Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Now Labor Finds out What Impact It Has on the Political Landscape

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Now Labor Finds out What Impact It Has on the Political Landscape

Article excerpt

Now, labor finds out if it played its cards right.

For months, organized labor has jumped into the political arena like never before.

In congressional district after district, it's told residents how opposed to education and health care and decent wages the Republican candidate is, how wedded to the dreaded Newt, how antagonistic to the average working family. Union activists have done this through none-too subtle television advertising and rallies and pamphlets - $35 million worth, plus thousands of volunteer hours and truckloads of energy. Labor's arguably had more of an impact in congressional races than has the Clinton-Gore campaign. Guess what? Republicans are seething at what they regard as the intrusion of "Big Labor" into their peaceful districts, and at what they consider willful distortions of their voting records. Suppose they win Tuesday? Labor will hold its collective breath between now and then, punctuated by a burst of frenzied action on Election Day to get out the vote of union households - key this year because unions fear a dull presidential contest could depress the vote. No group has risked more this election, and a Republican Congress would present a resurgent labor movement with its first major roadblock. Bills welcomed by big business and detested by labor would be offered. Committees would look high and low for corruption within unions or in their political activities. Organizing would be fought by more-confident employers. GOP leaders would feel encouraged to run future campaigns against "radical Washington union bosses." Labor didn't have to take this gamble. It could have based its revitalization on its newly aggressive organizing efforts, its more visible leadership and mounting public concern about downsizing. It could have hedged its political bets, played a bit hard to get and found itself courted. Instead, it declared war on those who kicked it while it was down for so many years. And the fire's being returned. "They are spending millions of dollars, taken from rank-and-file members' compulsory dues, waging a despicable campaign of fear and fiction in a blatant attempt to buy Congress," National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Bill Paxon of New York said this week. …

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