Labor Claims It Now Rules the World, Others Not So Sure

By November 6, 2008Economy, Labor Unions

Organized labor has every right to enjoy a victory lap. Congratulations and all that.

At the same time, we detect a mixed response to labor’s claims it now sets the agenda. The business community objects to labor’s aggressive plans to restructure the entire economy during a downturn, of course. But others you would think more friendly toward the unions’ demands are at least reticent.

A lot of the “now, hold on, don’t go so fast,” is being expressed by allies, on background, or by implication.

From the Wall Street Journal, “Next Administration Shows Signs It Will Seek Middle Ground With Business on Thorny Issues“:

WASHINGTON — The weak economy, congressional races that empowered moderates and President-elect Barack Obama’s choice of business-friendly advisers suggest Democrats will go slow on controversial labor and regulatory issues.

A bill that would make it easier for unions to organize workers, efforts to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions, and a slew of contemplated taxes will likely take a back seat to broader economic issues for now, Democratic operatives say.

This administration from what I’m seeing is going to be very mainstream, middle of the road on tax and business policies,” said Scott Lilly, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a think tank close to the Obama transition. “I believe most businesses are going to find it pretty moderate…they’re trying to convey that.”

And from the Wall Street Journal’s story, “Labor Wants Obama to Take on Big Fight,” a paraphrase redolent of political repositioning:

President-elect Barack Obama has promised to fight for the legislation, but whether it is introduced in the first 100 days of his administration could signal how strongly he is aligning himself with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, say political consultants. Moderate Democrats and those who have just won seats in traditionally Republican states are expected to argue against making the legislation an early priority.

The Center for American Progress  (and Center for American Progress Action Fund) is especially interesting as a signal-sender. We noted yesterday that its homepage outlined priorities for the new Administration, but failed to mention any labor items. 

From the affiliated blog and website, “Think Progress,” the post-election manifesto, ” A Progressive Mandate” features the same notable omissions. Missing are any references to “organized labor,” “unions,” or “workers.” For this mandate, labor is optional.

The relegating of organized labor to a second-tier, back-bench status is even more interesting when you consider the Center for American Progress has been heavily financed by organized labor. And we mean heavily. (Hat tip: Bret.)

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