Union Influence: Where Is It?

After staying on the sidelines through the early Democratic primaries, the AFL-CIO endorsed John Kerry yesterday. The significance of the endorsement should be approximately zero.
Remember the news flash when the Teamsters endorsed Dick Gephardt? Lots of good it did him. And remember the outrage in some old-Democrat precincts when other unions, like AFSCME, abandoned Gephardt, their life-long advocate, and endorsed Howard Dean because he was more “electable?” When Dean’s slide began, his union supporters could do nothing to stop it, and several of them threw in the towel by withdrawing their endorsements just as Dean’s campaign was expiring.
Now the AFL-CIO, viewing Kerry as pretty much a sure thing, has endorsed him. There was a time when the unions could make a candidate, at least within the Democratic Party. Now, instead of trying to make their candidate a winner, they are just trying to pick the winner. The downfall of union power is not a novel observation, but I think we saw it in especially stark form in this year’s Democratic primary season.
BIG TRUNK adds: This just in. According to Gerald McEntee of AFSCME, McEntee’s handpicked guy in the race was “nuts”: “Labor supporter says Dean ignored his entreaties to quit.” I’m pretty sure that the headline’s reference to “entreaties” does not do justice to the substance of the conversation between McEntee and Dean.

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