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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Labor Day dance

Massachusetts AFL-CIO boss Robert Haynes is a committed advocate for his rank-and-file and knows how to hit the high notes in speeches. But the ability of labor to deliver massive numbers of votes for Democratic candidates is a now but myth from a bygone era.

And that was the reality that Deval Patrick was addressing when he stood before the annual Labor Day breakfast and delivered a declaration of independence from Haynes' veiled and not-so-veiled threats that labor would sit on its hands between now and November.
“I am proud to be a Democrat and proud to be pro-labor. But I am not the governor of the Democrats. I am not the governor of labor.’’
Union leaders are in a snit principally because Patrick has stymied the casino bill, that ode to House Speaker Robert DeLeo's overreach. Police union members have also picketed Patrick angry over the loss of cushy overtime guarding some of the state's highway construction sites.

Patrick has a clearer picture of labor clout in 2010 than Haynes. Rank and file have been ignoring leadership and abandoning Democrats for at least 40 years. Remember Nixon's hardhats? Reagan Democrats?

It's likely many union households will cast their lot with Charlie Baker based on his siren song of of tax cuts and balanced budget. Those 30-second spots don't talk about the program and job cuts that will be needed to achieve that goal and struggling families aren't going to be thinking it through.

A fair number of union households will also back Tim Cahill with the Fox News platform he has adopted.

The reality of American politics today is that while labor leaders may espouse the progressive agenda, their members don't -- and they also don't blindly follow those leaders.

What labor brings is bodies -- people to work the phones and knock on doors and that is the essence of what Haynes and other union leaders are threatening to withhold. It's not a loss to be underestimated.

But Patrick showed in 2006 that he could harness his own ground forces -- and whether that is still true in 2010 is a far more significant unanswered question than the impact of a labor endorsement.

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