2006 elections, the most of any union.

The Service Employees International Union recently disappointed the leading contenders, who had sought its money and foot soldiers, by declining to make a national endorsement.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, one of the largest unions in the world and a powerful player in the Democratic Party, is uncommitted in the race, too.

The AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor federation, has not found any one candidate to be so much better than the rest that it could justify an endorsement before the first primary.

Instead of trying to be kingmakers, these unions plan to wait for a nominee to emerge before they spend some of their substantial resources in hopes of putting a Democrat back in the White House in January 2009.

“We feel that we want to save our energy for the general election,” said Jim Spellane, spokesman for the electrical workers union. Added service employees union spokeswoman Stephanie Mueller: “Once a Democratic nominee is chosen, we will put forward the largest grass-roots program ever for a presidential campaign.”